Melissa, 4th Year
To be honest, before going to Urbana, I wasn’t excited. I was scared. I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I had fell into a period of complacency with my faith. I knew God was there, but I did not desire to spend time with him or know Him. Because of that I was intimidated. I didn't know how God would speak to me at Urbana, if He was disappointed with me or if He would call me to do something hard. I just wasn’t sure. But God worked in me during Urbana in so many good ways. The turning point for me was David Platt’s talk on Wednesday. Earlier that week we had been talking about racial reconciliation in the U.S., the stories of different ethnicities in America and around the world, the persecuted church and God’s call on all Christians to missions. I was all on board on issues of justice and ethnicity as those issues are very important to me. But David’s talk took me off guard as he talked about the woman who poured the perfume on Jesus.
David Platt challenged us with these questions: “Is your relationship with Jesus marked with longing, adoration, and love? Does Jesus have your whole heart? Selfless love for others springs from supreme love for God. We are prone to advocate for justice while ignoring Jesus. Some of us are trying to manufacture the love of God without being connected to the heart of God. Missions is the overflow of a heart and life devoted to Christ.” In that moment, I realized exactly where my heart had gone wrong. I cared a lot about justice. I cared about suffering in our world. I cared about the marginalized people whom Jesus calls us to love. But I could not honestly say in that moment that I loved Jesus. I had not given him my whole heart. I was not willing to give up everything for him. I wanted my comfort and independence. I did not think that I needed Jesus. I sought my joy and love from places other than Jesus. I’ve been a Christian since I was six, yet I knew in that moment, my heart wasn’t fully given to Christ. I was keeping part of my heart from Him. Thankfully, some dear friends saw me in my distress and prayed for me. They reminded me of God’s grace and that I was still His child. That He was moving and working in my heart. That Jesus was actually excited for me to come back to Him. I was still upset, but knew that God was still there for me in my weakness.
The next day, I sought prayer ministry. I think that was the most important decision I had made all week. I realized that I had made myself distant from Jesus, but He was always there, waiting for me. I then spent some time confessing to the Lord why I had been so far from Him. I confessed that I put academics, achievement, my relationship with my boyfriend, busyness and so many other things before Him. I asked for forgiveness and proclaimed that I did not want anything or anyone to come before Jesus in my life. And almost immediately, I felt there was this weight lifted off of me, and I felt so free. I was able to believe how God loved me and how I was his precious daughter made in His image. I was truly healed spiritually.
Then we prayed about my future. I have always been passionate about justice, both on a local and global scale. But there were so many things I cared about that it was hard to see where God really wanted me to be. In praying through these things, I felt reassured that God wanted me to pursue Master’s in Public Policy for a reason. I also felt God reaffirming my heart for both Muslims and Syria, as both of those issues have been weighing on my heart recently. We also prayed about the Syrian refugee crisis—and I saw this image of masses of refugees fleeing and I heard the words “pray”, “advocate”, “serve”. I realized that God was calling me to pray for Syrian refugees fleeing violence and to be an advocate on their behalf. I had never felt God speak so clearly into my life and reaffirm my passions and interests. While I still don’t know exactly how everything will play out into my career, I know that I am on the right track in pursuing a vocation in the government, and that God is guiding me to where He wants me to serve.
There is still so much for me to process and apply from Urbana. Even in the past two weeks since Urbana, reality has hit, and God’s call for me to follow Him above everything else has been hard. But I know that my heart has been reoriented towards God and that He is growing me and showing me new things even through the hardships I am facing. I know that He is good and faithful, and that in Him is the greatest joy.
Landon, 2nd Year
Inter Varsity (IV) has changed my life. IV has helped me prioritize God in my life, which in turn has allowed the development of a more trustful faith, granted greater peace and joy in my daily life, and given me undeserved yet much cherished fellowship and friendship. I would like to share two experiences that highlight how God has worked in my life and through my life for his Glory.
The first day of orientation as an incoming first year, I met a fellow male student who I immediately “clicked” with, however, I didn’t find out why until months later after school had commenced in September. It was about the third week into school when God had put it on my heart to join a men’s bible study group, but I didn’t know whom to ask about it. As I was questioning if this was impulse was God derived in my mind, I ran into that very same enthusiastic young man I had meant only a month before and asked if he knew anything about where I could find a Christian group for fellowship. He not only said he knew where I could find one, but that he was on his way to one shortly and that I should come along to the first IV meeting of his men’s bible study group. Not only did I attend, but I continued to attend for the year. Even more surprising, that young man became one of my closest friends, an accountability partner, and above all, a brother in Christ. God not only has improved my life as a member of IV, but he always seeks to improve the lives of those around me.
It was a fall evening last year when I was given the pleasure of feeding the homeless on the downtown mall with IV. Despite the work I wanted to accomplish that night to be ahead for the week, I felt God call me to participate in this “Meal With the Homeless”. I remember questioning why I was doing it as I was shuttled along in the tram to the downtown mall with two “To-Go Boxes” of dinner. I remember walking up to this lonely, cold and downcast homeless man at a metro stop and unexpectedly having one of the most memorable and joyous dinners of my life. I was there with two female IV members with the supposed mission to preach how God loved the man and sent us to share the gospel with him, when in actuality, the man’s faith was greater than all three of our faiths combined. He was extoling God as good and worthy, and to my surprise, was actually was ministering to me! Just then, another tough looking atheist homeless man with golden grills in his teeth joined us and ended up crying out of thanks to God for sending us to him. All we brought were a few boxes of food, but God took that metaphorical loaf of bread and that tiny fish to feed the starving souls of his people.
All praise to God!
Selby, 1st Year
As Christians serving a Triune God, created in the image of one who is Himself a community, the innate need we have for fellowship is Biblical. We see advocated throughout the entirety of Scripture the idea of discipleship and community, as love is the ontological core of the One we serve. The praxis of this relational demand manifests itself in Christian teaching through what is commonly called the “church”, an emblematic cathedral to mirror the love of Christ amongst itself and out into the world. The character of God Himself is the prototype for Biblical community, and as His image bearers we have a coterminous desideratum. From the creation of man in Genesis 1, the Lord saw saw a requisite for companionship and therefore crafted woman. When the world was corrupted in Genesis 3, the need for accountability augmented tenfold. When mankind’s nature was wholly defiled by sin, their propensity shifted from that of holiness to unrighteousness. Because their eyes were blinded by the world, they became unable to interpret situations in an objective manner. It is easy for man to see sin and justify or deny its presence, because as a result of the fall their perceptions have become debased. When men surround themselves with others among whom they are free to honestly struggle, sin is rebuked and the struggle toward sanctification is perpetuated.
Small groups create an environment where this sort of authentic accountability can take place. Because we are free to struggle in our pursuit of Christ, knowing that there is now no condemnation in the light of His love, we are able to push each other to more closely mirror the character of the One who has redeemed us. As we seek each day to allow Christ to be the source, agent, and end of all that we do, His light continues to mold our lives and bring joy in the places of darkness. Time spent in Scripture with others who are seeking to love Jesus and people more fully not only leads us to fall more deeply in love with the Savior but also with the world He has created. This is the scene that InterVarsity has created for students seeking to know Jesus. It is a place where it is safe to gather and cry out that, in the words of Mike Donehey, “We are free to struggle, because we are no longer struggling to be free.” This can only happen in places where the gospel is proclaimed and authentic accountability is being sought and cherished.