New Wesley Fellowship Center opens its doors

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By Ryan Rose Mendoza
Staff Writer

After 10 years in the making, the Wesley Fellowship Student Center recently held the official opening of their new facility.

The organization, which has ministered to Northeast students on campus each Tuesday at lunchtime in SUB 101, purchased the land for the building site a decade ago.

The group officially began a fundraising campaign a few years ago to fund the construction of the student center.

With generous donations from area churches and local individuals, as well as a grant from the Permanent Endowment Fund of the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church, groundbreaking for the project took place on Jan. 27, 2015, exactly two years from the day the building officially opened its doors last week.

Northeast Wesley Fellowship Director Aaron Dudley said the vision of the center is to be a place where students can join together and belong to a community. “I want this to bring a sense of unity among students and faculty and also a sense of faith. We hope to help students transition from a youth group in their church to a youth group in college,” he said. “Our main goal is helping students who never belonged to a church or never got to be a part of a youth group.”

Northeast Biology Professor Winston McCowan, also a Methodist minister, said he hopes the center will become a fundamental part of the students’ lives on campus. “Students can use it. They can come study, and we can even have classes here,” he said. “They will have counseling, and they will have a comfort zone. They can come and be right here on campus, but still get away from everything else.”

Dudley said the plans for the building are much more than just the once a week fellowship that the group has hosted over the past few years.

He said they hope to host Bible studies and other activities throughout the month. Two students approved by the Wesley Methodist board will also be housed in the dorm area of the building, which will allow the facility to be open periodically for a variety of activities during evening hours as well.

Frankston United Methodist Pastor Mike Farley, who worked on the fundraising project and served during the Tuesday lunch ministry for several years, said the new building gives the Wesley Fellowship a chance to reach out to more than just the student population on campus.  I’m just real excited that we have a permanent place, and we don’t have to borrow space anymore,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to do other things as well besides just student ministry here. We can do some things that will bring our community together like a singles ministry or something along those lines as well. The possibilities are just enormous.”

Pastor Dan Gillian, of Daingerfield’s First United Methodist Church, said the project has been something that the Wesley Fellowship Board of Directors and local churches have been working toward for several years.

“We would have liked it to have been done sooner, but God had other plans,” he said. “Today is a testament to God’s will and our lives.”

The Wesley Fellowship began holding their regular lunch meetings this week and students are already enjoying the new space. The group plans to begin offering full meals to students each Tuesday. Dudley said they plan to begin hosting Taco Tuesday each week and encourage to come enjoy a free meal offered off campus. Wesley Fellowship is also hosting a six-week wildlife photography exhibit by Angela McCain in the building. Dudley said they encourage everyone to come by and see the photos while they are on display.

Student Stacey Orr said the new building offers students an opportunity to get away from of the day-to-day pressure that comes with college life.  “This is an amazing place for students to come and get to socialize and spend time with one another and get to know The Lord,” Orr said. “It’s a very comfortable place and great people. Being on campus can be very busy and coming over here can get your focus off of the stress and the worries and what you have to do and what you have going on in your life. Coming over here is a breakaway. It’s a different environment than on campus.”