I always knew I would go to college. It was more than growing up, more than the next step…it was freedom!
Actually, I didn’t even know there was an option. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that my dad didn’t really believe that I would go…and graduate. (I’m kinda glad that no one ever shared that little detail with me.)
Senior Year High School
In my senior year of high school, I had a friend, Paula, who would come back to Beaver Dam for weekends. We would get together and go to Bruser’s Pub. I would grill her for all the details about college life. What were classes like? What about dorm life? What did she do on the weekdays? What about cafeteria food?
Off to College
When mom and dad dropped me off at school for my freshman year at UWEC (University of WI–Eau Claire), I was on cloud 9! I loved living on my own. The classes and cafeteria food were great. The new independence of dorm life was amazing. But the one thing Paula and I hadn’t really gotten into was…God at college.
I was sitting out on the grass in the common’s area when I first experienced a street preacher. I sat and listened as he held a bible in one hand and shared his “testimony” as only a zealot or an extremist does. But I didn’t define the message as crazy, I saw passion and purpose.
Church, Jesus, and Eternal Life
After he was done speaking, I walked u to him and introduced myself. I told him that I enjoyed and understood his message. He invited me to a campus bible study. I attended the meeting that very first week. I thought it was interesting and the people seemed so friendly. (It just so happened that my future husband was at that Bible study–crazy right?
I quickly got involved in the small community church that sponsored this regular campus organization. I loved being a part of a group of people with a passionate cause. We all cared deeply about one another and felt we had a divine purpose.
College was an exciting time of church, friends, and classes. (And that was the order of importance…)
One of the activities that drew me in was the evangelism that this new church taught and practiced.
People would “preach” between classes on campus and others in the group would hand out gospel tracts. Sometimes we would walk around the Davies Student Union area and ask students if they would be interested in taking a quick survey. It was so “quick” that there was only one question, “If you were to die today, and God asked you why you should get into heaven, what would you say?”
There was only one right answer (of course) but that wasn’t really what we were after. We wanted to get people to pray with us to accept Jesus as their “personal Lord and Savior” and to develop a friendship that would lead to building that person’s faith and attendance at church.
Friday nights were especially exciting when we would hang around outside of the Brat Kabin bar on Water Street hoping to get into conversations about Jesus, salvation, and the Bible with drunk college students. Well, I don’t think we actually sat down and evaluated the effectiveness of our strategy, but we felt “called”. And that was what was important…
It took me four and a half years to graduate. Tom and I got married in May, the summer before my final semester (when I did my student teaching). Mom and the grandmas would regularly come to visit me and go to church. Mom was told by my paster in Beaver Dam that I was definitely in a cult! Contemporary guitar music was pretty radical in the mid-80s. What they saw were friendly, welcoming, happy people.
It is a time that I look back on with tenderness at the people and experiences that I encountered and the independent person I worked to develop.
I continue to be thankful for those people who encourage me to pursue my own dreams and visions.
I also appreciate those who keep their doubts about my dreams to themselves.