December 6, 2011

Stories from University of Wisconsin Madison

One afternoon early this week when I had some free time and decided to go out visit with anyone available out on the terrace. I stopped at the table of a young guy reading and asked if I could ask him some questions about faith and spirituality and he said that would be fine. I noticed he was reading and asked what his book was - it turned out he was reading for his philosophy class so we dove right into a philosophical discussion. He was raised in a Catholic home, but was never baptized and had spent time studying abroad in a Muslim country and was heavily influenced by the Sufi branch of Islam. I shared the Gospel with him and asked if he would be willing to pray with me. He said he wasn't ready to convert, but also used the word yet. I was encouraged after meeting with him and we are going to continue our discussions over a beer sometime!
~Jayson Miller, first year missionary at UW-Madison
Paul Wilburn and Jayson Miller

Who needs plans for God to work?
A failure to plan leads to an open morning.  An open morning leads to a coffee date with a recent graduate. No wallet means we share a large coffee.  Sharing means I drink it more slowly.  Thus slow drinking leads to left over coffee which leads to staying at the coffee shop to do work.  A sunny morning entices me to stay outside even though I should be on the computer working on a newsletter.   Sitting in the sun working at a coffee shop leads to a quick conversation about McDonald's with another girl.  Being generally friendly leads to the opportunity to approach her later that day at a completely different time and place to talk to her about faith. "Why do you think students lose their faith when they come to college?" leads to why she's an atheist.  Being afraid to go out alone had led to going out with Carrie which led to her being able to talk to the girl on a philosophical level. Philosophy leads to the question of hell.  Hell leads to the Gospel. The Gospel to the purpose of life.  The purpose of life to asking if she would want to be in a relationship with God if existed.  "Relationship, yes no?"  leads to her childhood view of God.....and eventually  "I don't know if I think of Him as a tyrant."  Whether or not she was aware that she addressed God in the present tense doesn't matter.  She did and I know it will lead to something great in the future.  
~Erin Simon, missionary at UW-Madison
Erin Simon and Crystal Buchanan

The student leads the way.
On Saturday I received a text from Sarah S. informing me to meet at St. Paul's at five for dinner, so I did. Together we went out to dinner with Adrienne, a Freshman raised as an atheist who is curious about Catholicism, and Meredith, a Junior who has explored different aspects of spirituality but has no particular faith herself.  We had a great time talking over dinner, getting to know each other, eating good food, and there were only a few awkward silences. Towards the end of dinner the conversation turned to Catholicism and joy. Our conversation continued all the way back to St. Paul's (Meredith walked away from her apartment to continue the conversation with us) and ended with "can we do this again next week"?  After Meredith and Adrienne headed home Sarah and I said a quick prayer together.  Aside from the obvious awesomeness of dinner with two non-christians, the best part of this whole "missionary moment" was that it was driven by Sarah and I just got to come along for the ride.
~Crystal Buchanan, Team Director at UW-Madison

Carrie at the Terrace!

To encounter God changes everything.
 I think that is why we are afraid to truly encounter Him sometimes.  Erin and I met Katrina the other day.  Katrina was raised Christian, but now considers herself an atheist.  We discussed several things over the course of that hour, but at the end of our conversation, I asked, “Katrina, if God did exist, would you want to be in a relationship with Him?”  After reflecting for a bit, she said, “Honestly, I don’t think so because I am happy with my life.  If God is real, then my life has to change.  It might be better, but it might be worse.  Either way, it will be different and that scares me.”  Her words, full of unintended gravity, have not left me since that conversation.  How true they are!  If God is real, then everything changes.  Life will be radically different.  So often the monotony of daily life can deaden us to that reality.  But, in reality, to be a Christian is to daily encounter God. And when you do this, everything must change.  Let Him transform you!
~Carrie Wagner, missionary at UW-Madison

You are so beautiful!
After bible study, Greeny (freshman soccer player) went to confession for the first time since 4th grade. After confession, she went up to the alter and prayed in front of the tabernacle. She sobbed for a bit during Father's beautiful homily and then called her Dad after candlelight Mass to share how amazing her night was. Then she asked me why I like her so much. So naturally I told her I have to it's my job, just kidding. But this girl has the most genuine, down to earth, purest soul I've encountered in a long time and I can't wait until she is able to see how beautiful she is inside and out!
~Taylor Bennett, first year missionary with Varsity Catholic at UW-Madison