An Open Letter to College Students: Pt. 1

by Spence Shelton

Why you Should Go

Wednesday night (December 28), my family was traveling home from visiting family in another part of NC. We stopped for dinner at a Chick-fil-a in grand ‘ole Salisbury. Across the room were 2 college students having the exact same conversation I had 15 years ago that changed my life forever. It goes something like this:

Junior: “I know we’ve talked about this some, but I really want you to come with me on summer project to Australia.”

Freshman: “I know, but I just don’t know if I can do it.”

Junior: “You really want to spend your summer in Salisbury, NC?”

Freshman: “Point taken.”

Junior: “This is a leap of faith. You have to trust God to provide the money, to persuade your parents, and to give you courage. But you can do it and I’ll be here beside you as you work through all that.”

*BTW – I have no idea if this is what they said. I had 4 kids in Chick-fil-a which means no time for small talk. Junior had her computer out with a set of slides talking about it and I happen to see the conversation topic. I’ve been on both sides of this convo, and I’ve seen it enough to know it when I see it. I desperately wanted to go over to the table and scream, “DO IT!!!,” but again, kids. Then I thought about our college students at Mercy who are at home right now thinking about giving their summer to God’s mission either through City Project or Cru Summer Project or something else.

So, here is an open letter to any college student at home right now trying to figure out if you are really about to spend your whole summer with a bunch of people you don’t know doing a bunch of “ministry” you don’t know how to do:

There are easily 100 reasons for you NOT to give your summer to God’s mission. A few that always float to the top: you need that lifeguard gig to make some spending $, you need that internship or you will be behind, your parents aren’t going to get behind it, you aren’t the kind of person that does this, you can’t ask other people for money to support you going, you can’t be apart from your girlfriend for that long. I hope you know I’m not slighting any of these or other reasons you have for not going. Mine were parents, knee surgery, and asking for money. We’ll come back to that. Listen, your reasons are real and maybe you have a few of ’em like I did. So let me start with why I believe you need to go and then later answer some of your obstacles. This may take a couple posts now that I’m writing it.

Why you need to go:

1. Your life is about God and his glory, not yours. You are in a battle right now for the storyline your life is going to take. Will it be about your glory or about God’s glory? Will it be about advancing your agenda for your life or advancing God’s glory through your own life to the world? Saying “no” to a summer missions project does not mean you are in sin – let me say that right here. But, this is most certainly a glory decision. Because if you say yes, you will be surrendering your summer. You’ll work a random job (MAYBE) in a random city and most likely that job will not be the resume booster your internship would have been. Your summer will be about pointing everybody you meet to Jesus. It will be 100% about him and not you. And listen, that’s what God calls your entire life to be about. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do to the glory of God!” You likely won’t be a missionary your whole life (though who knows), but God still makes a claim on your life. That it is about his glory, not yours. Giving him your summer is the greatest practice you can do for preparing yourself to prioritize his glory over yours as you make bigger decisions in your adult life.

The Global Mission of God will inspire you. I don’t know another way to say it. When you get out of your box and get into the mission field with other believers who are doing the same, you start to see God working in ways you never could at home or even on campus. It’s kind of like the difference between standing on the second-floor balcony of your dorm and looking out at the “view” of the dumpster, and then standing at the top of the empire state building looking out across NYC. One is just a little more inspiring than the other. During my 6 weeks in East Asia, our team of 15 people saw 35 college students come to faith in Christ. I led two different guys to Christ who had never heard the name of Jesus. And that experience left me in awe of the power of God! I came back to campus convinced more than ever of the power of God to change lives. And I stand with thousands who have gone before you who would say that by giving our summers to God’s mission, we GAINED a closeness with God and a courage to obey him in everyday life that we never had before. It was a sacrifice that was deeply rewarding on the other side.

You have a window. Make it count. College sets up this crazy scenario where you are an adult who has a summer off. That’s crazy. Adults don’t get summers off. We work. Yet here you are. You only get 3 of them. DO NOT WASTE YOUR SUMMER! I promise when you look back on college in 10 years you won’t think, “man, I wish I would have worked more at the FRO-YO place.” No, you’ll wish you had spent more summers on projects like the one you are considering. I personally know at least 100 people who’ve been on a summer project and I do not know one who has said, “that was a waste.” For most, my wife and I included, they talk about it as an incredibly formative time in their walk with Christ. Why would you deny yourself the chance to immerse into a spiritual greenhouse that God will use to most likely cement some really great lessons about himself into your heart and mind!? DONT WASTE YOUR SUMMER! I promise you will always have work.