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By Tanner Hilbrands

Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to go to President Christy’s house for lunch and was able to reflect on the past 4 years with my fellow seniors. It was amazing to see and listen to stories about where we had all come from and how Northwestern brought us all together. Pretty incredible how a small-town boy from Remsen, Iowa could be connected with people from all parts of the country and even, the world. Michelle Christy shared a verse with us from Isaiah 43 about how God made streams and rivers in the wasteland. God works in our lives in ways we may have never imagined. As she talked about how God works in our lives she brought out a pair of shoes. The shoes were old, worn, kind of dirty, and related that back to our time at Northwestern.

We have so many experiences in our short 4 years together – the many campus activities, late night paper procrastination, 4 years of basketball and track and field, and now student teaching with a group of high school sophomores and seventh graders (and trust me… teaching just a semester have given me a whole other slew of stories). But… I am tired. The tread on my shoes are worn to the brim. But as I reflect, the places those shoes have taken me have been incredible. The people I have met wearing these shoes have built relationships that will last a lifetime – Kendal Stanislav, my roommates, Jim Burmakow, Kris Korver, my SSP NOLA fam, Professor Koerselman, my teammates, the RA staff, the list goes on and on.

Yes, I believe the cliché “community” of Northwestern is a very real thing. I’m confident that the people I’ve met here at NWC will last a lifetime and the things I’ve shared with these folks will soon be memories. Soon, all I will have left is a worn pair of shoes.

I have loved every moment of college. But as is true for many of us seniors, I am scared for the future. But, this is a good type of scary. Last school year, Rick Clark (my professor and my basketball coach) shared a powerful sermon about the planting of seeds into people. Many of us do not realize it quite yet, but there have been seeds planted and years down the road we will have the good fortune of reaping a harvest. Northwestern has planted these seeds within us and some of us will reap a harvest faster than others, but the seeds have been planted and it is our job to take care of these seeds as we move on in life. Although our shoes will get dirty along the way, the journey we go on to reap this harvest makes us who we are.

Northwestern has prepared us for the future and I want to “Ncourage” (Monsma puns) my fellow seniors that no matter where you end up after graduation, it is all in God’s Plan. S/O Drake.

Mark DeYounge, who in my opinion is an absolute rock star, shared a message with incoming Freshmen two years ago that really struck a chord with me and made me realize that life as we know it is a constant race. We trained all throughout high school to prepare us for college. Whether it is academics, music, sports, or whatever, our time growing up was set to prepare us for our time as a Raider. Our parents handed us off, they gave the baton to our professors, coaches, staff members, and trusted them to get us into the next “leg” of the race (of our lives). And with graduation looming just weeks away, it is almost time to grab the baton for the next “leg” of our lives. Where this “leg” of the race takes us is not for us to micro-manage, but our focus ought to be centered in continually finding joy as we trust God’s lead. We must live with the end in sight and glorify God in all that we do. We should not simply run towards a physical destination, rather we should enjoy every minute of the journey as we run the race of life. Life will inevitably gives us many ups and downs along the way, but we need to know that there is a training partner running alongside us every step of the way – Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

So I say to you now, go and run your race. Seniors grab that baton and dominate the next leg of your race. Freshmen, don’t be afraid of the college journey that lies ahead, rather embrace the tough road and know that it will be the best 4 years of your life. Run it at your own pace and don’t worry how fast or slow you go, but rather run it for God and run it to glorify him in all that you do. Enjoy every moment of running that race. Life is all about the journey you go on and someday we will reach that finish line; that finish line being the fullness of heaven with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior standing at the end cheering us on every step of the way.

I was supposed to keep this short, so sorry for rambling. The past 4 years were the best 4 years of my life. Thank you, Northwestern, for the time of my life! As for me, after graduation, I think I’m going to get some new shoes, mine are worn out.

Much Love NWC!

Raiders Row,

Tanner Hilbrands

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

With graduation literally right around the corner, I’ve been spending a lot of time reminiscing about my time at Northwestern: the first time I went to La Jua’s, the reaction of the audience when jazz band got to play in chapel, and the come and go of NWC-centric slang terms (does anyone even say “roots” anymore?). Out of all these experiences, though, my most memorable time at Northwestern was my entire first semester.

After I graduated high school, I figured that I had to have everything planned out before I came to college. I figured out my major, my endorsements, the friends I would have, and a definite plan for what my life was going to look like after college. Obviously, there were two things that were important to me then: myself and my plan. This fact alone primed me for what would be the most mind-blowing five months of my entire time at Northwestern.

I learned what it meant to understand things in context. Christian Story I with VB was the first time I delved deep into scripture and came to the surface having actually learned something. I knew verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:33, but I had never examined them as closely as we were called to in class. I was astounded by how much the meaning of a verse would change if a person only looked one or two verses above or below or even pulled out a biblical commentary. I know that this seems kind of elementary, but it really was the first time that I had ever done that. The same thing happened in Historical Perspectives and again in Lit Contexts. How had I gone for so long without comprehending this simple fact of life? Now, it seems completely bananas that I didn’t know how to do this. To understand an idea, story, or verse out of context was to misunderstand it completely.

The class that solidified this for me was FYS. We had to read a short story by Chimimanda Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story.” If you don’t remember reading it, basically what happens is a woman is surprised at the hospitality and love of a different woman whom she had assumed the character of by the fact that she was wearing a hijab. This story was what completed the obliteration of my worldview. “The Danger of a Single Story” was essentially about trying to understand another person without first understanding their context. When you know where a person has been and what their strengths, passions, and struggles are, you can finally know them and truly love them for the child of God they were created and called to be.

I had been so entirely focused on myself and my own plan that I failed to recognize the contexts of the people around me, let alone myself in the context of God’s larger plan. Northwestern gave me the opportunities and skills to learn about his intimate design not only through academics and scripture, but also in the ways that I was able to know and love my peers and their stories and finally let go of my own plan. I’ve been in awe of his work in my life and the lives of others ever since.

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In your time at NWC, who (past or present) has shown you a bit of God’s love?

One very influential person in my life at NWC is Coach Carrie Krohn on the cross country and track team. She has been so helpful to me as I made the transition from Hesston College to here, and she is a person that I look up to a lot. She has given up so much of her time to write workouts, meet with us individually about training, and get to know each one of us on a personal level. She challenges us every single day to come to practice ready to give our all and she expects nothing less. Showing the love of God can be hard to do when life gets difficult or it feels like you’re not getting it back, but Coach Krohn has taught me to push through it and love everyone even if they don’t deserve it. It has been such a privilege to be coached by her, and she’s someone that I will never forget when I graduate from Northwestern.

What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC?

My advice for underclassmen is to keep an open mind about your faith and listen to people who have differing opinions while still holding to a set of values that are unwavering. When you start to question your own person values, it’s easy to give into the temptations of this world, and it’s easy to pick up habits that you wouldn’t have normally given into. I think being strong in what you believe in and understanding why you believe it is key to not only grow in your spiritual life, but in all facets of your life as well. College is all about growing into the person you are called to be, so having a strong set of values and a rock (Jesus Christ) you can always fall back on will get you on the right track to being the best you. It’s a time to find out what you’re good at, and never settling for anything less than being the person you are made to be.

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now?

I think God is challenging me to grow now by throwing things in my life that I have never experienced before and making me learn to accept the outcome, even if it is failure. I have struggled with being afraid of failure all my life. However, God is showing me how to be confident without controlling things. For example, money has been one of those things that is always consuming my thoughts and has kept me from being the person I want to be. God has put a beautiful woman whom I love in my life to show me that money isn’t everything and that I don’t need to solely depend on it to live my life. God loves me, rich or poor, and ever so slowly I’m realizing that money is a materialistic thing that won’t travel with me when I die. However, my relationship with God is forever, and I’ve got this life to live and focus my whole heart on God.

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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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