"Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day...'" (Exodus 16:4, RSV)
University Pastor Angulus Wilson began making Manna Moments, three-four minute video devotionals, in September 2013 and had finished 24 by the end of January 2014. Produced by the FPU Video Production Team, Manna Moments are available on the main campus and at each of FPU's regional centers: Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. In all, 844 graduate students and 763 DC students have access to the videos.
The germ of the program was a request from Cindy Carter, Ph.D., dean of degree completion, and a text of encouragement Wilson sent to regional center directors. Visalia Center Director Vyacheslav Tsvirinko asked him to make a video for student orientation. "And then it hit me—why don't you do this for a Bible lesson?" Wilson says.
Response has been heartening. "We've gotten some good affirmation on this," Wilson says.
By stimulating student conversations, Manna Moments encourage the community learning so powerful for adults. "They challenge students to consider their own faith walk and invite them to participate with others," Carter says. "Manna Moments are responsive to the needs of our geographically diverse students. They unite all of FPU's learners by sharing common faith values."
Manna Moments perform a similar function for adult students as the College Hour chapel program does on the main campus. "It keeps them on course and engaged," Wilsons says.
There are many advantages to taking classes to students via regional centers, Wilson says, but spiritual development can become more difficult. Students on the main campus are either in the traditional undergraduate or seminary programs. They can attend class, eat, work, study, live, participate in cocurricular activities and just hang out in a community geared to their spiritual as well as academic development.
Center students, on the other hand, attend class one night a week while balancing work and family responsibilities. Classes open with prayer and student-led devotionals, but otherwise ministry may fall to classroom teachers who—while practicing Christians and experts in their fields—may lack formal theological or pastoral training. "Having to do spiritual formation, in light of everything else they have to do, is very difficult," Wilson says.
Not only do Manna Moments serve students and faculty, they also save wear and tear on the pastor. In order to fulfill his mission to all students, faculty and staff, wherever they may be, Wilson and a student assistant were visiting each center, at first weekly. "We would be exhausted," Wilson says, "I was burning out my students." Not to mention burning through gasoline and tires: The distance from the main campus in Southeast Fresno north to the Merced Center is 62 miles. From the main campus south to the Visalia Center is 36 miles and further south to the Bakersfield Center is 109 miles.
As big a step forward as Manna Moments are, Wilson sees them as part of a process and knows there's no substitute for one-on-one interaction. He is building connections with ministers in each community that hosts a regional center. "The ultimate goal for me is for every center to have its own campus pastor," he says.
See all the Manna Moments at http://vimeo.com/85294158
(Illustration: The Isrealites Gathering Manna, Ercole de Roberti, The National Gallery)