Nathan Koch: Actually Loving God

Nathan Koch is a P4 pharmacy student. This is his testimony that he shared at our last campus service. 


I grew up going to church every Sunday and Youth Group every Wednesday night. From an early age, my parents instilled within me that church and God came before anything else – the only excusable reason to miss church was if you were hospitalized. And I am very thankful to them for raising me that way. Because of this, “Christian” became one of nathanthe most important titles I wore. And, when I was about 10 years old, I got baptized because I knew that this was what all Christians did. (And people celebrated you – which I really wanted.) However, by the end of middle school I had realized that my baptism was not genuine. I knew I didn’t understand what baptism was really about, or what it really meant to be a Christian. See, I always had this gut-feeling understanding that Christianity was way more than just going to church. I would hear verses like Luke 14:26, 27 – “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.” And I knew deep down in my heart that I had to give control to God over my life. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to live how I saw fit. And, I DEFINITELY did not want to admit to my parents or my church that I, Nathan Koch, the golden boy Christian, didn’t think I was truly a Christian. So, I resolved in myself to keep it to myself and figure out how to be a Christian once I graduated and moved away.

So, I went through High School, and on the outside things looked awesome: I was a 4.0 student, school was easy for me, I was a really friendly, funny person, I was the “nice guy” – the standard for all the other guys, I was really involved and excelled in theater and fine arts, I was student body president, etc. etc. But I had a secret. You want to know what that secret was? My secret, a secret so deep I didn’t even truly know I had it, was that I was actually worse than anyone else in my high school. I was so much eviler than anyone else. I hated people. I judged everyone; I looked down on and thought I was so much better than all the other kids who drank, did drugs, had sex, weren’t as smart or hardworking as I. I hated anyone who did anything better than I – got a better part, got the solo, did better in a class or on a test. Bitterness, hate, and envy consumed my soul.

Then, in the fall of my first year at Drake, I came to Campus Fellowship, joined a Bible study, went to campus service – because “Christian” was still the title I wore, and I had resolved in myself in eighth grade to find a good church and figure out this whole Christian thing once I got out of my hometown. And you know what I learned right away? I really didn’t like Campus Fellowship. The guys in my Bible study were really weird – and I wanted to be in one of those Christian groups where everyone is really cool, and everyone is beautiful, and it’s really cool to be a Christian. And this was not it. (Thankfully, things have changed.) Also, everyone was like a way better Christian than me. And I hated that. People knew the Bible better than me, they were nicer than me, they were more passionate than me when they sang during worship. And I would be constantly judging everyone. But for some unknown reason (*wink, wink* God) I kept coming around. But it wasn’t until Fall Conference my first year that I realized my problem: See, we were in the Fellowship Hall worshipping, and I was doing what I always did – judging people for being holier than me – and it donned on me what made them different. These people actually love God, and I didn’t. I believed God existed, but I didn’t care. And this realization wrecked me to the core. If I had spent 18 years in the church and currently possessed zero ounces of love for God, how could I expect to change? So, I began praying, begging to God He would change my heart, give me the ability to love Him and love other people (because I knew I couldn’t produce love from within me). And let me tell you – it was not an instantaneous change; it was a slow-burning, painful process that involved constant prayer, faithful men and women loving and pouring into me, and the Word of God.

But, when I got to the end of my first year at Drake, I started to look back and finally noticed that I actually loved God, and I kind of genuinely cared about people. Weird. And you know why things changed? (Other than the Spirit of God working within me.) It’s because for the first time in my life, I understood the gospel. See I had known since before I can remember that ‘Jesus died for our sins’. But I finally realized He didn’t just die for our collective sins – He died for my sins. That I actually deserved death, that I wasn’t good at all. That my evil, wicked heart made me despicable to God. And God loved me enough that He allowed Jesus to suffer on my behalf – being the only human (both God and Man) to possess a pure, good heart. And for the first time, I had a reason to love God.

Heather Livingood: “Google, ‘What is the gospel?'”

Heather Livingood graduated from Drake in May of 2018 with a degree in International Relations and Political Science. She currently works at the Iowa Secretary of State office. This is God’s story in her life which she shared at our college service her junior year.


Hello! My name is Heather Livingood and I am a junior here at Drake. I am a double major in international relations and political science and have a minor in French language and culture. I have been a part of campus fellowship for almost two years now. heatherTonight I am going to talk to you about how a mission trip led me back to God. The Florida trip holds a very special place in my heart. Through it God provided for me in ways I could never have imagined, I hadn’t expected to gain a whole community of people who genuinely love me, but God loves to show us the power he has. I will give you a quick little history of me.

I grew up in a Christian home going to church every weekend. My parents told me of the importance of having a relationship with Jesus. My parents were always encouraging me to get involved in the youth group at my church. As I went through high school my faith was in my parents, not in God. I didn’t truly understand God or trust His promises for me. For a long time I was convinced that I had blown my chance with God. I had messed up so many times that it was impossible that He would want me. In order to not disappoint my parents I decided that I would continue to go to church and “fake” my faith. By doing this I was able to pretend that I wasn’t broken and life was easier. When I came to college I became a part of Intervarsity in order to please my mom, but I was by no means looking to get involved in a Christian organization. When I went home for J-term I spent a lot of time in my church and had several conversations with pastors at my church about the importance of a one on one relationship with Jesus and just how incredible that is. When I returned to Drake I had decided that I wanted to get connected into a Christian organization, purely to make friends, I figured I could fake it and still be involved. The first Alive (our service on campus) I went to, Jacob had made an announcement that if anyone was interested in going on the Florida mission trip to come on down after Alive . That was the moment in time where I would have bolted out of the room and stayed as far away from a mission trip as possible, but I felt called to stay. I went down and listened to Jacob, left Meredith and called my mom and told her I had joined Campus Fellowship, oh, and I am going on a mission trip to Florida. To be completely honest my intentions for going to Florida were completely selfish, I thought it would be a great way to make friends.

SO then I was in a van on the way to Florida with people I didn’t know going to a campus to talk to people about the Gospel. Now I am sure at some point in my life I had heard all the different parts of the Gospel, but I didn’t really know what it was in whole. This led me to googling “what is the Gospel” as we were in route to Florida. Once we got to Florida I was shown what a real relationship with Jesus looks like. I felt like I had entered an alternate universe… these people were going on prayer walks, reading their Bible for long periods just for fun, asking me really personal questions after knowing me for like 2 minutes… I remember my first thought was “WHAT IS HAPPENING?”. Throughout the next couple of days I was completely thrown off guard by the power of the Gospel and the unconditional love of Christ. Hearing the Gospel in full completely shattered my pre-existing ideas of just how important Jesus is, and I was the one who was supposed to be sharing it with people. That week was honestly one of the most difficult weeks of my life, but also one of the most beneficial. I spent the two weeks after the trip healing spiritually, emotionally, and physically (seriously, wear sunscreen and reapply). I took time to dig up the past and God showed me just how broken I was… which prior to that week was the reason I was running away. However, after the week in Florida, I realized every one of us is broken, and God’s grace is more the than enough to cover all of our brokenness. I realized that Jesus came to die so I could be free from that shame and sin and live a life in His grace and love.

A few weeks after the trip I gave my life to Jesus and am now living my life free from the brokenness of the past. I am by no means saying that my life has been perfect since that day, I have stumbled, hurt people, messed up time and time again, but my faith is now in Jesus and what he did on the cross.

Becoming a Daughter: The Story of How God Adopted Me into His Family

Brittany Mendoza-Pena is a sophomore at Drake University. This is God’s story in her life which she shared before she got baptized this Spring.


Hi everyone, my name is Brittany Mendoza-Pena. I am a current sophomore at Drake University. Before I even get into my story, I want to give some context with the stories of my parents, Jenny and Pedro.

Brittany

Picture provided by Autumn Meyer at autumnmeyer.com.

My mom is originally from San Pedro Sula, Honduras and my dad is from Caracas, Venezuela. War ridden and filled domestic abuse, their childhoods were stripped of innocence. They both, respectively, decided to leave their countries and come to America. Through enlisting in the military, they both gained citizenship and ended up being stationed in Spokane, WA. Without their families to shepherd their decision making, my dad ended up abandoning his wife from an arranged marriage to be with my mom. My mom and dad decided never to marry, and began a new life apart from family and religion, rooted in the only constant they knew–the military. By the time my brother Ethan and I came around, she had already learned to navigate motherhood on her own, as my dad served overseas in Afghanistan. My dad came back from war with a demeanor filled with anger, anxiety and melancholy, which I later learned were symptoms of PTSD. This dysfunction became the norm of our family dynamic. I began to cope by piling on commitments.got involved in dance, sports, choir, and advanced classes. It was my mission to conceal the brokenness that was actually weighing me down. However, that front wasn’t sustainable. My dad got worse, losing his composure more easily and becoming more physically abusive. This whirlwind of change resulted in further division of our family. Ethan became distant and resentful of all of us. School and extracurriculars no longer held the same comfort that they used to.

In high school, I began to seek out something more to anchor myself in. I’d date a boy and then settle for months of adoration, always hoping that it would transform into love. My tactic of male affection also wasn’t enough and it eventually transformed into weed and alcohol. By the spring of my junior year, I was excessively drinking almost every night of the week. Throughout all of this change, I also began going to a youth group called Praxis. While they were an enjoyable group to hang out with, I never really internalized truths about the Gospel. One night, the summer before my senior year, things got out of hand at a party and my mom found me out on our street, drugged and choking on my own vomit. I almost died that night, and part of me still doesn’t know if that was my intention or not. I clung onto my community within Praxis, knowing that they would support me through the emotional wreckage I was experiencing. However, true reconciliation with Christ did not occur, even though I abandoned my vices for a period of time. This superficial relationship with the Lord became clear once tragedy struck. The spring of my senior year a dear friend mine, Sierra, died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism, following a mission trip to St. Louis. I became very angry at the God I thought I knew. He did not fit into this equation of adversity. In my first semester at Drake, I preoccupied myself with work, school and rehearsal, as a way to mask my grief. The emotions that backed my “convictions” toward God faded away. I thought I could hide behind the lie of martyrdom by now being the “mom” among my friends, not “actively” engaging in sin. But I knew deep down that I was living in disobedience towards God. I was absolutely miserable.

But God is faithful. Through the persistent and intentional pursuit of the people in Campus Fellowship, my curiosity for God surfaced again. They had anchored themselves in the truth of Scripture, instead of the emotional highs I saw in my youth group. I was absolutely intimidated. I maintained a halfway relationship with CF through the end of spring semester, unwillingly to fully trust their friendship. Then, school ended and I returned home. A month into break, my dad fell into another one of his episodes and almost shot himself and my mother, blinded by his rage. I decided to leave home for good.

In reflection, I have learned to fondly regard this period of life, spanning from my junior year of high school to last summer. In those years, God transformed my heart from apathy to honest skepticism to certainty. Some of those moments are more distinct than others, and I am grateful for the refinement I am experiencing in this time of sanctification. Now, leading up to this semester, I had not considered the spiritual state I was in prior to college. I was sure I was saved and had even experienced a baptism my senior year of high school. However, the degree of doubt I was experiencing, regarding God’s character and the purpose of Jesus, made it very clear that I did not know the Lord. Part of this wrestling I can attribute to a lackluster version of the Gospel I was introduced to, in my previous congregation. The inconsistency I saw within the church leadership along with selective application of Scripture made it very confusing for me to envision who God was, especially once adversity entered into my life. I did not have a true foundation to stand on and therefore “walked away” from God. However, I can pursue the Lord with confidence and knowledge of His role in my life, through experiencing the love and convictions found within the Walnut Creek church body. As outlined in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters in all purity”. I have sisters who encourage me daily and remind me that I have dignity, beauty and grace as a daughter of the King. I have brothers who fearlessly protect my heart and regard their role as leaders earnestly. Coming from a broken family background, I can recognize the power in each man and woman understanding their respective agency, value and responsibility under the Lord. I take comfort in knowing that I have a true family in Christ and there is no other community I would want to celebrate this transformation with.