Last night, October 4th, about fifty MNU students walked in the cold to the Harvest Prayer statue in the middle of campus and found a team of about fifteen people who were in way over their heads and praying their heart out for God’s will to be done because their human ability was just not enough.
Before I tell the story of last night and the incredible things God did, let me just say hello! My name is Renée DeVault, I am a freshmen Bible and Theology/Communications major at MidAmerica Nazarene University and I am having the time of my life here. I want to tell the story of October 4th as my “introduction” blog because it presents a model for what I hope my life on campus stays like.
Jordan Warren and a group of our friends have been praying about this series of events for about eight months but had only been planning this particular event for a few weeks, ever since meeting with a group of students who all shared a vision for revival on campus. Jordan did most of the planning, he reserved the space and the equipment, recruited the worship team, and recruited me to coordinate the prayer side of this “worship and prayer” event. When he said that he wanted to pull everything together in only a few weeks we were up for the challenge but I admit I was highly skeptical that it would all come together, further proof of why I should not be in charge 😉
But sure enough, posters were made, people recruited, equipment rented, songs practiced, and I found myself walking from my dorm to the campus mall with my prayer team, all bundled up for a cold night and scared out of my mind. We had about fifteen people setting up when I arrived a little after 5:00. I gave a disjointed pep talk to my prayer team, trying to fit four years of tips I’ve gathered from prayer ministry into a four minute crash course before rushing to help the worship team set up.
I am technology ignorant and physically uncoordinated so I generally helped with tasks like “hold this metal bar up”, “hold my phone for me”, “fill this bag with rocks”, and “You should take a picture of this.” I am constantly amazed by the technical “know-how” of my friends, watching them run wires and set up sound systems, it was definitely a very humbling experience.
At 6:00 when the team was scheduled to be practicing, the equipment wasn’t fully set up, the sound wasn’t working, the projector wasn’t working, and we were beginning to feel rain drops. Around 6:30 Jordan called us all together and asked me to pray. The fifteen of us stood in a circle, arms around each other and asked God to show up despite our human limitations, despite the sound not working, with no lyrics on the screen and possible rain. I was struck with the realization that if anything happened that night, it was going to be because of God, not because of anything on our part.
After we all prayed together, Jordan sent me to continue to pray while the rest of the team prepared for an acoustic worship set and the sound team desperately tried to turn on the sound. I began to walk around the area of our event and pray, just calling for God to come and praying for the people who were going to be coming. Fifteen minutes before seven, we found a button that hadn’t been pressed and suddenly the sound was working. There was barely enough time to do a sound check and absolutely no time to rehearse before about fifty students showed up ready to worship.
What these students got was a worship team that had never played together, a prayer team which had never prayed together, a sound system which hadn’t been fully tested, a screen which started working moments before the event, what seemed like the coldest night we’ve had in Olathe so far this year, and an encounter with the living God. It was incredible. That’s almost all I can say about it.
I saw people in tears who I had hardly ever seen show emotion. People I prayed for opened up about pain in their lives, doubts about God, anxiety about life, and generally just stuff they were struggling with. By the end of the night people were huddled in groups of two to five people praying for each other, listening for the voice of God with each other, and putting aside their worries as they discovered the joy that comes with corporate prayer and worship.
While packing up the event we shared stories about what God had done. I thought I had seen a lot but each member of our clean up crew had just as many stories as I did. It was late at night by the time we were done packing up and talking, but it felt like only a few minutes.
Some people may say it’s a small start. Fifty students, two hours of worship, no big deal compared to the huge churches and worship teams which draw thousands into auditoriums and stadiums, but numbers weren’t what we were going for. In the culture of a private Christian school, we wanted to have an event that wasn’t on the original calendar. Worship has become so normal for us that we wanted to move it to a different setting, know that we weren’t going to get spiritual formation credits, and seek God for the sake of God, not for the sake of routine or requirement. This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with the school scheduled events, we just reached a place where we wanted more of God than the schedule of events allowed for and we had a hunch that other students felt the same way.
So long story short we planned, we failed, but God still showed up. I can deal with that pattern. So we’re going to keep planning events because we want to be proactive in making our faith our own, not depending on what the school or ASG or Res-Life plans. We’re hoping that these events inspire people to plan their own and realize that there’s no pressure in having to perfectly plan something in order to develop their relationship with God and with fellow believers.
For our next “Night of Prayer and Worship” we’re planning on partnering with churches in the area to expand the ministry beyond MNU. For me, that’s the whole spirit of this school. We’re learning how to listen to and serve God here so that we can bring it out from here. Stay tuned, I’m hoping for many more adventures to come.