By: Karen Savella
It’s a funny thing when the sight of a barefoot, mustachioed man walking across a church sanctuary at eight o’clock in the morning is met with just a sleepy smile and a wave, instead of confusion and perhaps a security guard. But then again, this is SEND we’re talking about.
It’s not easy to describe exactly what happens within the walls of Cornerstone church in Oak Park over the course of the two short days of the SEND conference. The SEND conference is a time when college students, and those ministering on college campuses, gather together for worship, teaching, and fellowship. Regardless of what we were actually doing at any given moment, the sense of stepping into a work bigger than ourselves pervades the atmosphere at SEND.
It became increasingly clear that the Holy Spirit was in our midst, and that he was moving… calling us to move with him.”
I distinctly remember a moment early Friday night where Nate, our lay pastor and quasi-big brother, gathered up all the students from UIC in the empty sanctuary. We were a bristling, grumpy group to start (it was right before dinner, and well, we are college students). Miraculously, (okay maybe not miraculously, but it was a near thing) the pervading feelings of grumpiness melted away as we shared our experiences and still-unformed thoughts. It became increasingly clear that the Holy Spirit was in our midst, and that he was moving. Moving in our hearts, in the hearts of those around us, and even more than that, calling us to move with him.
Much of Friday was time for looking back in thankfulness at what God had done, rejoicing in the blessings and victories he provided. I remember being dumbstruck at the sheer number of us sitting together that night, nearly twenty-five of us, compared to only two the year before. Nate had told us in the days leading up to the it that others at the conference would be looking to us as leaders and examples, and at the time, I had internally scoffed at the idea. But in that moment, it truly did feel as though we were stepping into a new role, and that we were being called to seek after maturity beyond our years, and to build the house of God at UIC.
Later that night, when we knelt at the foot of the cross and placed all that we held in our hearts at Jesus’ feet, it felt like the clearing away of debris before building: cleansing, and making ready.”
The following day shifted our focus to the future, to being sent out. Much of the day was spent in Equip Sessions, learning practical skills for campus ministry, and solidifying Pastor Keith’s semi-celebrity status (seriously, everyone loves Keith). We also spent a large chunk of time building community over meals and during breaks, relationships growing organically in true Greenhouse fashion. The entire day, we had been learning practical skills for sharing and being the Gospel on our campuses, but the SEND service got us spiritually energized and itching for action. After taking communion, we were all prayed over individually, and then as a group, and sent in every direction and back to our respective cities.
The vision we were given was immense, almost hilariously so. And against all earthly reason, we were ready for it. But then again, this is SEND we’re talking about.
Karen Savella is a graduating senior at the University of Illinois-Chicago studying British and Anglophone Literature. She has been a student leader with Cornerstone UIC for two years, and has a heart for awakening at UIC and in Chicago. Her passions include creative writing, 19th century literature, and the Lord of the Rings.