It happens every three years. Over 2,000 InterVarsity staff workers from around the nation gather together for a week of celebration, worship, prayer, and training. It is a time of joy and encouragement. That is…for everyone but me. To say that I was not looking forward to National Staff Conference would have been an understatement. After a difficult semester on campus, I arrived in St. Louis burnt out and frustrated. The last thing I wanted to hear about was how I could be a better staff worker.
Luckily, God had a different agenda. At the first session my friend Ram Sridharan, staff worker at Ohio State University, gave a testimony about how God has been working in his heart over the past year. He talked about how his hopes for chapter growth had yet to be realized, leading to an ongoing dialogue with God about his hurts and frustrations. Then Ram said something that spoke directly into my own brokenness and exhaustion: “It was during those times of prayer that I heard the voice of the crucified say, ‘At this juncture, for the renewal of the campus, offer yourself again for the sake of my work.’” Ram noted that entering missions not only brings us face-to-face with our own weaknesses, but also involves entering into the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the Gospel.
As I sat there, hearing the voice of God speaking through my brother in Christ, I realized that my life these past two and a half years has been marked by bitterness and frustration at the pain and suffering experienced in working in a difficult campus environment. And yet I heard God clearly say, “I love you and I love the campus to which I have sent you. Please don’t give up. Offer yourself again for my sake and the sake of the Gospel at UIC.”
Returning to campus, I am beginning to see UIC through God’s eyes, as a place of beauty and possibility. Amidst its concrete facades and imperfections live students and faculty whom God loves. For all its wrinkles, UIC is a place that God is crazy about and wants to redeem for His glory. How can I leave? How can I turn away? I cannot.
Like Jonah, I’ve been running from God in pursuit of a mission field that is more to my liking rather than turning toward Nineveh and hearing the voice of God say, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 person who do not know their right hand from their left?” The truth is, I have not loved UIC and its people with the same love and concern that the Lord has for them. I’ve begrudged the calling because it has been difficult and involved suffering, rather than saying with the apostle Paul, “I want to know Christ, and the fellowship of sharing in his in his sufferings.” But I’ve heard again an invitation to join in God in His work on campus and finally, after years of running, it sounds beautiful and like a life worth living.
That is the reason that I’ve decided to title this blog “ProdigalPreacher”. Like the lost son in Jesus’ famous parable (Luke 15), I’ve been running toward a far country, not realizing that I was missing out on a life with my Heavenly Father pursuing His calling on campus. But now this wayward preacher is returning home, living again that sweet journey of walking by faith. This blog will follow that journey, both in its highs and lows. It is my hope that it will serve as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and maybe…just maybe…we’ll have some fun along the way:) Stay tuned.