Wow, it has been awhile since I posted. I could tell you that school made me too busy, or I forgot to write, or a host of other excuses, and while those may be partially true they don’t tell the full story. The real reason I haven’t posted in months is that I haven’t felt like I had anything important to say.
Friends, that has changed. I recently met someone with an incredible story, and his one request for me was to share it. I cannot use his real name, so we will call him F.
I sat next to F at a meal and he asked me why I don’t eat meat. I gave him my classic answer about factory farming and pollution, and he responded that he doesn’t eat meat either. I asked why, and his answer blew me away. F doesn’t eat meat because in his native country, Nigeria, people kill cattle farmers in order to take over their land, use their animals, and turn a profit. He doesn’t eat meat because he is unwilling to put money into the hands of murderers.
I am horribly uneducated on Nigerian culture and current events, so I asked him what else went on that people in America wouldn’t expect. He said, “I am a professor and divisional head at a top university in Nigeria, and I haven’t been payed in 9 months.”
Because he works at a state university his pay is subject to the whims of the government, and right now the government doesn’t feel like paying. F has no living family, but said that this is a blessing because he wouldn’t be able to support a family.
What struck me most about this story wasn’t the details and actions themselves. What struck me was F’s fear. He cannot tell this story or ask for help because he is a Christian living in the “middle belt” of Nigeria, where persecution from the north is spreading (think Boko Haram). Additionally, he lives under a government that is democratic by name, but can not be said to allow free speech. For example Buhari (before he was president) drafted Decree Number 4. This was when he was part of a military coup. The decree states that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement […] which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”. While this decree is thankfully no longer in effect, a quick google search pulls up articles such as Hate Speech Bill 2018: Is Decree 4 Of 1984 Reincarnating? and Memories of Decree 4 as Buhari’s CSO evicts reporter.
F is at risk of being harmed because of his religion, is not being payed for his work, and cannot reach out to the government for help. He was offered a teaching position in the US, but couldn’t afford to relocate because of his lack of income.
Most of us heard about the abduction of school girls by Boko Haram in 2014. It happened again in 2018. Now you have heard about a much milder, but still awful, story of everyday life in Nigeria. Here’s my question: how many stories does it take for us to do something? As Christians, when will we begin to see these people as our neighbors whom we are called to love and serve?
I asked F what I, as one person who lives continents away, could do to help. “Tell my story. If people don’t know what’s happening, they can never help.”
I’m not here to condemn anyone or say that the people of Nigeria need some white saviors to swoop in a fix things. We all know that doesn’t help anything. I am here to say that the world is full of these stories, and if we just listened to each other we would be taking a step in the right direction.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how our surroundings affect our faith. Who you interact with and what you spend your time on can have a huge impact on how or even if you connect with God. I took this idea to some friends and asked them about their faith within their campus community. The following is the third post in this series.
Of all of the communities I am a part of, Greek life is the one that confuses people the most. “You’re in a sorority? How can you be in a sorority and be a Christian at the same time? Don’t you guys just drink and go to crazy house parties all the time?” The answer to that last one is obviously no, but some of the other questions are more difficult.
I have found it relatively easy to maintain my faith while involved in Greek life, but I wanted to hear another perspective so I interviewed a sorority president here at Pepperdine:
What is your faith background?
My faith background is a bit peculiar. Both of my parents grew up attending church, but decided against that when bringing up my family. We didn’t start attending church until I was in middle school because my sister was having fears about death that my parents couldn’t answer. I retaliated at first , but eventually (aka after a few years) I began to like church and the community it brought. Although I was surrounded by Christians and Christianity, my faith didn’t become a part of my identity and life until freshman year of college.
Do you feel that your greek affiliation has affected your faith (positively or negatively) in any way?
My greek affiliation has without a doubt affected my faith positively. It was my sorority sisters that first started bringing me to church, got me involved in our sorority’s club convo, and opened the door to friendships with other greek women who have been foundational in my faith journey.
Do you ever find it difficult to uphold your faith (beliefs, values, etc.) in greek life
Occasionally my faith values have been challenged in the greek community, but I don’t find these challenges any different from ones I faced in high school or outside the greek community. The experiences have challenged me to stay true to my faith despite peer pressure, and I’ve learned that my sorority sisters are very encouraging and supportive of that decision.
Do you ever discuss faith at greek events or with your sisters?
Although not as frequent as I may have liked, I have had numerous faith conversations with different women of my sorority. I’ve loved getting to learn from and walk beside these other women.
Do you think that faith should be more integrated or less integrated with your greek organization?
My hope is to bring more of my faith into my Greek organization, and although it’s been difficult to maneuver with my position as President, I think it’s been a slow (but visible!) process. I’ve found that I can’t implement my faith into policies or even Chapter meetings, but what I can do is share stories of my faith with other women, hear theirs in return, encourage members to lead club convos, and continue living a Christian life, as best I can, in plain view of others.
What advice do you have for currently affiliated members or potential new members who want to maintain their faith while involved in Greek life?
I advise them to continue living an authentic life in Christ. By doing so, they will no doubt attract other believers, or even those who are simply curious, and create their own faith community within Greek life. I also encourage the members to find faith mentors within their sorority who can get them connected in other ways they might not have been aware of before. Lastly, joining your sorority’s club convo is always a good place to start.
Anything else you’d like to say about faith, greek life, or your experience with those?
As doubtful and strange as it may sound, Greek life has been an integral part of my faith journey. The women I have met in my sorority are the same women who brought me to faith my freshman year, and for that I am so grateful.
If you want to learn more about Greek life specifically at Pepperdine, see here.
Throughout this whole series I have been trying to show other students that a life of faith is not incompatible with a life in college community. You do not need to alienate yourself, and you can be part of whatever communities you wish. In fact, Jesus calls us to be in community with others. It may be difficult at times, but I believe that you can use those hard situations to grow your own faith and grow the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how our surroundings affect our faith. Who you interact with and what you spend your time on can have a huge impact on how or even if you connect with God. I took this idea to some friends and asked them about their faith within their campus community. The following is the second post in this series.
I have to admit, sports have never been my thing. I danced for 15 years of my life, but I can’t do anything that requires throwing, catching, or hitting. Some people are definitely more gifted than I in the hand-eye coordination department, and my friend Ben Hancock is one of those people. He is a walk-on player for Pepperdine’s Men’s Volleyball team, and a religion major. I asked him some questions about his faith:
What is your faith background?
I was born and raised a Presbyterian.
Do you feel that team/sports participation has affected your faith (positively or negatively) in any way?
My participation in team sports has definitely shaped my faith in a positive way. Being able to participate in a team sport taught me a great deal about community, submission, humility, and love.
Do you ever find it difficult to uphold your faith (beliefs, values, etc.) on the team?
Occasionally, when the topic of discussion is something I find personally disinteresting or immoral, it becomes a dilemma between speaking out or being respected.
Do you ever discuss faith at sporting events or with your teammates?
Yes, before every game I do a little devotional and my teammates have asked questions or made comments that have created a platform to discuss faith.
Do you think that faith should be more integrated or less integrated with your team?
I think faith should be more integrated into the lives of all believers, particularly in sports.
Do you have any ideas to implement your answer to the last question?
Continuing to pursue God in a way that is visible yet not aggressive can provide platforms for discussion. Also, living my life in a way that is loving and self-sacrificial to the guys on my team is a primary role in building trust which can change cultures.
Do you evangelize your team? Why or why not?
I don’t actively talk about my faith unless I am asked, but I think living in a transformed way is evangelism in itself. Letting the guys know that they can trust me and that I care about them is a powerful way of sharing the gospel.
What advice do you have for current athletes or potential athletes who want to maintain their faith while involved in sports in college?
Pick your battles. Not every athlete is a Christian, but there are plenty who are. Our goal is to play hard, and love those even who do not believe. To be on a team with someone who does not share your beliefs is a great way to live out the gospel in a trusting and loving relationship.
Anything else you’d like to say about faith, athletics, or your experience with those?
Jesus loves sportsmanship. Chin up.
I love what Ben said about changing our culture. Generally, people who are experiencing a disconnect with their faith and their community are really just battling a culture war. Sometimes these cultural norms are obvious, like if your friends commit crimes for fun, but sometimes they are more insidious, like the culture of negative self-talk among teenage girls. I believe that it’s up to us to shift these cultural norms so that our friends and communities can experience the fullness of life with Jesus. Ben said that he tries to live in a loving and self-sacrificing way so that his teammates can trust him, and trust has the power to change culture. More than that, being loving is already a culture-shift in some cases!
Thank you, Ben, for you words of wisdom. I pray that you would continue to live in love for those around you!
Recently I’ve been thinking about how our surroundings affect our faith. Who you interact with and what you spend your time on can have a huge impact on how or even if you connect with God. I took this idea to some friends and asked them about their faith within their campus community. The following is the first post in this series.
Out of all of the various communities on campus, it seems as if the music community would be the most open to faith. Afterall, many of the greatest musical pieces in human history were written as praise to God. I am obviously making a huge assumption here, so I set out to see if I was right. I asked some questions to my suitemate to see what she thought about how faith plays out within the music department at Pepperdine.
What is your faith background?
I was raised in an evangelical Protestant home in southern California. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 4 and I was baptized when I was 7 (I think), but making my walk with Jesus a personal one is a long, ongoing process.
Do you participate in music, drama, or theater? How much time per week do you dedicate to this?
I’m currently a music major at Pepperdine with an emphasis in vocal performance. I practice independently for about an hour each day, and I am in choir for about 5 hours a week. I’m also in a vocal studio class and a performance class every Wednesday.
What is your favorite piece that you’ve worked on recently?
Do you feel that music participation has affected your faith in any way?
I had a voice teacher tell me once that musicians can show other people heaven when they create and perform. I see God in the performing arts – people love art because it reveals truth, and I see the arts as a medium to convey the truth about our Creator (even if that truth is conveyed through secular works). I’m pursuing music not just because I love it, but because I think it’s a way to turn people’s attention to the God who made it in the first place.
Do you feel that your ensemble/group is accepting of your faith?
Actually, yes – in high school, my choir teacher was also a follower of Christ, and I met a lot of my closest friends in choir through talking about important faith topics while sharing music with them. At Pepperdine, the atmosphere is very different (perhaps less friendly? Maybe not that, I’m just less comfortable here), but it is still fairly faith-friendly, I think. It is a Christian university, after all, and I know that many people in my choir belong to some denomination of Christianity.
Do you ever find it difficult to uphold your faith within the music community?
Not really, no.
Do you ever discuss faith at music events or with the people you do music with?
Yes! I have trouble not being the awkward string bean that I am and actually TALKING to people, but I’ve found that the people I’m closest to in the music department are people I can talk to about real issues. My faith is such an integrated part of who I am and how I see the world, so I get along best with people I can share that with.
Do you think that faith should be more integrated or less integrated with your group?
This is an interesting question. As a whole, I think that the music department is a lot more concerned about music than about God, which is understandable. I know, though, that by putting music first, we place God in the backseat, which is not His rightful place in our lives. What people do as individuals is up to them, and I think that choir isn’t always the place to be spitting spiritual truth at people. However, if God is at the center of our lives, He will naturally become a part of the group dynamic, both inside and outside the classroom. By integrating faith more into our personal lives, we Christians can be the lights of Christ all the time.
Do you have any ideas to implement your answer to the last question?
I think cultivating my own walk with Christ will help me be the person I need to be in the music department.
What advice do you have for current or potential music students who want to maintain their faith while involved in music in college?
I feel like I’m the wrong person to ask!! I suppose…
let God be the center of your life. Don’t be afraid to talk about Him. If He is the center of your life, He will be the center of your art (albeit not always directly). Love people as He loves people, and show them the truth that you can while you are able to.
From this perspective, at least, it seems that there aren’t many challenges to faith in the music department. My interviewee has difficulties expressing her faith sometimes, as we all do, but it doesn’t seem as if other students in the music community are unaccepting or would like her to change in any way. I’m curious to see if that will be the attitude within some of the other communities we will explore!
There are a few amazing things I would like to highlight from this interview:
- Faith walks are long and ongoing. In truth, they are never over.
- Artists of all kinds can show other people a glimpse of heaven when they create and perform. How cool is it that God made our ears to hear certain sounds as beautiful, and see certain combinations of color and pattern as interesting?
- When God is the center of your life you can love people more effectively AND have more effective art. Win-Win in my book.
My last post was about seeing God in daily life. “Easy for you, you live in Malibu.” Yeah yeah. To prove that God is everywhere, I’ve rounded up some new opinions for Y’all. I asked some friends from all over the country one question: How do you see God in your everyday life?
These are the responses:
Stephanie- Naval Academy Prep School
“I see God every day in my life through the people placed around me and how they motivate me and love on me.”
Annabel- University of Washington
“I see God in my everyday life through the relationships I have created and maintained. To me, believing in God is to believe you can be the best version of yourself in order to help others. Through the relationships I have built, I have learned what it means to be a better person. Some friends have shown me true kindness by putting others above themselves. Friends who stand by you in times of hardship and believe in you when you have lost faith seem to me to show the best parts of what God stands for. My mom shows selflessness in every aspect of her life. She works hard for others because she genuinely wants to see people shine. Through acts of kindness from my mom and friends, I continue to learn to put others first.”
Ashley- Savanah College of Art and Design
“God in everyday life is evident in my projects and the people who have been placed in my life. From having a God-centered conversation with my best friend to encountering an acquaintance so desperate for Jesus, every day I experience him in others. God gives me opportunities to share my story and love on others in my classes!”
Do you experience God in a different way? Let me know in the comments.