When I decided to go to Carolina during my senior year of high school I specifically remember people immediately saying how they'd be praying for me and my faith as I headed off to such a liberal university. It wasn't until I actually stepped foot onto UNC's campus and became a part of the culture here that I realized how inaccurate people's assumptions of this campus truly are.
People's assumptions about what UNC is and isn't stems from a lot of stereotypes and preconceived notions they have about a university that many of those same people never actually attended. I know that comes off as harsh, and maybe it is, but the truth is you are never truly able to understand what an environment is like until you spend a significant portion of time there. It's the mundane moments or the day to day life events that I get to take part in which allow me to fully embrace all that UNC is. Until I was able to experience that for myself I too feared that my faith would be muddled by UNC.
Those mundane moments I mentioned, it has been within those moments that I've been able to experience the overwhelming love of Christ and see the work He is doing on this campus. It's sitting at a table in the Union to finish up some homework and overhearing a conversation about Christ or walking through Lenoir at dinner time and hearing a group of friends praying before dinner. If you aren't looking for it you'd probably overlook it or cast it off as another conversation, but these moments are so much more than that. The best part of it all, those are just the mundane moments.
Maybe it's bold of me to say that God has a plan for this campus, but I'm fine with being bold in that. I find the confidence in saying this because I get to experience Tuesday nights in a church on Franklin Street as a congregation of students fills the pews and for 45 minutes we stop what we are doing and praise God together. There are no denominations there, there are no barriers, it's a group of students coming together to worship God through music. Then as we break away and go our separate ways for the rest of the week each of us falls back into our own sphere of influence. In these spheres of influence, we build a deeper community that binds us to different churches and campus ministries and organizations, but at the end of the day, we all find our way back to that same church every Tuesday evening.
I will not deny that my generation has shown a drastic decrease in the amount of college-aged students who regularly attend church services on Sunday, but that a) doesn't mean that they've fully forsaken the faith or b) that God is not working on college campuses like UNC. As with everything else, I think it is important to put these statistics into context. When students come to UNC, or any college for that matter, most of the time they find themselves trying to reestablish who they are and redefine their identity. This seems to stem from a lack of community and not really knowing where their niche is just yet. Loss of a well-established Christian community can be detrimental for a lot of students as they go off to college and struggle to balance all their new responsibilities while trying to figure out who they are. So that drastic decrease we see may be less of college-aged students fully parting ways with the faith and more of them not being able to find a community where they feel at home.
This area, in particular, is one that really defines why I say that God is truly working on this campus. As a student, it can be hard to find that community, as I said, but UNC has so many campus ministries or local churches that before long students seem to meander into their niche. I know for me it happened fairly quickly, but for others, it doesn't happen like that and it takes time. At the end of the day though, people seem to find a community that suits them well and where they feel loved and known. For me, that's the most important reason behind why I say God is here working on this campus.
To anyone who ever worried about me going to such a "liberal" campus, fear not because God has a plan and has placed me on a campus full of people that He loves and wants to minister to for a reason. Don't let false assumptions and stereotypes jade your perception of the work God can do. He's working here, it's now just up to us to listen and obey His commands.