Last May, my pastor prayed for me as I stood at the front of the small church I attend near my college. My freshman year was over, and it was time to go home for the summer. As my pastor's wife hugged me, I glanced at the front row, where the kids I'd taught in Sunday school waved at me like I was a celebrity. I didn't even try to stop the tears of joy from flowing down my face. This teary moment was a reminder of how God had used my search for a church to bring me closer to him.
Several months earlier, I'd found myself feeling really discouraged. At that time, about eight weeks into fall semester, I hadn't found a church I wanted to attend regularly. I'd done everything I knew to do. I'd visited different churches, observing their worship styles, reading their belief statements, looking into whether or not they had a college student ministry, and thinking about the size and location and how those would work for me. But I still hadn't found the right place to worship and serve.
Each day I prayed, asking God to tell me which church I should join. I wanted desperately to know where I should be involved over the next four years. And each time, I sensed him saying, Wait. Trust me. Each time, I felt even more frustrated. Wait for what, God? I thought. I want to serve you now. I can't do much when I'm floating around like this. I sure don't understand this. Help me to trust you.
Eventually, an upperclassman invited me to visit her church. It wasn't the kind of church I would have visited on my own. Meeting at the city's rescue mission, this church body was made up of about 60 people who were really struggling. Some were very poor, and others struggled with drug addiction or mental handicaps. Others were simply searching for meaning. As I visited this church, I finally sensed God saying that this church was the place where I belonged.
I discovered some great ways to serve the people at my church. I slowly got involved by learning the names and stories of these brothers and sisters in Christ, and eventually became the teacher of the children's Sunday school class.
Even though these children can be challenging, I love teaching them about Jesus. I also love spending time with them. Since many of them are from broken or abusive homes, I try my best to be a consistent, caring friend and a source of stability. And I think it's the little things that really help demonstrate God's love to them, like a snowball fight in the parking lot, giving someone a new pair of socks and helping with homework.
My church search was the first time I'd really been willing to trust God and wait for his leading, and it wasn't easy. Although I've heard his gentle voice many times before, I'd often choose to plunge ahead rather than to wait for his timing and blessing. That teary temporary goodbye last May was a reminder that praying and waiting for God's direction is always the right thing to do.
Kate is a sophomore professional writing and counseling major at Taylor University Fort Wayne. She writes frequently for the Christian College Guide.