Students Lead Innovative Service

It started as a 50-minute, Thursday night worship service in 2001. It was simple, short and inviting, says Jonny Hayasaka, one of its founders. It was run by students, had no sponsor and limited resources.

Now The Awakening is a full church service with Bible study groups, a midweek prayer meeting, barbeques and community service programs.

It all began with an idea shared by several friends to provide a different kind of religious program on the Walla Walla College campus. The friends procured the use of Heubach Chapel, borrowed a sound system, and eked out some resources from the College Church and others. Four theology majors became the core team of speakers, and students were found to advertise the program and run the audio.

“One night as I spoke, I looked out into the crowd and realized that a community had formed,” says Hayasaka.

The following summer Hayasaka and his roommate, Mike Ward, found a sponsor in Lois Blackwelder, campus chaplain, to turn The Awakening into a Sabbath church service.

Given the nod to use the Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center auditorium, the move was made from Thursday night to 10 a.m. on Sabbath, and mid-week activities were added.

“This past year was amazing,” says Hayasaka, “We received so much support from faculty, staff and students. At the end of the year, we had a list of more than 40 people ready to get things going for this coming school year.” During the 2003-04 school year The Awakening makes the jump to the 11:30 a.m. time slot on Sabbath at the Fine Arts Center.

The Awakening doesn’t target any specific age group. Organizers receive letters, emails and interest cards from people young and old, both offering and asking for encouragement.

“This next year should prove to be exciting,” says Hayasaka.

October 01, 2003 / Walla Walla University