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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

From friends to family through fellowship

No, InterVarsity (IV) is not a sport –– it’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. At Middlebury College, we seek to create a space for those looking to explore what it means to have a relationship with God alongside our peers. Our goal is to love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves. MiddIV has helped me through the ups and downs of college life, including missing home, struggling to find the most joyful path and navigating feelings of stress, confusion and loneliness.

What does this look like? What does that mean? What is Christian Fellowship?

MiddIV offers a unique experience for everyone, as each of us are on our own life journey, but we gather often to talk, laugh, cry, complain and pray together. We have weekly large and small group meetings, go to church, and hold morning and evening prayers. We also participate in retreats and a spring break mission trip. We love good food — both cooking and eating — while sipping our favorite Capri Suns. With all the events we have going on for students to choose from, I encourage you to come and give us a chance to show you the love that our precious Savior has given us.

Large group meetings always start off with a game. We then come together to worship or reflect and finally conclude with group discussions on a topic from Bible passages. We welcome anyone who is open-minded and curious to join us for however long they like. I love meeting new people from all different kinds of places and hearing parts of their stories. It is a space where we share what God is doing in our lives, ask questions about what it looks like to live out our faith on campus and come together with joy to be in the presence of God and the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Small groups are a place to gather and study the Bible in community. We study the Gospel of Mark sometimes by discussing and reflecting, and sometimes by acting out the scene, but we always see ways that God may be speaking to us through His Word. While Bible study is certainly an important aspect of small group meetings, the fellowship we build over the course of the semester culminates with us blessing each other. For our small group, we decided to draw names and give “awards” to whomever’s name we picked. I was honored to win the award of “Worst Friend” last semester for not doing “anything” for my friends, while one of my dear friends won the award for “Campus Hazard” as he arrived at Small Group with a sling on his arm. Another won “Best Snacks” because she brings a restaurant with her everywhere she goes. 

On Sundays, most of us go to Memorial Baptist Church in town, which a couple of professors also attend. We don’t just go to church because we think it’s the right thing to do or to check a box off the list of being a good Christian. At church, we hear from a highly educated pastor about which passages in the Bible tell us to trust God, what it means that Jesus is the truth, how to rest in the midst of busyness and more. In college, we’re busy balancing academics, sports, relationships and sleep, so it’s easy to feel the weight of stress and tiredness. Hearing about how to take a sabbath has taught me that taking time to rest means not worshiping the idol of business and productivity in our capitalistic society. It means recognizing my human limitations and trusting that God will take care of me (which He has time and time again). After church, professors and other members of the community check in with us, sometimes inviting us to their houses for a meal, offering us free storage space over the summer and generally making us feel a part of the community. We also enjoy serving with the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings and youth group on Saturday evenings, where we play games with them, talk about what it means to pray, have a relationship with God and love the people around us.

I love going to morning and evening prayer spaces, hosted by my friends, to catch up with them and talk about life before we sit at the feet of Jesus and pray together. The space is left open for people to just come and exist. We share prayer requests and thank God for everything He’s given us. Some prayers go unsaid, but during our hard weeks especially, we pray over each other, carry each other’s burdens and lift them up to God. My friends’ prayers are always filled with love, compassion and mercy. I am truly grateful for the MiddIV community God has given me that has allowed me to be my full self, to make mistakes and be forgiven, to push me to grow when life just seems to suck, to point me back to Jesus when I get lost, and to support me when I am lonely or struggling. No one leaves these events without a hug. Sometimes it takes us forever to leave, and we give each other multiple hugs before actually going. After morning prayer, we get breakfast together before classes (usually we make it on time). It is always a great way to start my day with calm and peace in the presence of Jesus and with people who genuinely care, see and love me as I love them. 

If you had asked me at the beginning of this year to write this, it would have looked very different. Many of my closest friends now are people I hadn’t met or didn’t know well at the beginning of this year, but through this group, God moved so drastically in my life where I now have His peace, His joy, His hope in the midst of busyness and stress. Although Jesus coming to save us doesn’t mean that all our pain goes away or that our life is perfect or easy, He assures us that we are not alone when we are stressed, anxious, nervous, lonely, depressed or insecure. He provides a way for us to heal and grow from things that weigh us down or try to knock us over, because He knows that being a student at Middlebury isn’t easy. On the good days, we are there to celebrate with each other, praise God for His goodness, and put our hope in ways that He will continue to work. Change is a process that takes work and intentionality, but in the end, it is so rewarding and worth it. If you are searching for genuine relationships where you are seen, known and belong, come and see the community that has come to be our MiddIV family.