Saturday was supposed to be another ordinary day. In celebration of his birthday, my best friend Andre had invited myself, a couple of friends, his sister and her husband to go tubing down the Blanco river in San Marcos. An hour and a half into it, we came upon what looked like another rapid, which we gamely decided to go over. The rapid turned out to be a small waterfall.
In a split second, I was thrown from my float into the water and pulled in by the undercurrent. Fighting to the surface, I grabbed a breath before being pulled down again. Somehow, I managed to get my head above water. Glimpsing Andre in the distance, I tried to yell for help, only to have the currents force me down below again.
The roar of the water was like a loud rushing wind, and all I could see was the bubbling water pushing me further along the river. Disoriented and not knowing where I was, I struggled against it as best as I could. I was running out of air and thought, oh God, I’m going to die, followed by, I hope they find my body. I was too tired to fight anymore, and wondered if I would suffocate or black out first. I didn’t know if anyone had seen me. And if they had, would they find me in time?
Suddenly someone grabbed my arm. Andre had found me. Struggling against the force of the water, he pushed me to the surface, but we got pulled down again. At the second attempt, I heard him yell to our friend Lamont, “take her!” With a quick push, Lamont took hold of me and pulled me to towards the rocks by the side of the river. Finally out of danger, I sat on the rocks, dripping wet and shaking, before dissolving into tears.
I was alive.
Let me begin by saying that I tell this story NOT to warn you about the dangers of tubing (which actually is usually a very safe activity), but rather that having had a few days to reflect on this ordeal, it’s made me realize that this situation is comparable to campus ministry in some regards. I’ll explain.
You are not an island
A lot of us go into college ministry with the notion that we’re going to change the campus for Jesus. *insert excited fist pump* While that’s a great thought, it can sometimes be accompanied by the idea that we’re the sole person/ministry to do it. The problem is, with thousands of students, administrators and faculty, instead of turning the tide, it’s easy to get engulfed by the flood of people, social and intellectual issues, events and many other things that come with a busy campus.
My point? There is a reason we are called to be “co-laborers in Christ.” (1 Cor 3:9) You are not meant to tackle a campus on your own, otherwise, you run the risk of being overwhelmed by it all, and this in turn, is why we need to partner with others around us.
Help and be helped
Dre and Lamont, being the humble guys that they are, play off Saturday like it was nothing. But I think we know that if not for them, I might not be here today. They saw me in need, and they came to my rescue, and we applaud their valor. The thing is, just like they were willing to come to my aid in that situation, all the more so we should be willing to help one another in ministry.
The fact is, the more people we have on a university campus reaching out to students, the better chances we’ll have of seeing things change. Therefore, if we see another minister/ministry floundering, step up, pray for them, offer support and lend a hand. After all, if one part of the body is suffering, then we all suffer. (1 Cor 12:26). Similarly, if you’re having trouble, be willing to ask for help. Advancing the Kingdom is not about looking good all the time, it’s about working together to fulfill God’s purpose on this earth.
Face the fear
It would be easy to use Saturday as a reason for me to never go to the river again. But then I would be giving myself over to fear, and that’s just not acceptable. There are some of you out there who have been hurt and wounded by your experience in college ministry. Like me, you might have bruises, cuts and scrapes. But I urge you to remember that your calling is beyond the fear of getting hurt again.
Sometimes we go into things, and we fall. But what matters isn’t how many times we fall, but whether we get back up again. Our campuses need people who are willing to bring the Gospel to students and show them the love of Christ. They need you and what you have to offer.
So maybe I won’t be going to the river next week, but I know that at some point, I’ll return, and I’ll be better prepared. As you continue on your mission with your campus, my prayer is that you remember while God doesn’t promise to let you avoid the river, He does promise to take you through it. He is strength when you have none left, and protection when you feel vulnerable to attack.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:1-2