Pray for me, Jerry snapped on Snapchat. His friend Grace, a student leader in Chico State’s LaFe InterVarsity chapter, thought it was a little unusual. Definitely not the normal thing Jerry snapped about.
Looking for Hope
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are searching for answers and community. Eager to respond to this need, InterVarsity worked quickly to organize InterVarsity LIVE!, our first ever national online large group, in the aftermath of colleges closing for the semester.
Over 3,800 viewers joined the first Friday night livestream, and many have continued to gather for InterVarsity LIVE! for its first two series. Each large group has featured members of the Urbana Worship Team leading everyone in a diverse blend of worship songs in several different languages, including Indonesian, Spanish, and English. And InterVarsity staff as well as guest speakers like Sarah Breuel, the Director of Revive Europe, and Sharon Cohn Wu from International Justice Mission have given hopeful, gospel-centered messages to those seeking community and comfort in this unprecedented time.
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Jerry snapped again a few hours later, I could use continuous prayer. Sensing more urgency, Grace knew she needed to respond. Her campus minister had challenged her to reach out to someone who didn’t know Jesus and pray for him or her. At first, Jerry hadn’t crossed her mind. But maybe he’s on God’s radar, Grace thought. So she replied to his snap, I’m praying for you!
InterVarsity LIVE! continues to highlight how many students are boldly stepping out in faith to reach those around them. A student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brejenn Allen, shared one Friday night that the company she founded is creating handmade face masks to help people stay safe and stylish.
During another InterVarsity LIVE!, Rawlica Sumner, a student small group coordinator at New York’s Hunter College, shared about the transition to online small groups. At first, she was skeptical. But since small groups went virtual, the number of students involved has almost tripled. And small group leaders in her chapter are growing bolder, with two coleaders texting invites to 80 people. Rawlica also invited a Muslim friend, who’d never participated before but now eagerly joined one of the groups to hear more about God.
Through their art displayed during one InterVarsity LIVE!, students Jennifer Guarneros and Julia Haunstein helped capture the yearning for reassurance that many are feeling. “Creating artwork during this time has truly been an act of worship,” Julia said. “It has allowed me to release emotions, experience freedom, comfort and [God’s] loving presence in a whole new way.”
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Jerry’s next snap came a day later: a picture of Jesus on the cross with Thanks to this man here, my mom was saved. He works miracles.
Stunned and excited, Grace messaged him, and Jerry went on to share the full story. Right before his first snap, Jerry’s mom had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and doctors had started treating her. But still, she just kept getting worse. So that’s when Jerry snapped again, asking for continuous prayer. Just 24 hours later, his mom was completely healed.
“I know this was God,” Jerry said.
Wow, praise Jesus! Prayers have power, Grace messaged back. Also, I have it on my heart to tell you we do serve a living God, one who hears, feels, and sees you. God loves you and your mom too.
During the InterVarsity LIVE!, titled “Joy in a Time of Grief,” speaker Serene Neddenriep shared Jerry’s story. Of the hundreds watching, Jerry was there too—having been invited by Grace. As Serene made a call to faith, Jerry responded and committed his life to Jesus.
Receiving a Gift
Jerry hasn’t been the only student to make a decision like this during InterVarsity LIVE! Since the first event, 177 people have made either first-time decisions or recommitments to Christ. And many, including InterVarsity alumni, parents, and donors, have been blessed by each large group’s blend of powerful worship and encouraging messages. One alumnus shared:
I’m three years out of school, teaching, and was in the midst of trying to get connected to a new church community when everything went virtual. The familiar format and faces of [InterVarsity] staff, the best digital worship I’ve seen anywhere in this pandemic (as in, the one where I have most been able to not “watch” but actually participate fully), and the really faith-stretching messages have been the highlight of my Friday nights. . . .This experience has been a gift as I have been seeking spiritual hope in this uncertainty.
InterVarsity LIVE! will resume tomorrow night with a new series, “Look What I Can Do.” It will highlight how God has guided many students in creatively connecting more deeply with him, friends and family, and God’s mission in the world. Register now for InterVarsity LIVE! starting at 7:00 p.m. CT on May 22.