By Shannon Ness, The Salt Company Coordinator
When Hanna began her Freshman year at The University of Iowa, she felt like she finally had the independence she was looking for. There was no one there telling her to go to church every week. No one advising her to make good decisions. And definitely, no one to scold her when she came home drunk. Her drinking led to a lot of issues her freshman year at Iowa and Jesus was not even a blip on the radar in her mind. He was non-existent in her thoughts and decision making. Towards the end of her second semester, her relationship that had lasted for a year and eight months ended due to months of deceitfulness. She was devastated, hurt, and very damaged. In response, she chose to drown herself in alcohol and partying. She was looking to fill that hole in her heart and instead was left even more empty. June 26th, 2016 was supposed to be a night of casual partying but that was far from the result. The last thing she remembered before she woke up in the University of Iowa Hospital, was chugging some sort of alcohol. The next morning her doctor came into her room, asked her friends to leave for a moment, and proceeded to tell her that she was three times over the legal limit and that if she had a couple more drinks, she wouldn’t have been lucky enough to wake up.
Hanna says that it took some time to get her life on track, however, her parents were constant prayer warriors. They got her in touch with a Christian therapist so she could begin to sort out her emotional damage and depression. She began to surround herself with friends that encouraged her to change her lifestyle and walk in faith. This led her to start attending The Salt Company her Sophomore year. One of the first messages she heard was one about God’s grace. It was during that sermon that all of the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. She came to the conclusion that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to realize that God is the rock at the bottom. She realized that God was actually present during the darkest moments of her life and His hands were all over her story. Overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy, she rededicated her life to Christ that night and actively chose to follow Him.
Hanna continues to feel overwhelmed by God’s grace and His unconditional love for her. She has actively started getting into the word, prayer, and sharing her story as a testament to the Gospel with many of her friends. She radiates with the Joy of Jesus on a daily basis and her hardened heart has become soft again. Part of Hanna’s response to wanting Jesus to be the Ruler, Savior, and Lord of her life is that she was baptized this Spring and is also applying for Salt Leadership as a way of saying “follow me as I follow Christ”.
This month several Discipleship Groups were challenged by their discipleship coaches to prepare sermons to invite their friends and other students in Salt Company to come listen to them share truth. Having students prepare their own sermon gives them a cool opportunity to grow personally as they wrestle with the word in preparation for their sermon. It also gives discipleship coaches the ability to identify future teachers and the different giftings of students within the body of The Salt Company. Lastly, it is an opportunity for other students to hear the gospel from the fresh perspective of one of their peers.
One student talked about worship. It had a great impact on my students because he challenged them with the question, “are you worshiping God in a way that the people around you would identify you as a follower of Christ?” He shared a story from his time in Vietnam last summer on a Salt Company Summer Trip. By the end of the summer, his Vietnamese friends identified Jesus as the most important part of his life. They would describe him to others as, “oh this is Zach, he loves Jesus.” Now that he is back in America, he has reflected on how he thinks that his American friends would describe him. Probably along the lines of, “oh this is Zach, he loves video games” or something like that. He used this as an example to challenge himself and other students to stop living lives at the University of Iowa that display to others that something other than God is most important to them. Instead, be constantly worshiping God in a way that people notice that He is the most important part of your life.
It is really cool to be able to give students the opportunity to share how God has been refining them throughout their time at the University of Iowa. The Salt Students at the University of Iowa truly long to be “salt and light” on this campus by visibly living with purpose.