The Eastern Iowa alumni reunion weekend in mid-July featured camp fires, worship, games, eating, caving, and plenty of hanging out. The 30 of us who attended studied Ephesians 1:1-15 on Saturday morning and had a ministry update Saturday evening. We loved being together again.
Our purpose was to encourage each other in the faith in our varying stages of life. Being with people who knew us when we were making important faith choices seems to be very renewing and hope producing.
There was one woman there who I didn’t know. Carol had traveled all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota, with her young daughters. She was eager to be there, though she didn’t seem to know any of the other people at the reunion personally.
Over lunch I heard her story. She grew up in a nominal Catholic home in St. Paul but rejected the church in her teens. As a high schooler, she experimented with Wicca, drinking, etc. Carol came to the University of Iowa (UI) with her boyfriend from high school. She made very few friends except in the Wicca crowd.
When she and her boyfriend broke up during the winter of her freshman year, she was devastated. Carol described herself sitting by the bridge over the Iowa River behind her dorm. She was barefoot and in her pajamas, despite the snow. While contemplating throwing herself into the river, she remembered a similar scene from It’s a Wonderful Life and asked “Where is my angel?” Just then, a student approached her and asked what was wrong. He listened and encouraged her to spare her life and have hope. His name was Michael.
Later that week, Carol described this experience to a few acquaintances in the dining hall and said that she didn’t have any friends. One of the women was Dora Beth, a member of an InterVarsity small group in the dorm. Dora Beth invited Carol to come to a Bible study and to hang out with her Christian community. Though Carol didn’t agree with most of what was said at the Bible study, she kept coming back and became friends with “the community.” Staff worker Sabrina Nash invited her to a GIG (Groups Investigating God, an investigative Bible study) where many of her questions were answered.
One evening, a student leader named Amanda invited Carol to come over to her dorm room for prayer. Amanda asked Carol if there was any reason not to give her life to Jesus. Carol decided she was ready, and Amanda led her in prayer. That night the InterVarsity community in Burge dorm bought pizzas for a party in the dorm lounge and celebrated Carol’s rebirth. As Burge students returned from a night at the bars, they encountered an offer of free pizza and the story of Carol’s new life.
Carol was not able to return to the University of Iowa the next fall due to finances. But she found a church in St. Paul and invested in her faith.
During the last year Carol and her husband separated, and her second daughter was born. During this painful period, God reminded her of his faithfulness to her when she was a freshman. Carol named her baby “Amanda,” for the student who had led her to Christ. She gave the middle name “Faith” as an expression of her desire to live in reliance on God.
Part of her seeking after God during the separation was to search for the InterVarsity community from the University of Iowa. She found the Eastern Iowa InterVarsity website and through that learned about the alumni reunion.
I was impressed by how open she was about her situation and her eagerness for God. She shared with me that in the last few months she and her husband have attended a marriage class and are finding some real help.
It was an incredible blessing for me to hear of how God worked through witnessing communities and how meaningful our college experiences can be into adulthood. This was our second Circle of Faith gathering. We have agreed to continue to gather like this every three years until the Lord returns.