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What has tested your faith during your time at NWC?
 

The biggest test of my faith at Northwestern has been a tendency towards complacency. Don’t get me wrong, the faith-centered education I have received and the loving Christian environment of NWC has helped me grow in ways that couldn’t have happened anywhere else, but sometimes living out my faith on campus seemed too easy. In a place where it was assumed that I was a Christian, I didn’t have to defend my beliefs. In a time when I didn’t have to pay monthly bills or take care of a family, I began to feel self-sufficient. Those patterns continued to slowly progress to a point where God became something that made me feel warm inside rather than the purpose and reason for my existence. 

Since I also graduated from a Christian high school, this has been a long-time struggle for me, and the best antidote I can offer is to simply just spend more time with the Lord. If we (even partially) grasp the immensity of God’s love for us, that love will drive us to action. Despite my ups and downs, letting the Spirit lead me in a life of radical submission is so much greater than my own controlled life of dullness. 

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now? 

Expanding upon my answer above, God has been challenging me to spend more intentional time with just Him. I heard a sermon once by Francis Chan that pointed out the tendency for American Christians to be content with hearing other people’s experiences with God or attending a church service in order to gain direction rather than spending one-on-one time with God. He used the analogy of Moses (like religious leaders of today) going up the Mount Sinai to speak with God and then coming back down to tell the Israelites (us) what God had said.  

Boy, have I seen this in my life! The crazy thing is that I have the capability of meeting with God himself. I can literally go up the (figurative) mountain and speak with God! So many times I rely on chapel, a friend, or even class to get my “Jesus fill” for the day and I neglect to spend time alone with God. It seems ridiculous that I can talk with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, at any time, and yet I am too busy (or complacent). Now, as a senior, while I’m constantly seeking guidance for the future, fighting fear of the unknown, and doubting that my time at Northwestern made a difference, God is calling me up the mountain. He is always waiting. I just have to take a step. 

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

For a long time I thought I had to get to a certain spot in my life and faith in order to be an instrument for God to use to build his kingdom. Once I’ve read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. After I have a degree. When I am a better Christian. These thoughts also played into the misconstrued notion that once I knew all the answers, then I would know what God’s will is for my life and suddenly have it all figured out. God doesn’t work like that. There’s this thing called sanctification and it’s a process, a lifelong process in fact.  

God’s will is a funny thing. I recently read a book by Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will. (I highly recommend it.) This book helped me realize I will never suddenly have all of the answers or come to a point in life where I am good enough. God’s will is not a maze. There is no specific path that we should follow. God’s will isn’t about getting divine messages concerning what to major in, what job to take, who to marry, or where to live. God’s will for you and I is to be holy and live lives that bring honor and glory to the Father. God cares about our sanctification—becoming more and more like Christ.  

Don’t fret about your next step in life, whatever it may be. Take initiative and plan in humility, with the understanding and hopefulness that God ultimately controls the future. When it comes down to it, God’s will is both simple and difficult. Simple, because there are no hidden messages to uncover; difficult, because dying to self and living for Christ is much more difficult than choosing a major, moving, accepting a job, or marriage.   

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

Foster good habits. Life is made up of a culmination of habits. Like I mentioned earlier, God is concerned with our sanctification. He wants us to become more like him. Our habits play a crucial role in this transformation. Pray. Read the Bible. Go to church. Have fellowship with other believers. Surround yourself with people who will encourage good habits. Don’t believe the lie that I all too often tell myself, “Once life slows down I will have more time to do X.” Life doesn’t slow down. Develop those godly habits now. Don’t wait.

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By Amber Gilpin 

I’m at that point in life where everyone wants to know what I’m doing after graduation. And you know what? I have no idea. When someone asks that question, all I want to do is curl up with a coloring book in my blanket fort and ignore all other responsibilities.

Even though not knowing my future scares me, one thing keeps coming to mind. It’s a quote I heard while on a pilgrimage through Italy last summer. Our guide called it the Pilgrim’s Motto.

“I am willing to be flexible. I am neither in control nor in a hurry. I journey in faith, hope, and peace knowing God will provide for me. My goal is the journey not the destination, so I joyfully accept today’s sacrifices, challenges, and blessings.”

These words were easy to abide by when I was studying abroad. For 10 days, six of us Raiders woke up, ate breakfast, and hiked until we reached our destination. We had no clue where we were walking or what we would encounter on the journey. But that was part of the adventure! We embraced the blessings: small coffee shops with Italian caffé, gelato, Roman aqueducts, olive groves, and field upon field of wild poppies. But we also had to face the day’s challenges, be it steep trails, blisters, injured knees, ticks, and, in my opinion, escargot (I don’t recommend it!).

Yet in all these things there was a sense of adventure and peace. We had guides with us who knew the country, the language, and the trails. Even when I felt uncomfortable or lost, I knew that with our guide’s help we would eventually arrive.

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Though there were challenges, these were some of the best weeks of my life. I found it easy to get up every morning not knowing what was coming. It was fun even! So why am I now hiding in my blanket fort apprehensive of the future? 

Looking for a job, moving out, and paying off school loans absolutely terrifies me. I’m not ready to face some of life’s new challenges without a guide. 

The amazing thing is, I don’t have to! God walks with and before me, guiding me every step of the way. 

In Italy, I had a guide I could see. It’s harder to trust a God I can’t see, yet I have confidence that he is living and active, guiding and granting wisdom. 

God has been faithful to lead in the past and will continue to do so as I step into the future.   

I may not know where I am going, but I am certain of one thing: I don’t walk alone. Therefore, I can get up every morning finding joy in my journey. I can embrace the day’s challenges, blessings, and sacrifices knowing that God will provide. When the time is right I’ll know the next step. But for now, I’m content trusting in the one who knows the end from the beginning. My Guide will lead me home. 

-Amber Gilpin
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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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