“We went out to our local college and we offered free mom hugs and free dad hugs. We just made some signs and we stood outside in the middle of the campus for a few hours and we just asked every student, professor, staff member, who walked by if they wanted a hug,” explains Jordan Roten with a definite smile in her voice. She was ‘mom hug’ and her husband, Matt, of course, was ‘dad hug.’ 

This unique outreach wasn’t just a random thing. Jordan shares what touched her heart and inspired her. “About two weeks before, I was at church and there’s this beautiful girl who’s 16…and she recently lost her mom. And the sermon that Sunday was on grief and how hope is our anchor in times of grief and I could just see that that message was really impacting her – maybe stirring up some things in her heart – and I just felt a nudge in my spirit to go give her a hug.” Overcoming some self-reluctance, Jordan approached the young woman after church. “I asked if I could give her a hug – and as soon as I did, she just threw herself into my arms…I squeezed her so tight and just told her how loved she is. And as soon as I did, I just had this picture drop right in my spirit...of going and offering mom and dad hugs at a college campus.” When Jordan shared the idea with Matt, “he was immediately on board.” 

When the hug mission day took place at Appalachian State University, “We lost count around 600 hugs.” 

Although students and faculty were blessed by the hugs, so were Jordan and Matt. “It was just an absolutely overwhelming sense of love. It felt like the heart of the Father was just welling up inside of us and then just spilling over.” 

How did they determine how long a good hug should go? “Matt and I both decided that we would hug until they let go. And our hearts just split wide-open when they held on so tightly for so long. So many just did not want to let go and so we didn’t either and I feel like that reflects the Father’s heart so much.” 

At one point, a truck driver saw the signs and the hugs, “And he parked the truck right in the middle of the road and just hopped out and ran to us, which was really sweet!”

When a student would approach Jordan for a hug, “mostly I just told them how loved they were and a lot of times that just seemed to open the floodgate and they would just share with us why the hugs meant so much.” And sometimes that led to prayer over family or school situations. “There were some really hard things. I remember there was one precious girl who came up to me and shared that she had just lost her mom earlier this year and we both cried and hugged for about ten minutes, and I just asked if we could pray together. And we just spent a lot of time just grieving that loss with God and inviting Him into some of that pain with us.”

While many people came to Jordan first, some also took Matt up on the dad hug as well. She shares one special moment she witnessed involving Matt. “This sweet man came up to him and gave him this hugest hug and shared about how he was actually losing his dad to cancer this year and how much he really needed a dad hug. And, of course, that one had us all crying again.” 

Matt Roten
[Photo Credit: Provided] Matt Roten

What is it about a hug that is so special? “I think there’s just something about physical touch that just imparts dignity and value and comfort – and sometimes you just need to be wrapped-up by someone. And I look in scripture with what Jesus did with His time here, so often he reached out and touched people; and I think that's special about a hug, especially one of those big embraces that just says ‘you are cared for and valued and loved.’”

Jordan Roten
[Photo Credit: Provided] Jordan Roten