The Blessings of a Campus Fellowship
A WARNING FROM GOD
It was the summer of 2005 and things were going great. I had just spent two weeks close to God at the National Youth Theological Seminar (NYTS), so I was in high spirits.
I was recently accepted as a transfer student at the university of my dreams. Thank God I was able to find a cheap room to rent in a house close to campus, and I was now on my way to sign the lease.
When I got there, my housemates showed me pictures of people laughing, dancing, and drinking at a housewarming party earlier that summer.
The pictures weren’t of anything I hadn’t seen before and, by worldly standards, were fairly tame. However, when I saw them anxiety came upon me.
It’s the feeling you get when you’re in a situation that you really don’t want to be in.
During the drive home, I realized that NYTS had heightened my spiritual sensitivity. Prior to NYTS, I would have had no problem being in environments like those in the pictures because I was far from God and did not realize when I was in spiritual danger. I was glad for the warning from God because it told me that I needed to be cautious as I began my schooling at the university.
When the semester started, I immediately became aware of the reason for God’s warning. It didn’t truly become apparent that I was the only True Jesus Church member in a house of seven until I spent my first night there. I felt very lonely but found it difficult to pray because I had a roommate. I realized that spiritual battles could happen anywhere—even within your own room.
The second challenge I faced was the environment. I lived down the street from all the off-campus bars. From Thursday night to Sunday morning, it was normal to see people walking back from the bars drunk.
My house was also about a few hundred feet away from a hospital. Ironically, this only added to my stress because every couple of minutes, ambulances zoomed by with their sirens blaring.
A SPIRITUAL FAMILY
However, thank God my university’s campus fellowship had become stable eight years earlier. One of the reasons I dreamed of attending my school was because a lot of the brothers and sisters I grew up with were there.
We had a prayer meeting every Wednesday night, when we’d come together to share about our week and our prayer requests, then pray for thirty minutes. From these prayers, I felt that there was something in this campus fellowship I couldn’t find in any other group or club—a family in Christ.
During my third year, I felt conflicted while choosing a career. It was down to two different possibilities, and I needed to make the decision soon in order to graduate at a reasonable age. There were friends who would listen to my concerns, but I didn’t feel like they had the heart to sympathize.
However, when I brought this up during a prayer meeting, I finally felt that there were people who sincerely cared about my situation. They offered me words of encouragement from their own experiences, which I cherished. But it was their willingness to pray for me that really touched my heart.
How many people are there who honestly intercede on your behalf to the heavenly Father when you go to them with an issue? All the words and ideas in the world can only do so much, but truly it is only prayer that can bring about a resolution.
Through the prayer and support of my fellow brothers and sisters, I received the strength from God to overcome the spiritual and physical loneliness I felt. I developed the courage to pray in my room no matter who or what was around me.
I distinctly remember one evening when my roommates walked in while I was praying and were very accepting and even respectful of it. One of my roommates shushed the other one, saying, “Shh! Be quiet, he’s praying!” Thank God!
From that point on, though I was still the only believer, I felt the spiritual peace and confidence I would have in a house of believers. And although all the drinking going on down the street didn’t stop, I realized one very important thing. If I didn’t have those brothers and sisters on campus, there was a good chance that I would have been one of those people walking to the bar on Thursday night, drinking and partying as a result of loneliness.
A SPIRITUAL SIBLING
I now realize that God provided the campus fellowship not only to help me but also so I could help others. A year after I arrived on campus, a younger brother entered as a freshman. Instead of living in the dorms, he rented a room off-campus.
I had to commute that year because resources were tight. However, the Lord provided for me because that brother invited me to stay over whenever my travels got tiring, which became most of the week. In time, I came to see the Lord’s plan for us to be roommates.
I was mentally transitioning from late adolescence to early adulthood that year, and being around him helped the process. Since I was older, I felt compelled to set a good example, which refined my spiritual and physical life.
I developed a more rigid schedule of Bible reading and prayer and took better care of my body by sleeping earlier. I came to view our relationship as that of two brothers who benefited from each other—the younger being guided by the older, and the older learning a lot about himself from the younger.
We shared almost everything with one another: our trials, our joys, and our aspirations. I remember a few times when we experienced God’s mercy during exams. One of us would burst into the room sharing how awesome God is. It’s one thing to experience this on your own, but when you’re able to edify someone else, it becomes so much sweeter.
More importantly, we shared some of the most touching prayers together. I remember times when one of us felt weighed down with burdens and unmotivated to pray. The other would take note of this and automatically start praying, eventually moving the other to pray. We would keep praying until we felt satisfied and peaceful, a beautiful experience I believe would have been difficult to attain on our own.
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up. (Eccl 4:9, 10)
The spiritual siblinghood I experienced those two years is one of the sweetest and most important relationships a college youth can have. Being connected to brothers and sisters, especially during turbulent times like college, is a blessing and providence. It enhances our college experience, and, more importantly, it’s something that every one of us needs in our spiritual journey—someone to help us up when we fall.