You may wonder if you will ever change the world, but if you’re involved in a Christian group on campus, you have more influence that you think.
The power of a personal invitation
When I went to my first InterVarsity meeting as a freshman, I hated it. The people there seemed so weird to me. I don’t think I would have gone back if it hadn’t been for Kelli and her enthusiastic invitation — and because we were wearing the same shoes.
A personal invitation is a powerful tool. Kelli’s casual invitation to me, a freshman, to go with her, a senior, had a radical impact on my life. It was her personal invitation to get involved, even though I really didn’t want to, that led me to walking with Christ. Looking back, I have changed dramatically since I was a freshman, and I owe much of it to Kelli’s friendly invitation — and our matching shoes.
I grew up going to church because that was the right thing to do. I learned about the Bible and its stories that took place eons ago. This didn’t keep me from partying or getting into trouble throughout high school. I went to church but I didn’t have a relationship with God, and my life was becoming a mess.
I had no desire to go to college, but my family expected me to. I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville because I had a friend there who went to my church and I liked hanging out with her.
The first week of college confirmed my thoughts that my life was only going downhill. I was in a new place, an introvert surrounded by outgoing people. I went to the freshman events only because I had to, or because my roommate was going.
Eventually the friend from my home church found me on campus and invited me to an event called “Quest,” sponsored by InterVarsity. I was sick of staring at my computer screen in my hot dorm room, so I went with her and some other people I had just met. We walked across an unfamiliar part of campus and into a strange building, down the hallway and into a room with tons of people in it. These people weren’t your normal, don’t-bother-me-because-I-don’t-know-you people. I was greeted at least twelve times in the first two minutes, and I had to wear a nametag. That meant that everyone who looked at me saw my name. It was like they knew me before they had even met me.
My friend and I made our way to some seats in the back few rows. A band in the front started to play some worship songs that I didn’t know, while a guy in a row in front of me was dancing and raising his hands — weird. When the event was finally over, I wanted to go back to my room and never deal with these crazy people again! The only problem was that I had no idea where I was or how to get back to my dorm. So I stood by my friend while she talked to some other people.
As I waited, a girl I didn’t know came running up to me, put her foot by mine and screamed, “WE HAVE THE SAME SHOES!” She freaked me out. I looked down at my red Converse Chuck Taylor All Star low-tops and managed to smile, but I was nervous and petrified. This girl was talking loud and fast and I had no idea who she was or why she was talking to me, a scared freshman who was feeling very small in a large sea of people. She finally introduced herself to me, saying her name was Kelli, “with an i.” She was a senior in her last semester, but she invited me to the “After Quest Party.” Since my friend was still talking to other people and I didn’t really want to go back to my dorm, I said yes.
The quest continues
We walked outside and across the street to the basement of a church where music was playing. Kelli started dancing while I sat at a table with another girl. I found out she lived on my floor and was going back to the dorm, so I walked back with her. When I got to my room, I decided I was never going back to that weird place with those weird people ever again.
Classes started and my dislike for this new environment of college continued. I was depressed and stressed out — and I dealt with these problems through self-destructive habits.
I ran into Kelli again on my way to a class I was already failing. I didn’t think she was going to remember me, but she did. We talked for a bit, and realized we were wearing the same shoes again (this time New Balance). Kelli asked me if I was going to come to Quest again. I didn’t really want to, but I hated not having anything to do, so I said I would.
It was at this Quest meeting that things began to change. At the end, the chapter president asked the prayer team to go to the outside edges of the room to meet with anyone who needed prayer. In short, I needed prayer. My life was messed up and I was sick of it. Kelli was the only one I somewhat knew so I went over to her. I didn’t explain much of anything to her, but she prayed for exactly what I needed.
Again Kelli invited me to the After Quest Party and I rode there with her and her roommate. In the car she asked me if I wanted to get together and meet with her on a regular basis. By this time I didn’t care how out-of-the-bubble I felt, so I said yes. This began a great friendship and my walk with Jesus. If Kelli had not personally invited me to Quest, I would never have gone — and I might still feel empty today.
Invited to pray
Personal invitation has been big in other areas of my life as well. Our chapter has a daily prayer time at noon. I was interested in going, but I never did because I didn’t think I could (or some odd reason like that). One day, as I was sitting on some couches doing homework, Liz walked by, a girl I knew through InterVarsity. She was on her way to noon prayer and invited me to come with her. Of course I went! And I kept going whenever I could because I began to see amazing things happening through prayer. Liz’s simple invitation had a huge effect on my life.
Now I am praying for the opportunity to be a “Kelli” or “Liz” in someone else’s life. I am also praying that our chapter members will reach out to the new students and personally invite them to events this year. Many of my friends in InterVarsity have also said they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for someone personally inviting them to an event, even if they weren’t wearing identical shoes.
— by Megan Etter