A Decade in Review (2010-2020)

Anchored Prayers

In December of 2010 I was at a conference with our church and college ministry. Sasha and I were newly graduated, newly engaged and new at just about everything in life. It was at that conference, over long (and very cold) prayer walks, that God began to lead me into college ministry. I now look back at my young, naïve, and zealous self with a chuckle. God had a lot to teach me. Some of the lessons would be hard and all of them would be unmerited grace. There are some prayers that are etched in your mind by specific, catalytic events. My prayers at the conference in 2010 are like that. Other prayers are not tied to events because they are so regular. These prayers are anchored to months and years. Over this past decade two anchored prayers stand out. The first is simple – Help. The second, goes something like this: God, I can’t believe I get to do this with my life. The first is a call, and the second is an answer. God has been overwhelmingly gracious to me and Sasha over the last ten years. There have been lots of blessings and lessons learned.   Campus Fellowship

The Director Years

The first few years of campus ministry are a blur. Not because I don’t remember anything, but because I learned so much it is hard to encapsulate the lessons. I learned how to focus; divided time is wasted time. I learned how to have healthy conflict; sometimes you need to win the debate but most of the time you need to win the person. I learned how to balance ministry and an early marriage/family. Sasha and I developed this together over games of cribbage before we spent evenings on campus. Most importantly I learned that I can’t survive unless I daily take my soul to God through his word and prayer.  

The Director Years

After the early years I became the College Ministry Director at Drake University. The learning curve was steep. It is one thing to learn how to reach out, disciple, and train students. It is another to learn to lead a team to accomplish those things. Again, God was a patient teacher. I learned the hard way that systems cannot replace relationships, and, conversely, that poor systems can steal valuable time and energy from relationships. I also learned that latest fad is just that, a fad. Authentic growth comes from preaching the Bible, prayer, gathering together, communion, evangelism, and the like. God’s workers work God’s way.

The Future

Obviously, I don’t know exactly what God will teach us in the future, but I have some suspicions. Ephesians 2:20 reads: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” God is the one that works with ultimate power. As Edmund Clowney once wrote, ‘We can build the altar, but God alone brings the fire.” I expect to be shocked by God’s work over the coming years. In the past year Campus Fellowship has helped start Campus Fellowships at Iowa State, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Kansas State University. It is our hope and prayer to start more Campus Fellowships in Rhode Island in 2021. In order to facilitate this growth, Campus Fellowship has started a new non-profit with Walnut Creek Church being the founding organization.

I currently serve in the role of Executive Director and College Ministry Coach. As far as Campus Fellowship in Des Moines, this fall was one of our largest launches in recent years with 250 students at our opening Midweek Service. Caleb Thompson, Jacob Bennett, Eric Semjenow, and Blake Joiner are ready to lead CF in Des Moines into the future. We wait with anticipation to see what God will do.

The Family

I mention the family second, not because it is second in importance, but the story above creates the scene by which our family has been blessed. Certainly, raising a growing family and college ministry are sometimes at odds, but usually CF is a great gift to our marriage and our kids. For one, we have an endless supply of babysitters. If we go out, we will often have a 1 to 1 ratio with our kids (and with 6 kids that is saying something!). Our kids are continually receiving gifts from the students and alumni. For example, for Grace’s eighth birthday, some students made her a pinata. On Knox’s birthday a few weeks ago, I came home to find 6 guys playing with the kids. These very abnormal blessings are very normal for our children, and, in hindsight, was a blessing we didn’t anticipate. Grace (8), Annabelle (6), Jack (5), Will (4), Knox (3), and Judson (1) are all richly blessed by God and blessings to their parents (undisclosed ages).

The Church Plant

As some of you have heard, or seen on social media, Sasha and I are preparing to plant a church in Providence, Rhode Island. Over the years, I have felt God leading me to Sasha’s home state, because it is one of the most secular places in the USA, and there are a lot of college students (over 50,000 in Providence). What has been astounding is God’s provision to provide a team. There are currently 29 people committed to going to Providence to start the church, with another 20, or so, people still prayerfully considering going on the church plant. The radical faith of the other team members (uprooting everything to see lost people saved), and the overwhelming support from our sending church (Walnut Creek) has given us a strong assurance that this truly is God’s will. Our hope is to move in August of 2021. We will spend a year meeting people in the city, learning, having hundreds of coffees, and gathering in small groups. We will start gathering for a public service in September 2022. Our hope is to engage both the community and college campuses with the gospel.


Grace Kaetterhenry: Jesus Saves From Depression & Suicide

Grace Katterhenry graduated in May 2019 with a degree in International Business and Writing. She is currently serving as a College Ministry Resident within our CF Staff team. Below is her testimony that she shared at one of our Midweek services.

Hi everyone, my name’s Grace Kaetterhenry, thanks for coming here tonight. Today I’ll be sharing the story with you about how I came to know God and His plan for my life and for the world. So, like I said, my name’s Grace. I really like comic books, hiking, and cheese wiz. The most important part of my life, though, is actually not comic books, or hiking, or cheese wiz, but is my relationship with God. That’s what I’m here to tell you about today, and I really hope that what I say is able to speak to some of you.

Grace K

I was born in Minnesota into a family that went to a bible-teaching church. I grew up going to church every Sunday, going to youth group every Wednesday, and knowing that I should probably read the bible more. When I was very young, I came to know the main points of the gospel- that “all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” In short, Jesus Christ died for my sins, so I could go to heaven.

Recently I have sort of been struggling with whether or not I actually was saved at that time in my life- if I actually was a Christian. Recently I’ve been learning more about the idea of conversion- the process of changing from ‘not a christian’ to ‘a christian’. I think the more I learn, the clearer it is to me that I wasn’t saved at this time. I don’t want to really get into the nitty-gritty details of conversion, but I will share a verse that has led me to this conclusion, and I verse I would challenge you all to meditate on: Colossians 1:13- “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves”. Again, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” A person who is in Christ, AKA, a Christian, is fundamentally different and permanently changed from what they were before. Even after I claimed to know the basics of the gospel, the core truths of Christianity, I didn’t have this fundamental change.

So, this is how I actually came to be saved. It requires a little backstory about my family and little mention of politics. As a disclaimer, I’m not saying these things to speak down to my family or to advocate or discredit any political leaning. I’m not about that. I’m just going to tell you what I believed and what I felt, which does not necessarily reflect what I believe or feel now.

My family is quiet conservative, and because my parents were quiet conservative, I was quiet conservative. Through grade school, middle school, and most of high school, I was also very argumentative. I spent a lot of energy shooting down people’s opinions, but I wasn’t super keen on self-reflection, like literally every child, ever. I was very, very sure about my views on religion, on politics, and pretty much anything else.

Then Senior year of high school came around, and I crashed. I was a relatively popular kid- good at sports, good at school, involved in everything, didn’t try to hard, made puns a lot. But I was dying, you know? This is why. I had started to become exposed to ideas different from my own. (Dramatic fake gasp). I started to empathize with these different ideas! I’m not going to start a fight or anything, but let’s just talk about racism, for instance. My parents pretty staunchly believe that racism in America died during the Civil Rights Era. I believed this, too. As I spent time on the internet, reading the news, listening to the experiences of minorities, I came to the realization the yeah, racism is still a thing.

This is just one example. I was exposed to “The Liberal’s” opinions on everything from evolution, social justice, the big bang, abortion, climate change, sexuality, colonialism, socialism, feminism, like, everything. And I will say again that I don’t necessarily want to make any blanket statements about these issues, and not because I don’t have strong convictions about these things now. It’s just that these political and social issues aren’t the point- the point is that I confused these issues with my faith.

Like, if my family believes that climate change isn’t real, and I think it is real because scientists say it’s real, why should I believe in God, when it seems that scientists don’t believe in God? Like, if my parents were so wrong about socialism and feminism, that also have to be wrong about God. (PSA: this is a logical fallacy).

To me, however, it was very real concern. Why does it matter if God is real or not? Why did it matter so much to me if the bible was true?

This is something I really hope you consider, whether or not you are a Christian or not. For me, this was a crucial question, because it dictates how you answer every other question right. This is the conclusion I came to: if there is no God, everything is meaningless. We’re college students here, so a certain level of angst is sort of funny, or cool, or something. But it’s actually terrifying to believe that everything is meaningless. Do you get what I’m saying? This is where I was at- if there was no God, and no afterlife, then anything I did in this world was ultimately meaningless. I was a pretty optimistic kid, you know? I was fun, I made puns, I wasn’t some debby downer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if nothing happened after I died, that if my self just disappeared, then nothing I did before I died mattered.

It was during my senior year of high school that I fell into a depressive period. It felt like this huge weight was on my shoulders- this whispering in my ear, that it didn’t matter at all whether I got good grades, or went to college, got a job, anything. It didn’t matter- no matter what I did, I would face the same end. I thought about committing suicide frequently, because it didn’t matter if I lived or died. The main thing keeping me back was thinking about my family, and how much I would hurt them if I did that. But even that reflection caused me so much pain, because ultimately my family would die, too. You know? It all came back to death.

As I decided to go to Drake, I came to a conclusion that I had to figure out my life. I had to figure out if there was a God, once and for all. If there wasn’t a God, I had to figure out what I should do with my life, or whether or not taking my life was the most logical course of action. Even though I didn’t believe that the Bible was the word of God, I remembered one verse in particular from church: James 4:8- draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. This was a promise from God. If God was real, this verse meant that if I looked for God sincerely, He would make himself known to me. Therefore, I decided to look for God when I came to college. If I found God, then I would find God. If I didn’t find God, then he wasn’t real.

The first semester of college was difficult for me. I got connected with Campus Fellowship and became friends with women that bet their entire lives on the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. They talked with me through biblical views of all the political issues I had. They were some of the first people I met who I really felt derived their opinions from the Bible, as opposed to shaping their understanding of the Bible to fit their opinions. Politics wasn’t what open my eyes, though: it was the Spirit of God these women possessed. In Galatian 2:20, when people are truly Christians, “It is no longer (they) who live, but it is Christ who lives in (them)”. And you could see Christ living in the people of my bible study- they listened to me and cared about me like no one else could.

These Christians I had met were different, but that wasn’t enough for God to be proved to me. Like, coming from a small midwestern town, everyone at college was ‘different’. During that first semester, I still struggled with suicidal thoughts, and I would have these waves of despair that would wash over me, in the middle of a lecture, while I was waiting for rides, whenever. It wasn’t until I had gone back home for winter break that it really changed. I was alone one night, and the despair, the hopelessness, started eating at me. But for the first time, I felt God. I can’t really describe it well, but I felt God’s presence- it was like he was wrapping his arms around me and assuring me that not only did He exist, but that He loved me. And as 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” That’s exactly what happened. God’s love drove out my fear, my fear of a wasted, meaningless life. Since then, it’s not like I’ve been deliriously happy all the time, but I’m no longer enslaved by that depression and those thoughts of suicide. This is not by anything that I’ve done, but by who God is and what he has done in my life. He is real, and he is great, and he has made the ultimate sacrifice so that I can have a relationship with him. If life has no meaning without Him, then he must be the meaning for life. Wherever you’re at tonight, Christian or Non-Christian, I would just encourage you to think about whether that is true for you. Seek out God. He wants you to know Him. Thank you.