By Hannah Keziah Agustin

Waving My Flag at Urbana 22 — Darren’s Story

I know the pain that you went through, and I am here to tell you that you are not alone. These were the words that Darren heard in his heart.

During a listening prayer exercise at the Urbana 22 Student Missions Conference, Rev. Dr. James Choung, InterVarsity's Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, invited participants to imagine Jesus entering the room and speaking to them. This intimate prayer exercise allowed Darren to hear the voice of Jesus telling him how deeply he was loved and cared for.

The next thing Darren knew, he was standing up and waving his white flag in surrender — no longer weighed by anxiety, inadequacy, or condemnation that he felt during his entire faith journey. He wanted to know more about Jesus, who spoke to him so clearly and compellingly and met him where he was. 

Journeying Through Sorrow and Challenge

Darren first heard about Jesus in seventh grade when his father got baptized. He gave his life to Jesus then. But although he was involved in his dad’s church, high school Christian group, and worship team, Darren struggled with his faith while attending Pasadena City College right when the pandemic hit. He suddenly found himself thrown into a drastically new learning environment, and amid the chaos, he lost his grandfather to COVID-19. The brokenness in his life was so palpable. He lost the motivation to do anything.

Lonely and disoriented, he tried to hold onto his faith. He looked for Christian community, but the online gatherings and meeting restrictions left him feeling like he wasn’t fully involved.

Returning to in-person gatherings in the spring of 2022 helped rejuvenate Darren’s faith. And when his church and InterVarsity chapter started talking about Urbana 22, Darren knew he wanted to go.

Preparing to go to Urbana had its challenges, however. It meant spending money for traveling and housing, having less time with family after Christmas, and giving up a few days of winter break to fly from California to Indianapolis. Darren's parents also worried about him traveling by himself.

But Darren firmly believed that God could speak into the broken parts of his story at Urbana. So he prayed and prayed for the Lord to open doors and provide everything that he needed to be able to attend the conference.

The next thing Darren knew, his mom allowed him to go and even offered to pay for half of his trip!

Joy Comes in the Morning

Standing up at Urbana, waving his white flag, Darren felt a little embarrassed. But all of that dissipated when his friends and the entire Urbana community started clapping and cheering. “I remember being loved by a huge community huddling over me,” Darren said. “That was the biggest moment of my life, and I wish I could go back and repeat it over and over again."

Darren left the conference with new friends, new worship songs to listen to, and most importantly, new life — one spent with his newfound spiritual family and Jesus, his Lord from here to eternity.

When Darren, again, gave his life to Jesus at Urbana, he wanted to pursue his relationship with Jesus more intentionally. He wants to be a light to everyone else through hospitality –– affirmed in his gift of welcoming others by his InterVarsity campus minister and church mentors.

Overflowing Love

And he’s already had multiple opportunities to love others well through God’ love overflowing from him. In late January, after the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, Darren started a prayer meeting for the people in his chapter. Since the tragedy happened near where he lived, he felt particularly tied to the community and wanted others to know that God was with them through it all. He's also started helping a person from his college who struggled with homelessness.

Looking forward, Darren doesn’t know what the Lord has in store for him in the years to come. He's majoring in cinema and videography and longs to one day make inspirational Christian films and documentaries. He's also considering doing ministry and giving others the opportunity to know God the way he has. Although much is unknown in the future, Darren rests secure that he is known by the one who holds his future.

“Besides being thankful for Jesus saving me, I’m so thankful that I was able to go to [Urbana] and learn that there is a bigger purpose for me living in this world."

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Now I know that the gift My wife and I gave last year towards Urbana scholarships was an excellent investment!

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