Little, Green New Testaments
Every semester, the Gideons pass out little, green New Testaments (with Psalms) to the student population at the University of Texas at Austin. And every semester, some people reject them, some people laugh, and some people call it the “No, thank you, I really don’t want a Bible” Day.
However, some people accept them.
One student (let’s call him Tony) took a Bible one semester and secured it inside his locker in the Physics Lounge, where it lay dormant for over a year. Tony thought that was the end of it, but it was only the beginning.
The Physics Lounge is a conversational free-for-all. In it, students talk about social justice, history, mathematical proofs, scientology, literature, memes, porn, politics, existential crises, celebrities, etc. If it can be discussed, physics majors have discussed it in the Physics Lounge. It’s not always pretty, and if it were a movie, it wouldn’t be one that “good Christians” go see.
A year after Tony put the Bible in his locker, he decided to bring it into the open, and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The Lounge wasn’t exactly the sort of place where good Christian Bibles hang out. Tony was listening, though, to a “still, small voice”, so he went with it.
We had been praying that God (and His word) would be welcomed in the Lounge, but none of us guessed what impact Tony’s little, green New Testament would have.
“Pretty Solid Philosophy”
It all started one day when a student picked up the little, green book and read Psalm 19 out loud, in its entirety, to another student. It was random, and maybe even irreverent (I wasn’t there), but God’s word does not return void, so we rejoiced!
Then, there was a night when two of Tony’s friends were frustrated by their homework. One of them—an adamant atheist—picked up the Bible, mentioning that it might “have something for him.” When Tony suggested Psalm 23, his friend requested “something darker, like Psalm 88.”
After reading and discussing what might be the most depressing chapter in the Bible, Tony suggested Matthew 6:34: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” His friends commented that it was a “pretty solid philosophy”.
That Bible was flipped through plenty of times. I’d be doing my homework in The Lounge, and many times would look up and see friends reading through it, brow furrowed, and on one occasion, was even abruptly asked by someone to explain a verse they were reading.
God at Work
Though these conversations rarely went deep, they were immensely valuable for other reasons. We were able to see God at work and watch with our own eyes as Jesus pulled on the hearts of our friends. Conversations about scripture often turned to talk of Jesus or religious background, giving us a better prayer strategy and sometimes the opportunity to share our own stories.
I’ve graduated now, but I went back to the Lounge at the start of this school year, a few days after the great Gideon Bible giveaway. I was shocked to see that Tony’s little Lounge Bible had multiplied! There are now two more New Testaments scattered amidst chalk and textbooks and The Lounge is becoming known as a place of Bibles.
God’s word does not return void, and now, I guess you could say that the Lounge is home to three times as much of His word as before.
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Melody Valadez graduated with a physics degree from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2015. She now volunteers with Campus Renewal and collaborates with the Christians in Natural Sciences Missional Community. Melody is the author of Those Who Trespass, a novel for young adults that blurs the line between secular and Christian fiction.