Chelsea Chamberlin had been following an eastern religion since high school. She found beauty in the religion’s spirit of brotherhood and the unity she experienced among believers. But as a student at Portland State University, Chelsea began wondering why certain beliefs must be carried out a specific way or at all. A friend gently told her that such questions can be disrespectful.
“I went soul searching,” said Chelsea, disappointed by her friend’s response. “I believed in God, but I didn’t like organized religions. They weren’t for me.”
A Lifestyle of Love
Then last spring, Chelsea met Maritza, an InterVarsity student who invited her to a large group meeting. Chelsea reluctantly agreed to attend. She liked Maritza, but was skeptical about Christianity. Growing up in a small, rural Oregon town, Chelsea remembered some painful interactions with religious Christians. Her family did not hold any strong spiritual convictions, and she had often felt isolated in the community.
“I was the only legally blind person at the time, and so I didn’t fit in anyway,” said Chelsea. Being different hindered her ability to trust people, afraid they would judge her. When she converted to another religion in high school, she felt even more ostracized by her community. In her experience, Jesus was someone who picked favorites.
But at an InterVarsity large group meeting, Chelsea met students who surprised her. “People were really open minded and understanding,” she said. Chelsea attended two more times before the school year ended. She saw that for these students, living out their faith was not a temporary behavior, but a lifestyle of love.
A God to Trust
When school began again, Chelsea went with Maritza to another large group meeting, where the speaker invited attendees to take steps in learning about Jesus. Curious about these students’ faith, Chelsea joined the God Experiment, a month-long GIG (Groups Investigating God), helping people explore Christianity through Bible study and prayer.
Throughout the GIG, Chelsea was an active participant; and in late October, she attended InterVarsity’s fall conference. The weekend started with a message about trusting Jesus with one’s life. Chelsea still had so many questions. Because of what she had been taught, she believed that Jesus was a good man, but nothing more. How could someone be both human and God? She struggled to reconcile her negative experiences with Christians in the past and the students she met now.
Chelsea met with an InterVarsity staff worker, Marshae Sylvester, who shared the gospel and talked through Chelsea’s concerns, encouraging her questions. “I realized my reluctance was due to some backward ways of thinking that I learned growing up,” Chelsea said later.
The speaker at fall conference continued to talk on the theme of trust. As he closed the second night, he asked, “If you’re ready to trust in Jesus, please stand up and join me here up front.”
Chelsea was confident she was ready. For the past several months, she had felt God placing people in her life that viewed her without judgment. She now believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, with a perfect life that qualified him to take away sin. She realized that she could trust Jesus to love her as she was.
With several other students, Chelsea joyfully walked to the front of the room and prayed to accept Jesus into her life.
A Story Worth Sharing
Deciding to follow Jesus has changed many of Chelsea’s relationships. Her staff worker Marshae has observed how willing Chelsea is to share her story with other students, when she was previously guarded in her relationships. “She is more open to allowing God to speak in her life, and allowing what she learns to affect her decisions,” said Marshae.
Other students in the InterVarsity community have watched Chelsea’s eagerness to share her story grow, encouraging them to share their own story with peers. They saw that people appreciate hearing their stories — stories of hurt and pain, but also of the hope that Jesus offers.
As Chelsea continues studying social science, she is considering a career in counseling. “I feel that God is calling me to be a uniter between people,” said Chelsea. “I want to be a peacemaker.” She desires to work towards reconciliation between minority groups, helping people to forgive and build community again.
But she also remains flexible to God’s calling. “People tend to have things all figured out, but we don’t,” said Chelsea. “God has a plan for my life, and I need to be open to say ‘yes’ to that plan and trust it will be good.”
More of Chelsea’s story is told in this video produced by InterVarsity’s Twentyonehundred Productions. You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at Portland State University
by following this link.