“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
The Wesley Foundation, as a campus ministry, must function differently than a traditional church because its congregation fluctuates every year. Freshmen come in and seniors graduate, typically moving on to the next stage in life. The day to day operations of ministry functions hardly change from year to year, but each new year brings adjustments and improvements. The UGA Wesley Foundation keeps maturing, positioning itself ever closer to the heart of God.
Through the transient nature of college ministry, many things can be forgotten as people flow in and out of the ministry. One of the things largely lost in the flow of time is exactly how old Wesley is. The best we know is that it’s been around since at least the forties because that’s when the benefactor who built the Main Chapel met his wife at a Wesley picnic. What is more important however, is understanding how a United Methodist college ministry became a home for followers of Jesus Christ across all denominations. It is because for decades now the ministry has never stopped praying and obeying wherever God is leading.
Our modern history of the Wesley is a tale of the impact that prayer, faithfulness, and God’s providence can have on the spiritual landscape of a city. Much of the fruit we see at Wesley today can be traced back to two willing men God placed at the UGA Wesley Foundation. Tom Tanner, who served as Director from 1991 to 1998, and Bob Beckwith, who has led the ministry from 1999 til today.
There are two defining moments in our modern history, a covenant made with each director.
In 1995, God woke Tom Tanner up from his sleep to tell him open his Bible up to Song of Solomon. Tom had his reservations, but he was faithful. He read all night long. God showed Tom how the love spoken between the bridegroom and the bride is the same love Christ has for His Church. For Tom, this related to the students given to him at Wesley. This has become one of the ministry’s foundations and a driving force for its mission: the Father’s heart intentionally pursues every person.
God encountered so many students in the nineties under Tom’s directorship that it seemed like a Great Awakening must be just around the corner. Because of the tremendous momentum under Tom when Bob Beckwith came to Wesley in 1999, there was a fear of failing God and ruining a prosperous era. In 2001, Bob invited a prophetic ministry to a Wednesday night service, with the hope it would spark a new passion in the students. Bob could not have predicted how the night would end. The guest ministry began to call out individuals and tell them their struggles and sins in front of everyone at the service that night The mass rebuking scared several hundred students from ever coming back. Bob felt broken, he did not realize he had stitched his own identity with the performance of Wesley services. The drop in numbers showed how pride can undermine the plans of God for a ministry, or our own lives.. This is the second most important revelation given to our ministry by God: Wesley needs to desperately humble itself before the Most High.
With these two directions, we see how the Father has spread His heart for the students of UGA within the Wesley body and created a desperate dependence on Him in every step the Wesley Foundation makes. “The one thing we need is the Holy Spirit” and “every student matters” are two of Wesley’s core values that walk hand-in-hand. In order to display the Father’s love to the students of UGA, we continuously need Jesus to show us how to love.