Life in community leads to life with Jesus
"Dude, why aren't you freaking out? This is a freak-out worthy situation."
You may not recognize this paraphrased passage from the Bible, coined by a third-year university student named Kaleb. But the words from the Gospel of Mark spoke to his heart with intensity and truth.
In Mark 4, there is a story about Jesus sleeping on a boat during an intense storm, then being woken up by his disciples. Kaleb studied the passage with other students at city/script, a week-long intensive scripture study camp hosted by Inter-Varsity each spring in Ontario
As he imagined himself in the story, Kaleb's mind connected with the vortex of fear that must have engulfed the disciples that night. But fear turned to something else in Kaleb's mind when Jesus spoke the words "Hush, be still" and calmed the storm.
"I'm an oral processer," Kaleb says. "The moment I realize something is true is when I say it."
The students studying the passage with Kaleb began to discuss how they would react if they witnessed Jesus calming a storm. When it was his turn to share, Kaleb said: "I would throw myself down at his feet and I would worship him."
He reflects back on the moment: "Then I hear the words I've just said, and I suddenly have to run outside, and tear off my shoes and socks; I was saying over and over again 'this is the scariest thing I've ever done.' Finally I say 'Jesus, are you there? Do you want me? Jesus, the thing I said was true! If you calm this storm, I will throw myself down at your feet and worship you.'"
As Kaleb processed the truth of his declaration, he realized he had become a disciple of Jesus, just like the ones he'd been reading about in Mark.
He also realized his journey toward Jesus had started two years before city/script.
Kaleb grew up as a "spiritual but not religious" person, seeing Christianity as having some useful things to say, but nothing more. That all began to change when he found himself living with Christians during his second year at the University of Ottawa.
After discovering that residence life was not what he was interested in because of the drinking and partying, Kaleb started looking for a new place to live.
"In second year, I tried to find another place in Ottawa. I looked on kijiji and other places but eventually I couldn't find a match. So in desperation, I posted a want ad: Quiet student, non-drinker, non-smoker, looking for a room in Ottawa close to campus."
He received an email from Inter-Varsity's campus minister at the University of Ottawa, Dan Reid, which read: "Hi, my friend and I work for a Christian organization. We're looking to move to Ottawa and are hoping to live with students. Are you interested?"
"I was weirded out," said Kaleb, "but I was also really desperate."
Kaleb eventually decided to take Dan up on the offer. Dan and Kaleb, along with the others in the house, began to develop a tight-knit house community, cooking meals together, playing games, and eventually, studying the Bible.
After two years of living in the house, and studying the Bible, it wasn't a leap for Kaleb to attend city/script when the invitation inevitably came. And, after the transformative evening of meditation on Jesus calming the storm, it also wasn't a leap for Kaleb to tell Dan of the decision he had made.
Kaleb, not surprisingly, has a lot of thoughts about Christian community.
"Jesus tells us to live in community, directly and indirectly. He sends them out two by two. I think few people are blessed with a direct line to God; so, seeking out God and hearing Him often comes through other people.
"Community is what it means to evangelize. I wouldn't have come to faith if someone had only come up to me and told me. What happened is that I was brought into a community, and they invited me to come and hear the word of God. I had a hard year, and they carried me through the struggles. I came to love these people as family.
"That is what brought me into a place where I could hear the word, and gave it meaning. That took it from being just a book with words and moral teaching, to being the life-giving gospel.
"It's been an amazing journey, and I see that God has been calling me really loudly for the last two years. I finally heard it, and I finally answered it.
"Hosanna expresses two things: saving or helping, and immediacy. That's what everyone cries when Jesus comes into Jerusalem. In one breath, I recognized Jesus as God, dedicated my life to serving Him, because I need him, now. I'm so thankful to God and to His people."