Today is the first day of classes for many university students across the United States. For me, as a college minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, this marks a season of intensity that will last for the whole month of September. The beginning of a new school year is a crucial time to meet new students. This is the time of year where they are most spiritually open and willing to check out new groups and experiences on campus.
As a planter, I am attracted by the idea of going where no one has gone before. Four years ago I moved from Michigan to Utah and began planting Greek InterVarsity at the University of Utah. This was the first ministry for fraternity and sorority students in the state as well as in InterVarsity’s Rocky Mountain region. When I arrived in Utah, I was the only Greek InterVarsity staff within a 700-mile radius and few Greek students were involved in Christian ministries. At the time, many people in the West were supportive of Greek InterVarsity, but few understood the unique challenges and value of working with Greek students. It was isolating.
During college, I spent two months in Fresno, California as part of the Fresno Urban Internship with InterVarsity. The other participants and I partnered with local non-profits, learning about ethnicity, poverty, and God’s value for reconciliation. We also participated in weekly Urban Ministry classes. Each week, we heard from a variety of speakers- pastors, former gang members, even a former prostitute turned lawyer- and read challenging articles and books. One article stood out and continues to impact my life today.
In Prayer is Social Action*, John Robb, Chairman for the International Prayer Council, describes prayer in a way that is risky, powerful, and essential to our partnership with God as agents of transformation:
For years, Christians have divided themselves over the most effective means of transforming our world: verbal proclamation of the gospel… or social action. In truth, the two cannot be separated. Without both, there is simply no Good News. And one thing ties them both together: prayer to a God of temporal justice and eternal salvation… I can say there is no holistic transformation of people apart from united intercession by God’s people.
I will never forget the first time my husband and I visited the Utah Ikea four years ago.
We were in our mid-twenties, newly married, had just moved to Utah from Michigan, and needed to furnish our new apartment. With a tape measure, store map, and golf pencil in hand, we rode the escalator to the showroom.
Immediately, we were surrounded by shopping carts filled with crying children. Each cart we passed seemed to contain at least three, sometimes five, little humans, pushed by their courageous mothers. I tried not to stare as I internally exclaimed, “Where am I?! Is this a Twilight Zone episode where children rule the world?”
I’ve obviously seen children before, and I adore their honesty and humor. But I had not seen them in such mass quantities. According to the 2010 census, Utah has the largest household size in the country, almost one full person above the national average. One explanation for this is that Utah is home to the Latter Day Saints’ (Mormon) religious headquarters. The church values family highly, which they often express by having many children. People warned me that living in Utah was like living in a different country. But I was unprepared for the cross-cultural dissonance I experienced…
Read the rest of my story over at the InterVarsity USA blog