An edited excerpt from the planting journal I keep…edited for length:
Today (Monday 9/12) I sat outside the F building at OCC for a while with our “Do you believe in God” board. I went to campus a bit early to make sure I could get a parking spot somewhere near the building. As I did some work on campus I had to give myself a bit of a pep talk. I love planting but the fact is that standing at an information/proxe table for seven or so hours, multiple days in a row can be a little tiring…not just physically, but I begin to run a bit low on relational energy and my ability to engage well in conversation with students begins to wane…especially when it is done largely by yourself. I have been grateful for Steven’s partnership and his willingness to take time to serve. But as I sat in building F today getting some miscellaneous work done before setting up the table, knowing I was going to have to set it up by myself, I was a little tired and part of me was a little uncomfortable…I was going to be setting up the board without all the other IV banners and such…just the 4’x6′ board with “Do you believe in God?” spray painted across the top and a place for students to “vote” yes, no or unsure. Having all the banners and tablecloth and all the other stuff for some reason makes it easier…maybe I think the board doesn’t speak as loud. Whatever the reason I was feeling some discomfort today. I thought to myself…well, what if I just don’t set it up…or what if I wait an hour until Steven can come too…then I wouldn’t be alone and I wouldn’t feel as odd, etc. That’s when I told myself to shut up…ant do just do it…even when I feel some discomfort…so I prayed a bit and went to get the board. It’s a bit of a chore, but I got the massively awkward (in size) board and bag of stickers from the parking lot, up some stairs and set it up against a pole outside of building F.
Building F is a building with a lot of classes in it, right across from a large parking lot. From that parking lot students will either go directly across to F or over and down to D so right before and right after classes the entrance to F got pretty busy – or when classes had breaks and the smokers came out to smoke. As I was carrying this board from the parking lot though, part of me was pretty self-conscious…especially as I set the board up. There is a road that runs between the parking lot and the building so as people would drive by they would stare at me and at the board – even the OCC police officers would stare. Admittedly I was self-conscious and a bit uncomfortable. I had these thoughts and images of the outdoor preachers that would come to WSU (many of them preaching a message that was not Biblically accurate) and how people would ridicule them or how even I would be judgmental toward their judgmental and unloving message as I walked by. As I stood there today at the beginning I thought of how much easier it would be to pack up that board and drive home – I would save myself from hearing dozens of “no,” “no thanks,” “not interested,” etc. I wondered how many people driving or walking by instantly labeled me or thought I was a complete nut, or weird, or whatever thing you can think of. I knew that there were people immediately judging me without coming up to engage with the question or me…and as I stood there the first thirty minutes without any super significant conversations I wondered if I was doing any good. I had passed out a few flyers…a number of people interacted with our station, but nothing of super significance, to me anyway. I wasn’t able to get the names of anyone who might be interested in joining InterVarsity or investigating Christianity…so I wondered if it was worth my time and worth my discomfort.
However as I stood there I constantly reminded myself every time the sun was out in full force (which it often was) – that even if I didn’t have any radical conversations…that my faithful obedience was what God asked of me. That everything I do is for the glory of God…it is to exalt his great name. We are in the business of helping in the mission of Jesus to rescue people from darkness into light…pulling people from death to life. This isn’t about my discomfort…it is about my faithfulness in proclaiming the name of Jesus and to see students and faculty transformed by the good news of Jesus, to see the campus renewed, and to see students leaving the campus to go out into the world to do great things for the glory of the King. Sure people might think I’m a little crazy or nutty for being out there…but that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I ended up having some decent conversations…nothing earth shaking by what I could see, but some simple and significant conversations. It wasn’t our largest “haul” of names, but it was formative for me as I took simple steps of obedience to what God has called me to even if I was a bit self-conscious and uncomfortable.
I can’t expect any of the students to do what I’m not willing to do myself…and if that is standing outside the road and parking lot with a big sign asking students if they believe in God then I have to do it as well – even if students don’t join me. But I’m showing students that we are about engaging the campus with the news of Jesus. As I hauled the table back to MIVO (my Explorer…short for MobileInterVarsityOffice) I had a student offer to carry the board for me (which I was appreciative of) – as I talked with him he mentioned that he is an atheist, but was really respectful and engaged in a brief, but good conversation with me.
Today might not have been campus shaking but it was a bit Teresa shaking as God challenged me in the places of my insecurity and doubt. I have the greatest news that can be offered on that campus – the greatest “textbook” to be studied…the hope that no academic subject matter can offer and good news that has the power to change lives. I read in Acts 4:20 after standing at the table for two and a half hours “for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!” – this coming from Peter after he and John were brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching about the salvation that is only found in Jesus. It provoked me to write down the reflection question “what is it in my life that I have seen and heard about Jesus that motivates me to say ‘I can’t help but talk about it?’ If I can’t think of anything then I haven’t really internalized and grasped the implications of the gospel.” We have an amazing gift to give the campus and I have the awesome privilege to be used by Jesus to bring the gospel to OCC. It’s humbling and so exciting…even if I feel a bit self conscious standing by the road.
*My follow up to that journal entry:*
A girl came to small group Tuesday night…I had met her briefly at the table on Monday. We talked for maybe a minute, but she came to small group and added us on facebook. As I looked at her facebook wall I saw this post: “Thank God for InterVarsity 🙂 I finally feel connected at occ. Bible study was great, but now I just want more.” THEN another student we’ve connected with replied with “Aren’t the InterVarsity people awesome!!!” – I was super encouraged reading that and felt so blessed…I love my job!!!