Right Where I Ought to Be

This job is tougher than I could've imagined. Never in my life have I felt periods of such loneliness. And never in my life have I gotten as strong a sense as I have now that THIS is where I need to be. I'm learning. I'm being challenged, and I get to relearn a lot as well, such as how to talk about God, about faith, in words that don't carry the same negative connotations or emotional baggage as some of the "Christianese" that gets spoken so freely (and sometimes thoughtlessly) by some other Christians.

I run into people on a weekly basis who are jaded toward church (if not outright angry) or God and are skeptical of the approaches to faith they've seen modeled. And often, such as in the case of Andrew, one of the first students I connected with upon joining the choir — and who is a brilliant, self-proclaimed "agnostic atheist," who told me outright, "I want to believe" — they really do hope to find that there really is something more. They really hope there's Someone more.

And those are the students I get to see daily and talk with from time to time, attempting to follow Christ's method of reaching people: He mingled with them, desiring the best possible life for them; He worked to meet their needs in tangible ways; He, in doing those things, won their trust, and then, and only then, He invited them to follow Him.

It's a tough job. It's nebulous; it's new to our church; it's lonely; it's anything but scheduled; it's unpredictable; and even though they are fully supportive of the role and the work I've been doing, the conference is uncertain as to where the funding will come from once the pilot program ends in July.

Yet, in spite of those things, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. These students are far too valuable, too full of the potential and desire to change the world, and too desperate to encounter God for me to consider leaving for a job with more Adventist familiarity or with better pay or a clear structure. If I truly believe that to do the work of Jesus among the people around me means to plant seeds — or, as one professor put it, "time bombs" that will grow as the Spirit moves in their lives — then my role is here.

It's exciting to get occasional glimpses of how the Good Father is drawing students of all backgrounds, faith traditions, socioeconomic strata, sexual orientation, etc. to Himself. Getting to be a part of that movement, that development in their lives, is a real honor, a real gift.

Alan Newbold

February 26, 2014 / Feature