First Day of Classes at Kent State University

I’ve been praying for this day for quite some time.

I remember the earliest days of the pandemic, when the air was cold and the campus was empty. On walks and runs, I prayed that God would breathe life back into the cadaver of campus. I remember reassurances that came from the crocuses and daffodils on Memorial Field. I remember walking past Stopher Hall and seeing a message composed of sticky notes on a second-floor window: “BRB.” Be Right Back. And I prayed “Amen, Lord. Let it be so.” I thought I got a picture of that window, back at the time, but now I can’t find it anywhere on my camera roll. Even so, the memory is strong.

So I smiled when I saw the updated message in the same window last week: “We’re Back.” I prayed again, that God would use this unusual year to draw people closer to Him. And I get the sense that He’s already answering that prayer. Albeit in unconventional ways.

The majority of classes this semester are remote. Even those who live on campus spend much of their day holed up in their rooms, at their desks, participating in virtual lectures and virtual classroom discussions. Those who live off-campus — like our own resident freshman, Elliot — are similarly instructed. Consequently, the Commuter parking lots on campus are maybe a quarter full (even on the first day of classes, when attendance is usually at its peak for the semester). It just feels weird on campus, with so few people spaced so far apart. It’s still too early to say how all these dynamics will affect H2O ministry on campus. Still, it seems that virtual interaction will have to be at least part of the mix for us as well. Unconventional, but workable.

I feel like God has been drawing me into conversation with Him, through prayer, over the last six months. He’s reminding me that unconventional problems call for unconventional solutions. And as people of faith, we have one of the most powerful, most unconventional, most supernatural means of engagement that the world has ever known: Prayer.

Our Staff Team has been praying for Kent State University regularly. Especially in the last two weeks. We’ve met on campus every morning since the beginning of last week, crying out to God together. After a few minutes of talking and praying together, we branch out to pray over different regions of the campus. My area is the Centennial Courts residence halls. And as I’ve prayed each day, I’ve walked through a grove of trees between two of the buildings. I pick up a stone from the ground as I pray, and I place the stone in the hollow of an old tree stump.

It started out small, but the pile has grown over these last two weeks. And with it, my hope has grown for what God is going to do this year.

We’ve all been learning a lot about ourselves, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the Spring Semester last March. And today, we get to combine our knowledge of our inner selves with our knowledge of the wider world. We get to reintegrate ourselves socially, academically, and — I pray — spiritually. If the Class of 2024 (and other students at Kent State University this year) can overcome the challenges of COVID-19, they will be empowered to do great things for the rest of their lives.

So I want to keep praying, as the Fall Semester continues. I want to see that stump become full of stones, to the point of overflowing. I’m praying that God will pour out His blessings on the Faculty, Staff, and Students of Kent State University — for His glory. Amen, amen, amen.

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