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What has tested your faith during your time at NWC?

I came to Northwestern in the middle of my college career. As a transfer at any college or university, it is not easy. In a new place, it is not easy to feel like you belong. It is not easy to feel comfortable with a group of people who already has an established group of friends. It is not easy to set aside your previous college experience and fully engage in a new community.

With that being said, my time here at Northwestern has been a time of testing my faith and truly relying on the Lord to comfort me in the midst of the uncomfortable. Prior to last year, I would describe my life as somewhat comfortable – I lived in a close Mennonite community nearly my whole life and grew up with the same group of people all throughout my schooling (not to mention, that about a fifth of my graduating class went on to the first two years of college with me).

However, I am so thankful that the Lord brought me to Northwestern. During my first semester here, while seeking Him in the unknown, I gained amazing friends, got involved with campus activities, and truly saw God working in this season of change. For the first time, I could say that He is good, and at work even in the midst of the uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and unknown. Looking back, I can’t even begin to describe the ways that I have changed and have grown to rely more heavily on God. For the first time in my life, here at NWC, I truly have had to let Him lead – and even today, He continues consistently lead and love me well.

How has your view of God changed or been strengthened since coming to NWC?

Over and over at Northwestern, I have learned more about the Holy Spirit and ways to encounter Him in everyday life. Prior to my time at Northwestern, my experience with learning about and ‘feeling Him move’ seemed very minimal. I always knew the Sprit was working, but old hymns and my church background didn’t seem to highlight the Spirit as much. Since coming to Northwestern, however, I can tell through experiences such as worship on campus, conversations, and classes, I experience Him more by noticing how other students and faculty interact with the Holy Spirit. I see students raising their hands at P&W, I notice conversations being led by the Holy Spirit, and I am learning more and more every day to be more attentive to the ways he moves in my life.

Describe a time at NWC when God’s presence was obvious to you?

Music has been one of the ways I best connect to God for almost my entire life. Whenever I get the chance, I love singing hymns and praise songs with my friends. One experience that stands out to me at my time at Northwestern was on my SSP in Amsterdam. In the hostel where we worked, the guests were mainly travelers who needed a few days stay. These were Christians and non-Christians alike, but on Saturday night I remember playing some songs with my team and the guests, and we started singing Jesus Loves Me – some of them knew it, and some of them didn’t. But when we all sang, it was sung in different languages and all the voices being lifted up to God was truly beautiful. I could tell in that moment that God was real, God is huge, and His presence was known in that place. Northwestern has granted me with amazing experiences like this and I’ll forever be thankful!

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How has your view of God changed or been strengthened since coming to NWC?
 

Before coming to Northwestern, I honestly remember thinking that I know most of what a Christian needed to know about God. I thought I knew who He was and what role He was supposed to play in my life. I remember thinking that going to a Christian school such as Northwestern would help fill in the cracks of my knowledge about God – I already knew most of it, but it would be nice to know the nitty-gritty details. I also remember the moment I realized how disillusioned I was, and that I barely knew God at all. 

All throughout high school I had one goal: to look like I was a good kid and a good Christian. I now look back and realize how toxic that was to me. My faith wasn’t about being a genuine, authentic Christian, but rather about how I appeared to other people.  At the time, I thought this ideology would translate well into life at Northwestern. I thought that all the guys on the football team and students across campus were going to be goody-goodies like me who didn’t swear, who didn’t drink, and who always had a fake smile on their face. To my surprise, my expectations were not met during my first few weeks of football camp and class. Because of my unmet expectations, I began to think that everybody else had it wrong and I made the wrong college choice. However, I believe that God was working in me and through the people I surrounded myself with because my view of God began to dramatically grow, evolve, and change – even though I was just beginning to scratch the surface of who God actually was.  Over the course of my Northwestern career through football, classes, FCA, SSP’s, and everyday interactions with people, I can’t even begin to describe the many ways in which my view of God has grown!  

Let me share just two seemingly simple things I have learned about God during my time here at Northwestern. 

First, at Northwestern learned that our God is real. I realized that God wasn’t just an entity to believe in so that you look like a good kid to grown-ups. Previously, I had used God to set myself apart from the crowd growing up. God can use someone to stand out, but I was doing it for selfish reasons only. At Northwestern, I learned that most of the guys on the football team and students among campus were authentic and genuine in their faith. They didn’t put up the “Orange City front” to make themselves look good, but rather these people were real and wanted to talk about deep theological questions – something I had never experienced before. Sure, these people weren’t perfect, and they struggled with sin like everybody else, but they didn’t hide it like I was used to. Instead, they were open about it and asked for forgiveness. This was the first lesson that Northwestern taught me about God. 

Second, at Northwestern I learned that our God loves indiscriminately. It doesn’t matter to God what we look like or how we have sinned in the past. All that matters to God is who we are trying to be in the present. God cares that we are striving to be more like Jesus. Inevitably, we aren’t going to look like Jesus all the time. That’s called sin. There aren’t enough numbers in the world to account for the times I have sinned. No matter where you go to college, there are going to be temptations. I’ve been tempted with laziness, lust, alcohol, and I’ve even been tempted to skip chapel a couple times. However, at the end of the day, my Northwestern experience has taught me that God still loves through the thickest of sins. God loved me in my past darkness and I can take comfort in that God will love me in my future darkness.  God even loves me enough to call me out of my darkness and into his light.  God’s unending, unconditional, and limitless love was the second thing that Northwestern taught me about God. 

Overall, my experience here at Northwestern is priceless and something that I will always cherish. From 5:30am morning football workouts to late night NBS and Catan in Coly, the memories and life lessons that I have gained from this place will be taken with me wherever I go. I can’t begin to describe the impact Northwestern has had on my life and am eternally grateful for it. God is doing some amazing things on campus and I am excited to see what the Northwestern community becomes in the future. 

I love all you Raiders, 

Raiders Roll, 

Jacob Jenness 

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SENIOR Q  & A

What attribute of God has been the most evident in your time at NWC? 

As our mission statement says, we are being prepared to do God’s redeeming work in the world. The fact that God is using us messy human beings to do this is still a little bit mind-blowing. I think NWC has decided to plant itself right there in that tension of recognizing that we’re not perfect but still trying to effect change in Jesus’ name. I’ve seen this especially in the service opportunities NWC makes sure we have access to. I never would have guessed that in college I would co-lead a SSP to Opelousas, LA or help send dozens of first year students to worksites around Sioux County as part of Orientation Staff. But God still used my teammates, and me, to do good work. 

Describe a time at NWC when God’s presence was obvious to you? 

I’m not even a theatre major, but will it really be a surprise to anyone if I admit it was an experience I’ve had with Northwestern Theatre? My sophomore year I had the privilege to be in the musical Godspell along with 12 of the best people I know. For several months our little band of players got to romp around with the parables of Jesus, telling stories of the love and the grace of his Gospel, and also living into his painful and wonderful death and resurrection. 

Jesus felt so incredibly real to me in those weeks that we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of his story. Maybe because there was an immense joy that seemed to surround the whole project. You could feel it in our laughing, our singing, our dancing, and even our weeping (which there had been plenty of by the time we performed for the last time). It’s so hard to put into words. Once you know that kind of fellowship you really want to chase after it with the hope that you’ll find it again.   

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now? 

Optimism about uncertainty … I can be a very spontaneous person, but at the same time I require a level of planned-out-ness in my life. It’s probably because I like to be or at least feel in control of my circumstances. As a senior that planned-ness isn’t really something that I can say I have anymore. I don’t even have a summer job lined up. But I need to remember that it’s perfectly fine to not have it all figured out in this moment. And not only that, I don’t have to feel hopeless about not knowing what’s happening after graduation. I can trust that it will work out for God’s greater purposes and even feel optimistic. God made the water in my half-full glass if that mixed metaphor makes any sense. I think I’ll be okay. 



SENIOR Q & A

In your time at NWC, who has shown you a bit of God’s love?
 

During my time at NWC, a person who has shown me a bit of God’s love was Pam Mason. Most people don’t know her because the college keeps her cooped up in a small financial office on the second floor of Zwemer. I fell across her (literally fell off a ladder changing her light bulb) in her office and that’s how we met. Ever since that day, we’ve traded stories of how I got to NWC and how she got here – and the next thing you know, she has been like my guardian angel. She is not the type of person who would say, “I’ll pray for you” and then walk away. She will pray for you and walk with you during your troubling times and she will be there for you during the good times. As an African American, it meant a lot to me that a Caucasian person didn’t only want to hear my story but also try to have something in common with me which made me feel more comfortable about being at NWC and less homesick. 

How has your view of God changed or been strengthened since coming to NWC? 

I wouldn’t say my faith in God was changed at all being here. I grew up in the ghetto and saw and experienced things most people shouldn’t have to go through. Having a great grandmother to raise me who was strong in her faith already told me that God does what he wants, but he is always good, and he is always right on time. So, I was never one to get mad at God or question his ways. I felt like it was a waste of time because the day is still going to pass, He is still going to be good, and most obvious there is always a reason behind His madness. My faith was strengthened through the fact of finding my calling. I came here thinking I’m just a football player and I am going to make it to the league (league meaning NFL, Canadian league football or arena football league). I was so obsessed with myself and being great that it killed a lot of my friendships because if they were not dedicated to getting better then I felt like they were holding me back. I studied athletic training just in case I didn’t make it to the league for sports – then I was going to make it with my degree. Either way I was going to be in the league, make a lot of money so my friends and family can say that I made it and then I can start giving back to my neighborhood. NWC SSP’s and being involved with youth sports camps convinced me that I need to be a teacher and start giving back now. I learned very quickly that I don’t need to be rich or famous to give back. People (mainly kids) need or can use help now and time is preferred more than money now a days. They need time and investments. They need to know that they are loved. So, I will give a shout out to NWC for helping me find that calling and confirming that I have a purpose in this world. God needed me to come here to find it. 

What attribute of God has been the most evident in your time at NWC? 

An attribute of God that has been the most evident in my time at NWC would be His love. The most obvious with Pam Mason being my guardian angel, but He also provided me a host family that helped supported me in almost every way possible. Me growing up with a broken family, and once my grandmother went to a retirement home when I was 11, I was in broken homes with broken family members, with an absence of love. I got here, and I learned what love feels like, and what it looks like in the human flesh. I know the Lord loves me, but other humans showed me unconditional love and I didn’t react the best to it at first because I thought it was too good to be true, but love is amazing when it’s real and has God in the center. Also, when I found out my adopted mom passed way during my time here, the whole community surrounded me in love and supported me. I can’t say thank you enough to the NWC community that was there for me. 

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By Lizzy Johnston

It’s hard to leave me speechless. I have words for every occasion and witty comebacks are my forte. I recall only a couple incidents I’ve been speechless in my life, one being this past summer while visiting my sweet friend, who I’ve known for nearly all 19 years of my life. We were casually walking through the Scheels parking lot when she said, “Oh, I wanted to tell you—I’m pansexual.” Tripping over my words, I brilliantly said, “Oh. Uh huh. No prob.”

Driving back after that weekend I had a whole two hours alone with my thoughts (and tight jams), confused why this was rattling me. I have other friends in the LGBTQ community, all wonderful people. I concluded this particular ‘coming out’ situation was overwhelming me because of how close my friend was to me, and now the pressure I felt to respond in the right way to one of my best friends.

For my whole life, most Christians have told me this is one of the worst sins to commit— in my experience, I have seen condemnation for LGBTQ people come quickly, with little room for forgiveness and grace. I even will say I have been taught that it’s okay to judge and dislike those who identify as LGBTQ.

How was I supposed to treat this? With support and pride for her even though Christians tell me I would be approving of something extremely sinful? Slowly cut her out of my life to avoid dealing with it? What do I do when she begins sinful relationships? She abandoned her faith long ago, which made this even more complicated. How was I supposed to show Jesus and his love to someone who has rejected him? I was totally lost.

This October—after months of struggling with how to approach this—I realized Jesus was telling me to study a book of the Gospels, so I listened (I should definitely try that more often). I’ve been going through Luke, trying to comprehend the radical way Jesus loved while on Earth. One thing about Jesus: he is a colossal rule breaker. He sought out the men and women that the “righteous” people in society rejected or labeled as untouchable and that no one wanted to love, and he loved them. He went to the outcasts of society, the despised and the abandoned—sound like LGBTQ people?

As the issue of sexuality literally rips society and the Church apart, Jesus reminds me to simply love everyone. Not judge or hate or condemn. Just love. And not just love with my imperfect human love, but to allow him to pour his own love into others through me. My friend will have enough people judging her. What she needs is a friend; someone who loves her fiercely. This doesn’t mean ignoring the truth of God’s design for our sexuality and blindly excusing something that Scripture calls out as sinful (including the many sins I’m entangled in). It means spending a lot of time talking to Jesus about my friend—this person we both love—and praying for His clarity and guidance in walking through this as a Christian in a broken world. What I am confident of is that Jesus is telling me to be there for her, to show up for her and to care about her. Her identity is significantly more complex than her sexuality; she is lovingly and meticulously created by God and deserves to be loved as such. I completely trust that if I begin by simply loving others, especially the outcasts, Jesus will handle the rest. He will show me how he wants me to handle the entire issue of sexuality, holding to both grace and truth as he did. It all begins with the love of Jesus—his sweet and pure love that I’m praying my friend receives through me.