All of us at some point or another have felt lonely. Sometimes we might feel disconnected physically- because we live alone or far from friends or family. Sometimes we feel disconnected emotionally- because of unresolved conflict or maybe a lack of shared interests or experiences. The passion behind my blog are these very issues- how do we not just survive loneliness but learn to thrive in the midst of it?
One thing that helps me navigate loneliness is hearing the stories of others who have struggled in similar ways. Today, I want to share with you the story of one of my InterVarsity colleagues, Trevor Hollis. Through our conversation, I was encouraged by Trevor’s resilience in the midst of loneliness as a student and now full-time minister at Southern Utah University.
SUU is medium-sized state school, around 8,000 students, and it’s very community-based. The student association is active, working hard to build student groups and support athletics. 80% of students are members of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church*.
SUU is located in Cedar City, a small isolated town in rural Utah, with a population of around 3,000. Farms and ranches surround the city. People in Cedar City really care about hometown values; it seems like there is a parade every month. In fact, the most interesting parade entry I’ve ever seen was 1,000 sheep being herded down Main Street.
What was it like being one of the few Christians, let alone few non-LDS students on campus?
I’m originally from Hillsboro, Oregon. During my senior year of high school, God called me to plan an outreach event with friends. Lives were changed because of this; it was so exciting to partner with God. When I decided to go to college in Utah, I saw it as an opportunity from God to witness to people on campus.
Even though I was a religious minority on campus, it was actually a lot of fun. The LDSSA (Latter Day Saints Student Association) plans a lot of social activities like dances so it was easy to meet people. I made a lot of great LDS friends and learned a lot about the Mormon faith.
Have you struggled with feeling lonely or isolated? How has God cared for you in a lonely place?
When I first moved, it was important to me to find a Christian church. The first church I went to only had one or two college students attending. There was only one Evangelical group on campus but they met during the same time as my Agriculture class so I couldn’t participate. It was hard to find Christian community during my first year of college. I remember thinking, “I don’t have any friends; this sucks!”
I did have a good friend in my Agriculture class who was LDS. Through her, I got immersed in the LDS culture. People would challenge me and ask, “Do you know for certain if your faith is true?” I would answer, “No I don’t…” I was confused about what was true and what wasn’t. My LDS friends seemed so sure of what they believed. For a time I considered converting to the LDS faith.
A few things kept me from converting. The first was that God provided me with strong roots. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles were all people I could talk to about my doubts. The second was spending time outside of Utah. The summer after my freshman year, I worked at a Christian summer camp in Washington. If I could pick one word that described that summer, it was revived.
The following year, I was able to finally join the Christian group, Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF). To be honest, I continued to struggle with doubts in my faith for a few years after that. In fact, I still struggle in some ways. But God has provided rest periods to be refreshed by him and assured in my faith.
What is your advice for people who feel lonely or isolated?
It seems pretty basic but I think you need to step out of your comfort zone. Say yes to peoples’ invitations to community, try new things and take risks. Also, reach out to people you know and trust. Reaching out to family and friends was crucial to me being able to deal with isolation.
Also, an important thing to me is prayer. I love to go on prayer walks, especially while I’m hiking. Worshipping with other Christians is important too. I’m part of a small group Bible study and I’m intentional about spending time with my community.
What are your hopes for Southern Utah University and how can we pray for you?
My hope is revival for Southern Utah- to see many students come to know God like I do. I pray for a light to be revealed in Cedar City.
Please pray for protection my students and I- that we would know what is true and what’s not. Also, pray that God would build the Christian community in such a way that we can be a light, a light that shows the truth but in a loving way.
I hope that Trevor’s story was encouraging to you! To support Trevor’s ministry at Southern Utah University, click here.
How have you navigated lonely situations? Comment below.
*The Latter Day Saints religion, also know as “Mormonism”, is a faith community that was formed in the 1820s by Joseph Smith in New York. It has similarities to Christianity but because of some clear distinctions, most do not consider it a Christian religion. Its headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah. Click here for more information.