Barefoots Joe echoed with songs and stories as several students recounted God’s work in and through their lives during the summer at an event held on Tuesday night as a part of Union’s Global Focus Month.
Many stories centered on God’s faithfulness in working through the individual students. Amy McKelvey, a senior elementary education major, was especially encouraged by the way God answered her prayers during her time at a summer camp, whether that be a simple prayer asking for strength or a repeated prayer asking for wisdom while talking to the girls she spent time with.
“The Lord can still move even through my failures and my lack of not knowing what to do or what to say,” McKelvey said, recalling the moment when one of the girls accepted Christ. She had recently been adopted, and had almost no knowledge of Jesus. McKelvey had continued to pray for the girl, but she was unsure if she was leading her closer to Christ. McKelvey soon found out that God had been faithful nevertheless.
McKelvey said that she also learned what true service was when she better understood how Jesus humbled himself. This has translated into her student teaching this semester, as she remembers to trust God’s goodness and serve the students with humility.
“God’s faithfulness then helps me to remember what he did and know that he’s going to be faithful now,” she said.
Levi Shaw, a sophomore sports management major, was also able to experience God work through him while being a basketball coach to children and students over the summer. He told the story of a kindergarten age boy who was originally not receptive about the camp. However, he soon became one of the most excited children, forming a relationship with Shaw, enjoying the devotionals, asking questions and later accepting Jesus.
“You don’t have to go overseas or have a doctorate in theology to make a difference. I was just a guy who taught basketball. As simple as that,” Shaw said. “And it made a difference, not because of my own doing but because the Lord was in that work and the Lord had his hand on that.”
Madison McMullen, a senior intercultural studies major, also had stories of God’s providence. She had the chance to be a part of a refugee ministry in Knoxville, serving and teaching ESL to about 30 children.
Her favorite story is of a 11-year-old boy from Egypt who didn’t interact with other children and never smiled until the last day of camp, when he was convinced to go on a waterslide.
“He goes down the slide, and he hits the water and comes up with this huge grin on his face, just completely ear to ear. And he’s laughing out loud. It was just such a beautiful moment for us to see,” McMullen said, picturing the moment when her prayers for healing in the boy’s heart were answered.
“Sometimes ministry is hard, and sometimes it takes longer that you would like. Sometimes God doesn’t work in the ways that you want, but in the end, His ways are higher than our ways,” McMullen said, encouraging other students in the room to look for and expect God to work even in small things.
Within a few minutes of McMullen finishing her talk, the crowd in Barefoots was softly singing “Lean on Me” along with Corinne Olund, a junior public relations major.
“Sometimes there are seasons in our life where we are able to be strong for other people but there are other times when we have to depend on other people. That’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it,” she said, referring to why she chose the particular song. Next, she sang “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, sharing that sometimes praise comes in the form of a broken and desperate cry.
Jordan Montgomery, a senior political science major, shared that time outside of school and playing in Brazil helped him to step out of himself and start speaking and expressing his thoughts. His form of processing often results in spoken word pieces, one of which he shared that night. Students listened intently as he spoke about the foundation of God’s Word and the process of falling into pride, ignorance and false pleasures that ultimately result in the crumbling of what we built up to fill up the empty space.
“The fall is often when we realize that we are not greater than Him,” Montgomery shared. “The fall opens our eyes to reality and truth, and it is often when we hit rock bottom that we find God.”
Several other students continued to share what God had placed on their heart through songs. Shea McCollough and Josh Mays shared two songs, “Permanent Record” by David Bazan and “Blue Bucket of Gold” by Sufjan Stevens. McCollough talked about an East Asia GO trip he went on two summers ago, recalling how it was a moment in his life that brought about affirmations but also questions and doubts. McCullough enjoys the way that these songs show an honest and truthful approach to doubt or express the hardship in finding closure.
Tanner Cherry sang the song “Stand By Me,” as a reminder to be there to listen to people as a good friend. He pointed out his favorite line, “you spend your whole life waiting for that mountain to move but it’s waiting on you,” in the song “Make It Move” as a encouragement to make the first step.
Janelle Vest sang “Tell Me There’s A Garden” by Joseph, a song that she sees as a testament to the fact that, without God, things cannot grow. It was followed by “Taste” by Sleeping At Last, as the lines “til we’re fixed from the inside” rang around the room.
Nathan Maroney, sophomore economics major, was the last to share a story. Maroney grew up in Croatia with his missionary parents until he came to Union. He was skeptical of short-term ministry and GO trips until he went on a short mission trip to Honduras during the summer. He questioned the efficiency of the ministry, especially as everything had to go through a translator, until he realized he was looking at it the wrong way.
“Missions is about the glory of God and about being obedient,” Maroney said. “It’s not about the results, nor about maximizing efficiency.”
The lessons he learned continued to develop during the rest of the summer back in Croatia, as he saw how short-term teams initiated connections that the long-term missionaries could continue to pursue.
As he closed the first “Songs and Stories” held at Union, Maroney encouraged students to ask people about their stories and to keep praying for people touched by the students who shared.