“I want to give back to other people,” said Allison Guss, an InterVarsity senior at Rider University in New Jersey. While her post-college plans aren’t quite settled, she does know she wants to commit this next year to service, possibly working with a Christian organization that serves those living in poverty in the U.S.
“InterVarsity has taught me that giving to other people can be a joy. You can make a difference,” she said. Allison has seen a significant difference in her own life because of how others have invested in her and she hopes to serve someone else in need.
Finding a Stable Community
A year ago, Allison wasn’t sure what she believed about God. “Depending on the day you talked to me, I was atheist or agnostic,” she said. In February 2010, a friend invited her to a Q&A session about God and faith that InterVarsity hosts each semester. Allison was intrigued by the discussion and continued to go to the chapter’s meetings.
She felt a sense of community and stability among these students that hadn’t been a consistent part of her life. “There’s always someone there to listen,” said Allison. She was grateful for how these new friends supported and cared for her.
Last October, she attended the chapter’s fall conference. With her InterVarsity staff member Jenna Garrison, Allison studied John 4, about the woman whom Jesus met at the well. Jenna said, “Coming in to that weekend, Allison still didn’t believe Jesus could be God or that God truly existed.”
Speakers at the conference talked about why Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth and what it means to follow him. They invited students to make a decision to follow Jesus. Jenna saw how seriously and thoughtfully Allison took this life-changing commitment. “Allison told us that she had to ‘sit with it,’” said Jenna.
A few weeks after the conference, Allison felt stressed about graduating and overwhelmed with problems at home. “I had a lot of pressure to figure out what I was doing and where I was going. I wasn’t feeling great about myself as a person,” said Allison. “When I finally sat down and thought about following God, I realized how good that would be.” Privately, she prayed, asking God to come into her life for the first time.
A Year Spent Praying
Her InterVarsity friends were thrilled to hear of her decision. For over a year, a group of students in the chapter had been diligently praying for her. “We would take time to pray for her week after week, just longing for our friend that we had come to love so much,” said Jenna. The times of prayer encouraged students to continue reaching out with love to Allison and other friends. “It inspired our students that they shouldn’t give up praying after a month or two,” said Jenna.
During the school year, Allison and Jenna met weekly to pray and talk about the new identity Allison has in Christ. “I’ve become a very different person since I became a Christian,” said Allison. “I am learning to be gentler in my dealings with people. I’m a more patient person.”
Like many InterVarsity seniors wrapping up classes and final exams, Allison’s next plans aren’t definite. But where she often felt stressed and worried before, she’s now able to trust that God will be with her even beyond college.