An Older Story of Student Transformation

I love seeing college students transformed by Christ and it’s certainly a blessing to be involved with some of those stories personally.

But I also love hearing other people’s stories about transformation while on a college or university campus. It fuels my calling to the campus and reminds me that God can do incredible things and literally change the world by changing a young life.

One of the most exciting stories I have heard recently is perhaps also one of the oldest stories of I’ve heard (not including the Bible of course…ha!)

Dr. Charles “Chic” Shaver sat down with me for a lunch interview a couple of weeks ago. He was a pre-law student at Dartmouth College who began searching for a way to get to know God personally after hearing a lecture from his chemistry professor which described how the world could be destroyed in about a year through Nuclear war. After hearing that lecture he decided that life doesn’t make much sense unless there’s a god and an afterlife.

So he began the search. But couldn’t find anyone with answers until a friend invited him to church. This friend was an upper class man that he went to high school with back in Connecticut who was a super successful student and athlete who wrecked his life at Dartmouth with alcohol use. But after this friend had flunked out and left campus for a semester Chic was puzzled to find him in a chapel service. Afterwards, he asked this student what had happened and found out that he had encountered God in a personal way. He invited Chic start attending church with him (a little Nazarene Church nearby that they found thanks to some female students from Eastern Nazarene College. During a Sunday evening altar call, Chic had a real sense of the presence of Christ and confessed his sins and began following Jesus.

He credits 4 things and considers these four steps as still a great recipe for campus ministry.

1. Witnessing a changed life

2. The loving and welcoming atmosphere of a church-community

3. The testimonies of people in the community regarding specific experiences of transformation

4. Hospitality–enjoying home-cooked meals EVERY Sunday that they visited this little church.

That final step certainly resonates with me because the campus ministries I have been involved with over the past 11 years in Cincinnati have focused specifically on this idea of hospitality. Whether it’s delicious food, better-than-average coffee, or some other way of making an outsider feel like family, I believe that providing genuine biblical hospitality is a key component in reaching out to college students.

After coming to know Christ, Dr. Shaver found out about a bible student on Dartmouth’s campus that was sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship! So he attended that bible study and invited friends to attend as well for the rest of his time at Dartmouth. During his senior year, he felt a calling to ministry. Instead of going on to Law school and a career in politics, he went to seminary and became a pastor and then a seminary professor specializing on evangelism for most of his teaching career.

What a story! Thanks to a bold student whose life had been changed by Christ. Thanks to a loving church with people who welcomed students into their homes each week for delicious meals. Thanks to an InterVarsity bible study on campus, Chic Shaver’s life and subsequently the world was changed!

That kind of transformation is still happening in the lives of college students. And as I begin this new role through InterVarsity to build bridges to college campuses and support or launch new ministries, I am eager to experience and share more stories like this one!

If you believe in this formula (God + College Students = World Changing) and want to partner with us, we need your help! Visit this link to donate today.

Trail Names & Faces

Me & May

Some people seem confused when I talk about my Appalachian Trail experience, that I’m throwing in lots of stories about community and the people I was hanging out with on the trail.

“Didn’t you go hiking alone?” they might ask.

So here’s the deal. Lots of people hike the Appalachian Trail. Some for a few days, some for a few weeks, and even some for a few months. There was only 1 night during my 23 days on the trail that I was completely alone at a shelter or campsite at the end of the day.

In the picture above, “May” was one of the people who joined our “shelter family” that first evening at the Stover Creek Shelter. I didn’t know it at the time, but he and I would hike together for a little over two weeks. His trail name was “May” because when he was 19, he shattered his femur in an accident and one of his doctors said “You MAY never walk again.” Over those two weeks, “May” and I got to know each other pretty well and spent several hours each day chatting about his life in Charlotte and my life in Cincinnati. So the relationships on the trail really became a substantial and great part of the experience!

Trail names are also an interesting part of the hiking experience and community on the Appalachian Trail. Some people can get a trail name when they do something weird or interesting. Like one thru-hiker we met was “Subway” because when he started hiking at the northern terminus, he had several Subway sandwiches in his pack so he didn’t have to cook anything for the first few days. Folks started calling him “Subway” and it stuck.

JavaMan & Catfish

One of the other guys I hiked with (actually the first hiker I met when I was signing in at the visitor center in Amicalola Falls) whose real name is Jim almost got the trail name “Boyscout” because I noticed him wearing a Philmont t-shirt. But then I learned his nickname in the Navy had been “Catfish” because of his mustache…so we called him “Catfish!”

My manual coffee grinder

My trail name didn’t take long to stick because I woke people up each morning with the sound and aroma of grinding fresh coffee. “JAVAMAN” quickly became my moniker.

One of the younger guys we found ourselves trying to keep up for a few days was “Boots.” He seemed to be intent on experiencing maximum pain & suffering because he had a 50lb pack and boots that must not have been quite right. There were several times when I saw blood as he removed his hiking boots and socks to doctor the feet. But he was an ROTC-engineering student at Princeton who was just trying to develop his ability to withstand intense physical struggle in preparation for future military training. Super smart kid and fun hiker connection! Here he is with May & I shortly after (or before) we cross the state line from Georgia to North Carolina.

Boots, JavaMan, & May set off for the day’s hike

And there were lots of other hikers we spent time with along the way…like Sherpa, Smiles, Duct Tape, Veggie Delights, the Gossip Girls, another “Sherpa”, Stone Legs, etc!

The Appalachian Trail has this power to create community. It brings together a diverse group of people who share this passion to be outdoors and challenge themselves physically. Any amount of suffering (sometimes what hikers may call “embracing the suck”) tends to create some extra relational bonding energy that catalyzes community more quickly than what we usually experience in our normal day-to-day lives.