I have spent a lot of time this week reflecting on my experience as a college student at Bowling Green State University. God did so much through the 5 years when I was attending so I thought I would share with you all the journey I had as a student.
My freshman year, I was this ambitious and outgoing girl who was just wanting to make friends. I knew I wanted to get involved with a campus ministry, but at the time the guy I was dating was my priority so I never fully committed to getting involved. I went here and there to a few different ministries, but when my boyfriend at the time (whom I thought would be my forever) broke things off with me, my world was shattered. He ended things because of our differences in how we viewed God, but the emotional turmoil he put me through over the year and a half we were together began to manifest itself after he called me and told me to choose between him or God.
In my relationship with this guy, I had to earn his love. He would say things like, “If you love me, you will do (insert any number of favors)” and because of that I had a warped view of how God loved me. I spent the last half of my freshman year feeling alone, unwanted, worthless, broken, hurt, and abandoned, even by God.
Summer came and while I was at home in Cincinnati I had the privilege of helping lead our youth group’s mission trip. I was asked to share a lesson on “preparing our hearts for mission” and through that I learned so much about what our hearts should look like as we serve the Lord. He used that lesson and even that trip to reveal to me that He had not left me, I had simply been blinded by the world. So when I returned to BG in the fall I knew I needed to find a place to call “home”.
The first Thursday of my sophomore year a friend of mine had informed me about a bible study that was taking place in the dining hall that was in my dorm. So I decided to try it out and that was when I first experienced H2O church. The immediate reaction I felt was acceptance. I didn’t feel like a new person or a stranger, I felt welcomed with open arms and even was encouraged to come back. The evening was so great that I decided to attend their service on Sunday morning. I left afterwards feeling so much peace and hope, two things I hadn’t experienced since I was first introduced to a relationship with God in the summer of 2004. I loved the community this church had and the message was relatable and relevant to me as a college student so I decided to dive in to anything and everything I could with this church.
In my first few weeks attending H2O I joined their 6 week discipleship class called “The Well”. Our first topic was the idea of being a “Fan” verses a “Follower” of Jesus. It was through this initial message that I realized I wasn’t living my life as a Follower at all. I wanted people to know I was a Christian and I acted like I was a Christian, but when the doors were shut and eyes weren’t watching, I wasn’t doing anything to pursue a relationship with Christ and was really doing things that actually hindered that. It was this moment when I realized I needed to let go of my past, all the hurt and pain I had experienced through the relationship with my ex, and leave it all at the cross.
Hope. I had finally found hope in the good news of the gospel. The change wasn’t immediate, but through some great mentors and strong women, I began to see God and His infinite love through the lens of Scripture instead of the distortion of my past.
I eventually decided to go into leadership with H2O and slowly began to realize the importance of sharing that same hope that I had experienced in Christ and in the Spring of 2013 I decided to go on a Spring Break mission trip to Panama City Beach, Florida where we would be doing that exact thing. Intimidation is an understatement of what I was feeling as we began our trek down to the gulf coast. I had shared the gospel with girls that I had developed a relationship with, but never with a complete stranger. However, God was definitely present on the first night of our ministry. I encountered a girl wearing a BGSU sweatshirt at a Wendy’s we went into and knew that was the first person I was supposed to talk to. Before I got to her she looked up and asked me if I attended BGSU, and checking to see if I was wearing anything BG related (I was not) I told her that I was indeed a student. She then told me that she was the one who handed me the microphone before I sang the national anthem at the hockey game about a week prior to that.
In this single moment, I realized that the need to share the gospel was right in Bowling Green, we did not have to pack up and go anywhere to be a light, the opportunity was present on campus. I had never before experienced such earnestness and began to understand that this was of the utmost importance as a disciple of Christ. God began to use that eagerness to turn my heart towards ministry. As I started to process where I should go after graduation I was encouraged to pursue staff with H2O church and after a lot of prayer, God confirmed that college ministry was where he wanted me.
I was hopeless, lost, abandoned, hurt, and helpless. Through college ministry I found grace, forgiveness, mercy, peace, hope, and love. I want nothing more than others to discover the goodness of our Father. College ministry has the potential to change generations. I firmly believe that this time in someone’s life is crucial to who they will become. You go to college with a foundation of values and beliefs and can choose to either build onto those or completely start over. This is a time to heal and mend. A time to begin a fresh start. A time to learn and discover. What a better time to experience the hope of the gospel than in the years we are searching for who we are to become?!
If you are ever curious as to what it is like to be on staff at a college campus I would be more than willing to share with you what God is doing through our church. I love my job, and even though I am away right now to raise the financial support for my position, I still have earnestness and eagerness to share the gospel while telling others about the work he is completing on campus. I cannot wait to be back and watch how God will use me and our staff to bring the good news of the gospel to the students we encounter.
I love seeing students go from hopeless to hopeful, from the old and into the new, from death into life, and from fearful to joyful. When surrender happens, joy sets in. I love being there to witness it all. So thankful for the mission God has called me to!