When I went into college as a freshman, I wanted to make sure my relationship with God didn't suffer because I was away from my home church community.
I'd grown up hearing stories of people who did great things for the Lord and I wanted to be one of those people, but I feared that college would mean I'd lose my way. Most of my friends back home are a few years older than I am, and some of them have even started families. Because of their faith in me, they've shared stories and struggles over the years that sometimes involved college.
When you're away at college, away from parents and the majority of those who know you, I'll admit it's easier to get away with stuff. I knew this beforehand and, at one point, I'd actually allowed it to scare me so much that I feared college would "change me" without my consent.
And while I wasn't absolutely insane for worrying about that, I was crazy to let so much of my anticipatory joy for college be ruined by it. Flashforward to the second semester of my sophomore year and college has changed me, but only in ways that I've allowed it to.
Because I was so adamant about continuing to foster my faith, I found out about Chi Alpha - one of the campus ministries at Longwood University that also has over 310 chapters at several universities. For some reason, I'd never heard of Chi Alpha (XA) until I came to college, and that's DEFINITELY a God thing.
Thanks to Chi Alpha, I've not only remained who I was in Christ before starting my college career, but I've grown even more and the family I have there has been by my side in fruitful and dry seasons already. They also gave me my first leadership opportunity connected to my faith.
I've been on mission trips before and lead a dance team at a previous church, but I'd never been nor considered myself a leader in my eyes or God's. But the funny thing about God is that He'll use what you think are inadequacies to build something so miraculous, it could only be by His doing.
A couple of weekends ago several chapters of Chi Alpha across the east coast gathered together in D.C. for the annual Winter Retreat. It's a weekend where all everyone stays in the same hotel just to worship Jesus the entire time. We rode down together Friday afternoon and had our first session that night.
The regional director spoke the entire weekend on Romans 12:12, which says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." He shared stories with us about his job as a "Jesus Coordinator" for a Louisiana college football team as well as a few personal stories that had Jesus written all over them.
On Saturday, we chose two individual sessions (I chose one on prayer and the other on the Holy Spirit) and we even had a few hours to explore the city.
My favorite part, however, aside from getting to grow closer to my XA family within Longwood, was going to the "jam room." The hotel had specifically set aside separate rooms for prayer, missions, and jamming out. And several of us gathered together with people we didn't even know to worship Jesus in that jam room.
As I walked up to the room, I passed an older gentleman in uniform and realized that he was one of the security guards staying up all night to make sure we were safe. He was standing just outside the door so he could keep an eye on things but, as I went past, he was smiling at the fact that all of these college kids were singing praises to Jesus at 2 a.m.
If you have a Chi Alpha on your college campus, I encourage you to try it out. Maybe it's for you, maybe it's not. But, for me, the family that I've received because of it really shows what Heaven is supposed to look like. Different skin colors, nationalities, economic statuses, home lives, genders, etc.
It's all-encompassing, all-loving, and all about Jesus.