A Quest for God

A Quest for God

by Anthony Petroff, Lansing Community College Student

My name is Anthony Petroff, I currently go to Lansing Community College, and I am studying Computer Networking and Cybersecurity. I currently live, and was born and raised, in East Lansing, Michigan. Getting to know Christ and His word has been a long journey for me, but a fulfilling one. Unlike many of my friends, I was not born and raised in a Christian household. My parents both adopted an agnostic but quasi-spiritual worldview after they both had terrible experiences with abuse and shunning from different Christian groups. They taught me this worldview when I was young, along with an anti-Christian sentiment. As I grew up they had pressed onto me that Christianity was nothing more than a scam to take money from those that were too stupid to know any better, that it was a means to comfort and control people, an “opiate of the masses.”

Yet as I grew into my early teens, I began to question the validity of their words. As I entered high school and met and became friends with several Christians, I started to wonder about what I had been told growing up? Were my friends really evil or being taken advantage of like my family stated? Was Christianity exactly like my parents had claimed it to be? At the same time, I found myself going through what felt like a crisis. All around me I saw senseless suffering. To everyone I knew, suffering was the baseline of their life, any joy or satisfaction seemed to be the exception, not the rule. In my own life, I could not help but feel unsatisfied, as if something wasn’t right, or that I was missing something. Every experience I chased after couldn’t fill this hole in my chest, only at best distract me from it for a time. What was I missing? What was the point of it all? Was it all meaningless? All of these thoughts raced around my mind as I went about my ordinary day.

While I was questioning these things, one day a friend of mine invited me to a Christian club that was being started at my school, the “Christian Student Union.” Not wanting to disappoint my friend, I accepted his invitation and went along with him. As I walked in and started talking amongst everyone, I couldn’t help but find myself not taking things seriously. How long did I have to be here to satiate my friend? Would it be too socially awkward if I left now? While I considered how to best escape, the meeting started, and someone lead out in prayer. Not wanting to ostracize myself, I mimicked everyone’s actions and listened along to the prayer. While I did this, I realized that I would need to take the group seriously, if I wanted to confirm whether or not my parent’s claims were valid, to see if Christianity really was what they said it was. As everyone was praying, I prayed that God would reveal himself to me, if He truly existed. 

From that moment on throughout the rest of the meeting, I felt this presence around me, and had this strange experience of being loved by something. After some time, I realized that it must be God reaching out to me. As I sat and listened to the group go over the Bible, and describe the life of Jesus, and the reality of sin and suffering, everything that I had pondered began to make sense. Afterwards, as I grabbed a copy of the Bible and began to read through the New Testament, all of my fears, doubts, and questions were made clear by this overwhelming sense of reason and understanding. It was from that moment on, that I considered myself a Christian, and pursued God in every way I could. 

Although my family was shocked by my revelation and prevented me from going to church, I diligently studied and learned as much as I could about the Bible in my spare time throughout high school. As I transitioned into college, I followed my peers and went to a First Assembly of God church while I was at MSU. It was there that I stumbled upon the SDA’s campus group while I was looking at all of the student groups at MSU’s Sparticipation, an event where all student clubs tried to entice freshmen to join. They caught my eye with a flyer they hung from the bleachers: “$5000 to whoever can point to where in the Bible it states the Sabbath is on Sunday.” This intrigued me, and I felt arrogant enough that I could answer them, thinking about Genesis and other sections I had studied. However, when I went to talk with the members present, I found myself being politely refuted with every argument I brought up, until I was left dumbfounded at the group’s wisdom when it came to the Bible. Although I felt embarrassed for being so thoroughly shown wrong, the group impressed me with their character and knowledge, and I took them up on their offer to meet with them afterwards.

Anthony with ACF Students this past winter

It was from repeated meetings and hangouts with the SDA student group that I slowly became friends with a few of them. As I got to know them, they began to speak to me often about the Sabbath, and the fallible doctrines of other groups. While I got to know them, I made some poor personal choices and fell into a deep depression, and kept my distance from them and everyone else. After a year, I ran into the group again, and spent time with them off and on, as I continued in my studies, not really taking them seriously. However, after a few years, I really started to question my faith, as it had stagnated, and wondered if there was truth to their words. After meeting with them, and taking their words seriously, the Sabbath really started to weigh on my heart. Was it a commandment that I was missing? Is it still something Christians are called to observe? 

It was after several serious studies with one of my friends from SDA UChurch, that I felt convicted in my action of ignoring the Sabbath. After several more meetings with Pastor Jermaine at UChurch, I felt convicted to be baptized into the church, partly because I had never really been properly baptized, and partly as a sign of my commitment to God. Before I was baptized, I felt alone and isolated on MSU’s campus and in East Lansing, but now I have a group of family and friends who support me in life, and in my walk with Christ.

Devotions: A Time Saver

by Cori Matsui-Hernandez, MSU alumni

As college students, devotions can easily be crowded out by the demands of academic life on a pubic university. The pressures of exams, projects and even social pressures often cause our time with God to take a back seat. However when we purpose in our hearts to spend time with God, how to be keep it consistent and meaningful? Cori Hernandez shares some things that have helped her while she was a student at Michigan State University. Listen in as she share why we need to have devotions and ways to be consistent and avoid the drowsy morning reading of God’s Word.

Finding, Retaining, and Training New Members.

Finding, Retaining, and Training New Members.

Finding New Students

Have a Presence on Campus: Make sure it is easy for students to find your Adventist group. If your name does not have ‘Adventist’ in it, you will have to make sure there is Adventist somewhere on your promotional material and group page. By this, Adventist students will easily be able to find you.

Ask the University: Some universities still collect the religious preference of students when they enroll at the university. Sometimes it is a non-profit organization. You can ask your student activities office if this information is collected and how to access the contact information of Adventist students attending your school. You may need your pastor to write a letter depending on the policy of the school or organization.

Visit Local Churches: If you live in an area where there is more than one church, make sure to visit other local churches the first Sabbath of the year. Leave club information with the greeters letting them know when you meet and contact information. Make sure to attend your local church regularly. This is will help you find students who may be “off the radar” but decide to attend church later in the year.

Register Your Club with https://acfregister.com/: This will help students who are coming from out of state to find your organization. You many need to set up an account, but this may also potentially help to find international students enrolling at your school.

Retaining New Students

Contact Information: Find out where they are staying (on or off campus) and connect them with Adventists who live near them. Make sure they are added to your weekly communication (GroupMe, WhatsApp, Group Text, email, etc.) and follow up to see if they received the message.  

Know the Student: If the only time the student hears from you is when you are inviting them to an event, chances of them coming will decrease significantly.

Build a Relationship: Find out the new students’ major, if they are grad or transfer, where they came from, birthday, how they are feeling about their classes, if they need help navigating campus, etc. Find a way to message them sometime during the week to see how their classes are going.  

Meet with Them: Spend time with them outside of regularly schedule meetings. Ask them if they want to meet up for lunch or dinner. Study together in your favorite spot on campus. Pray for God to lead the conversation. Give them freedom to share how their family, school, personal life is going. Pray for God to give you wisdom to 

Pray for them: Pray for them by name and ask if they have any prayer requests. For example, if they say they have a big test and ask for prayer, follow up with them after the test to see how things went. ASK them if they would like to be official members.

Training New Students

This is assuming you have done the previous two areas: found and retained the students. 

Build spiritual conversations: Make it a habit that after you talk that you pray together. Since the goal is for spiritual growth, this happens through personal conversations. Share what you have been learning in your devotions or even your struggles with the understanding that you know God will help you. 

Regular Training: Once you have a regular meeting established and people attending, consider having a training time for those who want to learn how to study the Bible, give Bible studies, share their faith, etc. This is a great resource for training. The topics include, how to find God’s purpose for your life, how to be a disciple for Christ, how to study the Bible, and more: DiscipleshipCourse. Remember that time is precious, this may be good for a Sabbath Afternoon training, Sunday morning, but find a regular time that is brief no more than 30-45 min each week for training. Invite the new students to attend this training. 

Build Ownership: One time when you are meeting up outside of your classes, ask them what they think of the weekly meetings, church, etc. Ask if they see an area that is working well or one that needs improvement. This will take some vulnerability on your part because they may have some good insight that may critique how student ministry is run. However, as you prayerfully listen, this is where you can ask them for solutions and if they would be willing to help in the area they see needs improvement. 

Discover Their Interests: Some students like to do crafts, post inspirational quotes on Instagram, create videos, make people feel welcome, or speak another language. Ask them if they have thought of using their interest to serve others. 

Ask for a Commitment: As you get to know them, ask them to do tasks in proportion to their ability and interest. For example, printing fliers for the club, helping with sound, reading a scripture, posting an inspiration quote on your club’s Facebook page each week, visiting a student with you, joining when giving a personal Bible study, etc. Continue to pray for God’s guidance and ask them if they would be interested in doing additional or other things.

HOW DO I STAY FAITHFUL ON A SECULAR CAMPUS?

HOW DO I STAY FAITHFUL ON A SECULAR CAMPUS?

For a young person, college is such a huge transition time in life. They pack up their bags and move to a college campus, making new friends and becoming independent from their family. For a lot of Christian students, they are leaving their churches, their youth groups, and the influences of their parents. College campuses are a whole new world to many, and it is easy to get swept away into the culture that surrounds every student. The pressures of classmates are high and are at times hard to resist, causing many students to add their faith to the list of farewells as they leave their hometowns. For a young person, college is such a huge transition time in life. They pack up their bags and move to a college campus, making new friends and becoming independent from their family. For a lot of Christian students, they are leaving their churches, their youth groups, and the influences of their parents. College campuses are a whole new world to many, and it is easy to get swept away into the culture that surrounds every student. The pressures of classmates are high and are at times hard to resist, causing many students to add their faith to the list of farewells as they leave their hometowns.

It can be quite daunting as a young person to have to defend your faith against so many different beliefs, and it feels overwhelming to think that there are no fellow believers in the sea of diversity. It is hard to hold strong beliefs that differ from peers, and even harder to be mocked or ridiculed for them. Jesus knew how we feel, and so do His disciples. They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned for their faith. However, they brought so many people to God because they were willing to serve Him no matter the cost. If the disciples were able to stay Christian during all the suffering they went through, is it possible to remain faithful on a college campus?

1. Daily Prayer and Devotions

Being mindful of the challenges that present themselves, there are things we can do as young people to stay active in our faith. The first and foremost of these is daily prayer and devotion time. The way we communicate with God is by praying to Him and reading His Word. As we build an authentic relationship with our Creator, He helps us with everything we are going through. Psalm 46 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The reality is that there will be difficult times, but God promises to be our refuge. We can take shelter in Him and His word. He has so much help for us in the Bible, and we can face the world when we have God’s word written on our hearts. No matter what we are going through, God is there for us, and wants to help us!

2. Guarding The Avenues, 

Another way to stay Christian in college is to guard ourselves. Amidst all the temptations, distractions, and influences, it is easy to slip into habits that aren’t holy, but we need to be careful about what we let into our minds and our hearts. As a principle, by beholding we become changed. If we examine the Bible every day and learn more about our Creator, God will change our hearts, and we will grow closer and closer to Him. However, if we watch, listen, or even partake in things that aren’t pure or holy, those things will change us and cause us to drift away from God. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” God tells us to spend our time beholding pure, good, and true things, not the opposite, and the best way to stay faithful is by being committed in the small day to day decisions on how to spend our time. So when you catch yourself doing things that take you away from God, turn away and pray, ask God to help you change those habits.

3. Surround Yourself With Godly Christian Friends,

Along the same lines as the last way, surrounding yourself with people who will bring you closer to God and not away from Him is very important. As humans, we need community and friends to strive, and as Christians, we need fellow believers to help us along on our walk. By joining a Christian student group and becoming part of a church family, we can form bonds with people that will help us withstand the forces of the evil one. There is something extraordinary about being able to worship and praise God with your closest friends, and when you become friends with fellow Christians, you can uplift each other, pray for each other, and understand each other better than you will be able to with your other friends. By joining a church family, you will find amazing mentors and people who will become like family. They will be there to help you and encourage you as you are navigating your college years, give you advice, and care for you when you need it. Having friends and church members by our side lets us know that we aren’t alone with what we are going through as a college student, and gives us hope for our futures in Christ.

4. Share The Word With Others,

Although taking classes and studying will already keep us very busy, getting involved in service is another way that will help us stay faithful. Jesus’ mission here on earth was to seek and save the lost, and on public universities, there are many lost people. When we get involved in serving God, not only do we bring ourselves true joy, but we can show other people about the love of God that what we have found in Christ. When you serve God, it creates a love for God and His people in your heart, and there is nothing more rewarding than when someone you have been witnessing to gives their lives to Christ. Serving God makes us want to know Him more, especially when we witness the amazing things He does for people. It grows our faith in Him when we are working for Him because it isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. So get involved with a Christian student group, with your church’s community outreaches, and personally reach out to the people around you.

5. Make God a Priority,

Lastly, but most importantly, we must keep God as the priority in our lives. We do need to focus on school and our degrees, but God has us in His hands. We can bring glory to Him with our studies and by doing well in school, but we need to put Him first. Before our exams, before our friends, before even our family. Because we have God, we don’t need to worry about these things, and when we put God first in our lives, He will honor and bless us. Mathew 6:33 tells us to “ seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well.” When we decide to choose God over all other things, He provides for us, and in college, there will be times when you have to trust God to help you in trying situations. When your professor wants you to do something against your beliefs, or when your study group wants to meet during the time you go to church. When you are overwhelmed by papers and assignments, and you want to skip church and personal time in the Bible to finish everything you need to do. These situations are tough, but when you seek God first and stand up for Him, He provides everything you need. Put Him first in your life, keep Him at the center of all that you do, and your faith will grow as you see all He does for you!

In conclusion, it is a challenge to stay faithful to God on a public university, but through God it is possible. So as you face the challenges set before you, claim God’s promises He has for us in His word, talk to Him about everything going on in your life. Fill every second of your day with things that bring you closer to God, and make your circle of friends people who will encourage your faith and not deter it. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people,” (Colossians 3:23) and fill your life with loving other people and God. You may feel alone on your campus at times, but know that many other people have felt the same way, and God will provide for you as you serve Him during your college years.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2

Here the Scriptures inspires us as Christ followers to run the race and endure the trials, looking to Jesus. He endured all for us so we could be with our Father, and He will help us face the trials and challenges presented before us at college. So please don’t lose hope and stay faithful on your campus, because it is all so worth it!

 

 Written by: Miranda Lentz

CAMPUS Missionary 2017-2018