By Samuel Mesa
When I first came to college, I was afraid of being alone. I have a brother at the University, but I knew that he was busy with responsibilities that would make it hard for him to be there for me at times. I know that I prayed and that others prayed. Then through some seemingly random events and a first-semester schedule that just so happened to work, I ended up with Christians on Campus (COC).
My first semester, dorm food gave me food poisoning. I was sick and in immense pain. I sent out a mass text and a GroupMe message asking for prayer. Many prayed for me, and my parents asked me if I could get to the health center. Two students at COC were able to work around their schedules to get me there and to bring me food I could eat, plus anything else I needed. While I was sick, they took care of me.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus speaks of the coming judgment on the nations. He deems some righteous and others unrighteous. He says that those who are righteous will help Him during His times of struggle and tribulation. They ask, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” His answer can be found in verse 40:
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (NKJV).
“The least of these My brethren” refers to the believers, meaning when anyone, saint or sinner, helps believers, they are helping the Lord. Here, in this community at COC, people help each other, thus rendering service to the Lord. In verse 36, Jesus says, “I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
I can genuinely say that getting food poisoning was somehow a highlight of freshman year because it showed me that although I’m many miles away from home, I have a family here in Christ. This is a great part of what Christian brotherhood is about. Being there for each other shows that we care for Jesus Himself.
In my second semester, I got a job on campus. Our small group met in a family’s home on Friday evenings, but my Friday shift ended at 8pm, an hour after our group meeting started. One of the members in my small group would leave the meeting to pick me up so I could come to the meetings. (At first he didn’t tell me that he was leaving from the meeting to pick me up, but I figured it out and confirmed it with him.) This may seem small to some, but this was a big deal for me. That semester wasn’t the best academically, but I still had a friend who went out of his way to ensure that I could experience the joy and peace that only comes from Jesus.
My third semester was a real turning point. One of my second-semester grades was disappointing, to say the least. Most of the plans I had for my life were gone. I had to rethink what I wanted to do with my life (a question I was often asked in varying forms), but now, I couldn’t answer. In the midst of this outward uncertainty, I still had inward joy and peace. Whereas I wasn’t able to meet with my home church in Chicago more than once a week (we were too spread out and our schedules were too different), I was now able to spend more time with believers than ever before in my life (outside the believers in my household). Even though I didn’t have the answer to that question, I was able to be with the people of God so consistently that I no longer worried (although I still cared).
I also learned an incredibly important lesson. This is from the book of Lamentations, which takes place after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon:
All our enemies / Have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare have come upon us, / Desolation and destruction.
My eyes overflow with rivers of water / For the destruction of the daughter of my people.
My enemies without cause / Hunted me down like a bird.
They silenced my life in the pit / And threw stones at me.
The waters flowed over my head; / I said, “I am cut off!”
I called on Your name, O Lord, / From the lowest pit.
You have heard my voice: / “Do not hide Your ear
From my sighing, from my cry for help.”
You drew near on the day I called on You,
And said, “Do not fear!”
Lamentations 3:46-48, 52-57
According to Google, lamentation means “the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping”. This is definitely one of the most sorrowful periods in Biblical history, yet in this struggle and affliction, the author calls on the name of the Lord, who responds, “Do not fear.”
Throughout my first three semesters, I realized that even at the lowest depths of my human experience, the Lord is with me. No matter what dungeon I’m in, whether it’s something at work, classes, group projects, finals, or illness, I know the Lord will be with me, that I don’t have to fear. Not only has my experience here brought me closer to others, but it has also strengthened my trust in the Lord.
A new semester has begun. As I reflect on the three semesters I have been here, I can’t help but think about Christians on Campus. In those three semesters, I have had experiences that have shown me that the Lord is with me through these brothers and sisters in Christ. My prayers were answered, and though I’m far from home, I’m even further from being alone.
About the authorSamuel Mesa is a second-year student at UIUC, who, as of the time of the writing of this article, has not decided on a major. However, this uncertainty does not cause him anxiety.