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Many Voices, One God: UR Christian Students Speak




The following stories are vignettes of fictional students born from my own character sketches. However, although they are "fictional," each on is based on interviews and the actual stories of UR Christian students, to the extent that much of these narratives consist of directly quoted statements. My intent is to communicate the voices of the students involved in the various UR Christian fellowships.


Tanisha

"There's a much more individualized understanding of faith and religious practice. It's called, of course, the 'born-again' experience, and only an individual can go through that."


My parents got divorced when I was four and a half, begins Tanisha. She looks at me across the table, a mix of natural determination and casual friendliness on her face. God is not just this story. God is real. She would bet her life on it, because God is her life. And the most important events in her life were those that brought her to God. My mother got saved before my parents were divorced. She started asking questions about her life, you know, and really getting into serving the Lord. And I think that was part of the reason why they divorced. She felt like God was trying to do things with her life, but my father was coming from a totally different perspective at the time.

We started going to church actually in Rochester. We were up here when my mother was finishing up at SUNY Brockport, and I got saved in a church when I was about five. And I kind of understood what was going on, you know, about Jesus dying and rising again. And I understood the issue of faith even then. Yeah, I loved God. I was that kid who knew all the scripture verses when you were in Christian school, who like got a hundred on the Bible tests. That was me. I loved God. I loved talking about the Bible.

In sixth grade her mother took her out of the Christian school and Tanisha began attending public school. So we moved to the ghetto while I was going through puberty. And I rebelled against God, rebelled against my mother. Because as a child, I had no problem with the rules that people had, besides the fact that I didn't like getting hit. So I would never misbehave because I didn't like people hitting me. But when I got into an age and place in life where people didn't hit you anymore, I figured, well that was the end of authority and I can do what I want. And 'til then I was like, 'God, enough with you, mom, enough with you, church, enough with you.'

So I was in and out of the church from twelve until last December, over Christmas break of my junior year. And that wasn't a good thing. And God, he was like, 'Tanisha, I don't think that's funny. I don't think that's cute, and I'm not going to tolerate it any more. You know too much about me and you know me too well for that kind of garbage, so get it together.' That's when the Lord started dealing with me through a book that was about the fact that, you know, you could die in your sin. And then I started to read my Bible, and I started to pray again, and I repented before the Lord. And I think the difference was, I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Savior when I was young, but I didn't quite understand him as the Lord of my life until I got much older and understood there was a certain thing called authority, and that you had to respect it, even if you didn't agree with it, even if you didn't like it. And at that point, when I understood that, my issue was, could I obey authority? Could I get under God and obey Him? That was my real challenge. And when I discovered that was my real challenge, then I started to rectify it. Then my Christianity became for me my lifestyle, and my life belonged to Christ.

Now Tanisha is preparing for ministry. She wants to be a pastor. And it was through her involvement in campus ministry and the lives of younger sisters around her that she felt her calling. Sometimes I feel like a parent. Like, man, if this child calls me one more time, I'm gonna lose my mind. But I know that I love them. And that compassion kicks right in when that phone rings and they're on that line asking for any kinda help.

It is not just any ministry either. She wants to work with women. I knew God was calling me into women's ministry, but I was like, 'God, not women. All that estrogen, they can't get along. They want to steal your man, they wanna cat fight, they talk about your clothes.' But God was like, 'You know all the stuff you hate? Well, your ministry is to prevent it.' And after a while, I began to see the merits of what he wanted me to do. Like, preventing girls from losing their virginity. It's not so much an issue of pregnancy, but sexuality, about keeping them from being raped, or molested. I mean, all the kinds of things that people don't even think about as concerning God. Those things are of great importance to Him because those are His babies, and God loves His children, and the female ones too. I mean the Bible focuses a lot on the male, but the thing is, God loves His daughters, and people don't understand the depth of that, and that there are things that are happening to girls that God does not approve of. And my heart really changed. I said, 'You know what God, not only will I do it because you said so, but now I want to.'

So she is majoring in women's studies and minoring in sociology. She now understands why she is here getting a college education: to get the right resources and degrees to aid her ministry, to be a spiritual helping hand for the girls in her fellowship, and ultimately, to prepare herself for ministry. This is me responding. See, Jesus is my Savior and Lord now, and I'm just living my life responding as any of His children would and should when they understand who He is and what He's done for us.



James

"Campus ministry is to meet the students where they're at. They all have some type of spiritual need in their life."

I have a lot of regrets about college. I feel like I wasted a lot of time. So I'm trying to make up for it now.

It's the first semester of James' last year as an undergraduate. A look at his past three years reveals that he is not the type to get too involved in school activities and clubs. In fact, James came to college simply wanting to meet some good hang-out-buddies, happy for the chance to fun and freedom away from his parents.

Home. James laughs. That's another story. He was born in Baltimore soon after his parents immigrated from Korea. My parents wanted just two things from me: good grades from school, and for me to go to Sunday school every week. In fact, James does not remember a time when he did not go to church every Sunday. I was a kid, and at that time I loved it. And then it got to be such a chore. I had other things on my mind: school, friends, girls, cars...my first job!

Then James' church split, cutting the congregation size in half. His parents belonged to the group that left. After that I kind of just stopped going every week. By that time I was about to leave for college, so I guess it was okay with my parents. They were having a hard time finding a permanent church anyway.

So he left for college, and the first friends James made were other Asian-American freshmen students. Two of them were Korean, and the third, Chinese. The four of us started hanging out a lot. You know, playing ball, video games, midnight pizza and wings, Eddie Murphy stand-up comedy and Jet-Li movies. Oh, and studying.

All of them had grown up going to church, so without much thought, they sought out an Asian fellowship which could serve as a casual social outlet. They began attending some of the GCF (Grace Christian Fellowship) meetings on Fridays, while, out of habit, going to church on Sundays when they woke up on time.

Then Jae-suh, one of the Korean guys, joined a small group Bible study. He started meeting once a week with one of the older brothers in GCF. And he got really serious about church: started going every Sunday, never missed a Bible study. It was kinda strange. I think the rest of us guys were like, "What's up with that?' I mean, he was hanging out with us less. Then, next thing you know, Tim, our Chinese brother, decides to join a small group too. So now both of them are going to all these GCF things, getting closer to each other and to some of the other guys in the fellowship. Sometimes they'd have Bible study in their room, and I'd stop by to visit, and I'd see a group of guys with a guitar, singing praise songs. A lot of times it ended up being Howie and me doing one thing, and Jae-suh and Tim doing something else. That was freshmen year.

Sophomore year was the worst. James started doing things he had been itching to try: frat parties, drinking, smoking. He was tired of being a good student, tired of responsibility, tired of expectations. For once he wanted to break free. He stopped going to church altogether, stopped talking much with the "boyz". But the more he tried to free himself, the more suffocated he felt. I don't know what it was. I started getting all cynical and stuff. I just didn't even want to be around people after a while. So during the second semester I spent some time by myself. Thinking a lot, kind of in my own world.

When junior year rolled around, James decided to go to GCF Friday meetings again. I remember going to one of the meetings, and I couldn't believe it: Tim was leading worship. And both him and Jae-suh were small group leaders. I looked at them and wondered how we could have turned out so different in such a short time. They seemed so focused, like they knew what life was all about and where they were going and how they were going to get there. And I saw all these things about them, and that's what I wanted. I don't know what I had before. I felt confused actually. I didn't know what anything meant anymore, what church was, who Jesus was. And then one Friday night after the rally - I think it was the third one of the year - I don't even remember what the speaker said. I just remember I felt so empty inside, and for the first time in all my years of church-going, really aware of sin. It's funny, I never understood what sin meant. And then that night I just did.

That night James approached Jae-suh to talk. And that night I accepted Jesus into my heart as Lord and Savior. It's not like life is perfect after that. There are ups and downs. But now I know the truth, you know? And like John says,"And the truth shall set you free." There's so much to be found in Christ, and I can't believe I wasted half of my college career missing it. I just look at how much my friends have changed since they've been walking with the Lord. This is my last year, and my biggest objective-above classes and exams and grad school-is doing all I can so that the other brothers in GCF don't miss out. Now's the time, you know what I mean?


Jacqueline

"When you're with peers, you're kind of all equal and it's easier to relate to one another and encourage one another. So now is the time when our ambitions and our focus and can be set on God and things that He's called us to do, working together to encourage one another to reach those goals and those ambitions."



There was a guy...

Jacqueline was involved with a guy for one year. During that year he became the focus of her life, taking precedence over everything else. I think I actually adored and worshipped this guy. And I don't even know why, he was such a dork. But I did. And then one day - or maybe it was night - over Thanksgiving break, she went over to see him, and something happened. Afterwards, she went home, sat in front of her mirror, stared at the tired face looking back at her. I told myself, 'You know, Jacqueline, you are a disgrace, and I can't believe you just did what you did.' I was like, you can't treat me this way, and I'm not going to treat myself this way anymore. And when I said I've had enough, I gave God room to come back in.

Jacqueline's older sister used to take her to church when she was growing up. No one else in her family was religious in any way. She herself never became to involved at church. So when she came to college, with so many other activities to do, she never gave church much more thought. Every once in a while she did go to Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC). That was because Cara, one of her suite-mates and good friends, would invite her. She found the people to be very warm and friendly, but she was too busy to make any commitment to that group.

The turning point was the incident with her boyfriend. She confided in Cara. Cara, she's like my older sister. She just let me cry. And after that we talked. We talked all night. And talking to her made me realize a lot of things. I had some decisions to make in my life. I had to stop and take a step back and breathe, and look at where my life was. I said, 'God, who are you? And where are you?' That Friday I went to CCC with Cara. And for me, there was such an intensity during worship time, because I truly felt that God was able to wash and take away the shame and sadness I felt. And from there my priorities completely shifted.

Second semester of her sophomore year, Jacqueline started becoming involved with CCC. She went weekly to their meetings, met more people, and became friends with one of the leaders, Leslie, who started "discipling" her. They met once a week to talk and to pray together. Leslie taught me so much. That was how I started doing Quiet Times ["daily devotionals"], praying, studying the Bible... I don't even know at which exact point I started changing so much. It was gradual, I think. I just kept learning and loving the Lord more and more. You know, when you have that kind of realization of who God is, He becomes everything.

Then I started serving in CCC as well. Over the summer I went to a training program for small group leaders, and during my junior year, I joined leadership. I've found that it's amazing, how much God blesses you when you serve His people. I love the people in this body. I mean, this is where it's at. This is my priority now.

Cara, Leslie -- they all have graduated and moved on. Jacqueline will be graduating soon, too. But before she leaves, she wants to make the kind of impact that Cara and Leslie had made in her life in the lives of the younger sisters in CCC... I guess I would put it this way: I praise God to see how He's changing and will continue to change my sisters' lives. I just remember how much He's done and will also continually does in my own life.

CCC is not just a student group. There's so much more that goes on within it. It literally changes peoples' lives. Or actually, God uses it to change peoples' lives...