By Brandon Blessman
One of the moments this semester in which God worked in ways we would never have expected took place at our first ever, on-campus Night of Worship. Our hope for the evening was that the Spirit of God would work and move in the hearts of our students during a time of worship through singing, prayer and Scripture readings on campus at UNI. The fact that an evening like this took place on campus made all the difference as no one could deny the evangelistic nature of our gathering. As we stood in a circle without any stage, there was a shared excitement that what was happening was taking place on secular turf!
The time we spent together that evening was intentional, as our desire for the night was not that we would come together just to sing our favorite songs and leave, but that God would move in such a way that every student would leave knowing two things. One, our worship has direction and purpose. As we walked through a four-part liturgy that night, we experienced worship through the themes of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Anticipation, and Commission. This order to the gathering reoriented our hearts to the reality of what is really going on when we gather together to sing. Simply put, God is working to mold and shape us into a certain kind of people that look more and more like Jesus. And two, proper worship is always fully known and expressed within community. As we stood in a circle, purposefully setting up the room in order that we might look into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, we were distinctly reminded that worship is never done in a personal vacuum, but is always done in the community of God’s family.
The following is one of the stories we’re celebrating at Salt Cedar Falls this semester. Alicia, a Salt student, shared this story as part of her baptism testimony at Candeo:
My name is Alicia and this is my testimony of how I came to know Jesus and how he saved my life.
I had a very traumatic childhood. I was exposed us to drugs, alcohol, sex, and domestic violence at a young age. I experienced a lot of neglect and abuse and was often abandoned. My mother would leave without much warning and be gone for days or weeks at a time. This meant that at a very young age, I was having to learn how to cook and take care of myself. In my childhood, I can remember a lot of arguing and fighting in our house that made police involvement necessary. I began to clearly see sin and the only thing I knew about God is that He is real and He loves me very much.
When I was 6 or 7, my mom told my sisters, my brother, and I that we would be moving in with a family member until she came back. My first response was fear as much of the neglect and abuse I had experienced had come from this place. I began to believe that I would be punished for anything I did wrong. I can remember comforting my siblings day by day in the middle of all that was happening. I really did love my uncle we were living with. He took us under his wing, cared for us, and made sacrifices. He became our caretaker – taking us to the doctor, feeding us, taking us on vacations, and making us laugh. Although I loved him, I also had a lot of bitterness inside of me. During this time, I began to pray to God every single night for help. I prayed that we could live at school and never have to come home. I always had this weird hope that things would start to become better, that we would be stronger and healthier together. Despite the hope I had, I had become someone who was angry, had low self-esteem, and trust issues. I started to hurt those around me that I loved – including my siblings who I’d spent so much time caring for.
Around 12 or 13, my siblings and I were split up. I moved around from house to house until I was placed in foster care at 14 years old. From here, I started to notice my life changing for the better. I attended a baptist church where I learned about who Jesus was. I loved learning and hearing the Gospel. It brought me hope, joy, and comfort. I learned that Jesus loved me very much and is always with me. I was still confused at why I still experienced pain and questioned how I would ever get over my past. I was also living in a lot of sin – I was constantly in sexually immoral relationships, sneaking out of the homes I lived in, smoking, and fighting. At age 17, I entered the independent living program at. I learned how to pay rent, grocery shop, and budget.
At 20 years old I began to finally feel a deeply-rooted peace inside of me. I found a job and a place of my own. I started college and began taking psychology classes. I went in knowing nothing about psychology and was opened up to so many concepts on how we learn and behave and can change from abuse. It began to click — this could happen for me with Jesus. I can learn new things, recover, and be fully loved by Jesus Christ. I had heard the gospel several times and I was ready to live my life for Christ. I recognized that I needed Jesus and I prayed aloud to Him admitting my need and asking Him into my heart. I had often felt remorseful for my sin, but I wanted to be forgiven for my sin and repent.
Over time, I have seen how God has carried me through my entire past. I can see the purpose in all of it and how it has shaped me into the person I am today. I still struggle daily and am walking through psychological disorders that make it hard to love and trust others. I know that a life lived in Christ is better than anything I could do apart from Him. I am learning how to forgive because I am forgiven. I am learning how to love, because I am loved. Today I’m being baptized to symbolize outwardly what Jesus has done for me inwardly. I am dead to my sin and alive in Christ, who died for me so that I might have life through him.