Yesterday a band of travelling open air preachers visited UConn for the second time this semester. They come, they deliver their message in an antagonistic way for the sake of stirring up the crowd and provoking anger (I talked with them personally and though their intentions are actually that students would hear the gospel and respond, their methods are ineffective and distracting). Last time they came many of my students saw them, and most of them responded with anger before walking away, but two of my students pressed in and started to talk to other people in the crowd.
They asked good interpretive questions and helped people in the crowd feel hear. That night we had our large gathering and we debriefed the preachers together – as a community we highlighted the actions of these two students and asked ourselves how we can be a community that listens and finds the good in every situation – helping people feel heard and pointing them to Jesus.
Yesterday when the preachers came back my students made me extremely proud – for the hour and a half that I was in the crowd, and as far as I know the rest of the time that the preachers were on campus, a rolling 5-6 of my students were also there, debriefing, listening and inviting. They helped people feel heard, they found the good and looked for opportunities to love people that had gathered – then on top of this many of them joined me later to run the Fake Proxe in another area of campus and present the gospel in a way that was a stark contrast to these angry men – I am a proud staffworker!!! One of my students Melissa had a good conversation with one of the angrier and more vocal students in the crowd, named Jacob and ended up inviting him to come check out InterVarsity the following night.
Tonight at our large gathering we talked about “Fake Love vs. the Real thing” which is the 3rd week of the LG series that accompanies the Fake Proxe. The outline has a call to faith in it, and so I decided that we should do one tonight, and use it as a way to respond to the preachers. We went through the content of the night, and then, after affirming my students for their Christ-like response to the preachers, I explained that I wanted to tell them all the gospel as I understand it, the gospel as I would tell it should I preach in the open air. So I did. I preached the gospel to them for 20 min, and invited anyone who wanted to accept Jesus for the first time to stand with me, and no one did. So I tarried and eventually asked again, and it was Jacob who responded. He stood, and two of my students stood beside him to support him as he accepted Jesus for the first time!!!
I am praising God that the Gospel is life changing, and good news! That it can lead to real clarity and real repentance, instead of just anger and confusion! And that there are students who are ready to respond to the gospel if we would just explain it in a way that they can hear.
Please Pray for Jacob! There are some difficult discipleship conversations ahead for him, but God is doing a new thing in his life! And Pray for us as a community. That we can continue to see God’s movement even in the messes made on campus, and respond with Love and Truth!
By, Kyle Van Etten, campus staff UConn