“You can call me Indiana Jones, because this is my last Crusade,” our emcee, David Dishman said. I laughed, but it was bittersweet.
Campus Crusade for Christ (affectionately known as Cru at Mizzou) has been a huge part of my college life. I’d heard of them in high school, maybe even grade school, but I never thought to look the group up when I got to Mizzou. Frankly, I was too busy wallowing in self pity over my separation from Michael to get involved in anything. I mostly sat in my dorm room, wasting away hours on my newly acquired Facebook account waiting for Michael to get online. He didn’t have a cell phone back then, so it was the only way we could talk. I didn’t try very hard to make friends. I cried a lot.
I didn’t have to look up Cru; they came and found me. Three girls came up to me in the dorm lounge one day. They were Megan McDonnell, Christina Brunette, and Amy Fisher. We chatted for a while. They had these spiritual interest surveys, so I filled one out and talked to them about it. I told them that I was a Christian and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But I didn’t have a church in Columbia and I wasn’t involved in any campus ministry. They invited me to Cru on Thursday night. Amy lived in the same dorm as me, so she offered to walk me there. They must have reached a lot of people in that dorm because a whole parade of us headed out on Thursday.
I was hooked after one meeting. I started going every week. Cru became the highlight of my week, often the only thing I looked forward to. A crowd would gather outside the meeting and everyone wanted to talk to me. When they asked how I was, I would tell them I had been terrible all week but was wonderful now. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my heart and mind. I started forming relationships with people who really cared about me, who are still dear friends four years later.
But Cru wasn’t just about the friendships. It was a kind of faith I had never encountered. I was raised a Christian all my life. My parents sent me to Lutheran school from the time I was 3 years old until I came to Mizzou. In my sheltered environment, everyone was sort of a Christian. Sort of. But faith was expected. It was the rule. A lot of people were burned out on the whole “God thing.” Cru was a completely different environment. People were consumed by their love of God. Students couldn’t wait to share and grow in faith. For the first time, I was with Christians who pursued this life on their own. It wasn’t because of their parents — I met a lot of people whose parents opposed their newfound faith. I met some people in really tough situations. And in their trials they clung to God. There was a genuine passion I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
What’s more, I found bold honesty and unconditional acceptance at Cru. In a Lutheran school, it’s easy to be a hypocrite. Put on a righteous act and hide every bad thing about yourself. We all did it sometimes. Some people did it all the time. It was easy to be closed off and judgmental. We were supposed to be the good kids. At Cru, it was okay to be broken. It was okay to be messed up. We were encouraged to admit our faults. We could pour out all of our sins and failures to God and our friends. And no one judged us. Everyone offered overwhelming support and total forgiveness. The staff and student leaders were eager to help us if we sought practical ways to turn our lives around. It wasn’t “fix yourself and come back,” it was “come, just as you are.”
All four years were like this. Whether I came every week (for the first three years, I never missed a Thursday) or only showed up about once a month (this last semester, scheduling got tough) I was always totally included and loved. The relationships were real, not just superficial. I always had my Cru friends to turn to during hard times. I always had them to rejoice with me during good times. I could randomly call someone up after months of no contact and she would say “come over.”
Lutherans don’t generally put a lot of emphasis on emotions during worship. They tend to be more traditional, following a liturgy adapted from the Catholic church. I could get pretty emotional at Cru. I might close my eyes while belting out a worship song, sway or dance or lift my hand. While my relationship with God has always been real, I took it to another level. Of course faith should not be only emotions and feelings. But how can there be no feelings at all?
My God loves me so much, despite all the ways that I constantly rebel and mess up, that He was willing to die to save me. So that I could be with Him forever. And He keeps forgiving me, no matter how many times I turn my back on Him. And He has an awesome plan for my life because He trusts me to be one of his representatives and bear his name. I never have to worry about anything. I can go to God anytime. He’s always here with me. How could I truly believe that and not get emotional when I worship my God? I can’t. Cru helped me focus on that most amazing love. It purged all the baggage of the week from my mind and heart. Gave me chance to put aside everything else for some one-on-one time with God. And it gave me friends that kept me honest in my walk of faith, despite all the temptations surrounding me. I’m not claiming I was perfect. Far from it. But I always came back; I never forgot that I am a daughter of the Lord.
Cru blessed me in a lot of ways that I will take with me when I graduate in two weeks. I will leave this campus ministry, but I will never leave this walk with God or my calling to minister to others. Christ’s love comes with me. And Cru’s wonderful example of how to love others selflessly. Tonight was beautiful and bittersweet. My last Crusade.