I came back on campus, seeing it hustling and bustling for the first time in over 18 months and was just so overwhelmed with a sense of joy. We were back. Campus life had returned with all its beauty and all its inconveniences. The inconveniences that would’ve gotten on my nerves in 2019 struck me with an initial sense of nostalgia and giggles. I never would have thought there would be a point where I walked into the dining hall, saw a long line for Chick-Fil-A, and found myself smiling. Never in my life did I think I would relish the feeling of sprinting to class to avoid arriving late. Granted, I was still annoyed. I needed my chicken sandwich and needed to get to class. Still, in moments like this, it felt like such a privilege to wait in line before running out of breath on my way to class. Man, it is good to be back.
Granted, I had been there the whole time. During the past academic year, I was able to stay on campus as a Resident Advisor. My university had some tactful COVID responses that allowed students to be able to live on campus despite having to still attend classes that were only online. I got to experience a hollowed-out version of “campus life” where the bulk of students weren’t really there, and there was absolutely no hustle and bustle. Campus was a ghost town.
Campus Life is Back
Seeing the busy class changes, the backed-up parking garages, and the students hanging out on campus, is so beautiful. One afternoon a few weeks ago, I walked out of class to head to my car and I spotted my resident, Megan, from my first year as a Resident Adviser. She ran toward me and I enthusiastically greeted her. We chatted about our classes and being back on campus. I shared that I had to blast but that it was great seeing her.
As I walked away, I realized how much I missed that feeling: seeing someone you know, but not that well, chatting briefly, and then parting ways. It’s the lightest relationship on campus. Interactions like that are so common now but were so infrequent last year. Now, it feels like every day that I’m on campus I have an interaction like that, whether it be an old classmate, a former resident, or someone I knew freshman year. Microscopic moments like that are the culmination of campus life. These are tiny little beauties that, when added up, create the culture of campus that I missed so much. Campus life is back, and with that, so is in-person ministry.
Laughter in Large Group
I’ve met so many people in the past 4 weeks, more people than I feel like I met during the entirety of the last academic year. New connections were unheard of last year and to have them again has been such a delight. We approach New Student Outreach with the gravity of how valuable it is to be able to meet new people. Welcoming them into our chapter has been so fun and we are excited to meet this new cast of characters that God is putting into our lives.
These new people infuse large group and small groups with a new sense of vivacity and love. Laughter rings louder and pulls on the heartstrings even more. I’m the emcee of my chapter, meaning I get to open and close every large group. I love making people laugh in general, but especially when it’s for the health of the Kingdom, so emceeing is like my favorite task ever.
The first night back, I rode those jokes like a Californian finding a stellar wave. Each laugh was magnetic and reminded me so much of the joy that was a lot harder to find last year (we were relegated to Zoom where the laughs were quite literally muted). Being back practicing in-person ministry makes me more grateful for what we have and leads to not just me, but every leader, soaking up the joy and living in the moment so much more.
As a leader, student, and follower of Christ, I’m so happy to be able to witness the joy present in every room. We’re all immensely aware of the blessing that it is to be together in-person, and it fills us with a renewed sense of purpose.
You can keep the laughter ringing by donating to InterVarsity to keep in-person ministry thriving.
I am keenly aware that our bodies have absorbed a gauntlet of grief throughout this traumatic year. And some of us, for the first time since March 2020, are stepping onto campuses that have been closed for over a year. How then, when we are committed to seeing God’s kingdom come on campus, do we enter NSO well?