By Austin Evans, a Nehemiah Project Intern
I came to college at Southeast in 2009 not knowing the Lord. I’d been enrolled at the University of Missouri S&T for months, and the week before Southeast closed enrollment for the year I transferred because I liked the focus of the environmental science program here more than S&T. The decision impacted the rest of my life, and I wonder if I’d be saved had I stayed at S&T. But it’s easy to see now that God never intended for me to go there, and good thing because I’d have never met the people God put in my life here in Cape to be His messengers.
I was a normal person before knowing the Lord. You wouldn’t have been surprised in any way. Morals guided my life. Dreams drove it, and I was a slave to them. I had dreams of a good science career, good money, and a good family and I figured that was enough. I didn’t know there was anything different. Most of us know that life as the American Dream, and that’s a boring life. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is where things got interesting because since then He’s guided me to places I’d have never gone, for reasons I’d have never imagined, to meet people I wouldn’t want to live without. God’s fruit in my life in the past two years looks like one summer in Tampa, Florida with Campus Outreach and the next in Khon Kaen, Thailand with people I met in Tampa of course. His fruit includes a lot of dawn breaking and night owl discipleship groups, and raising $6,000 of support through His church to send me to Thailand. He’s blessed me with friendships in the Church that are priceless, such as the Senior Adult Sunday school class, and also with those my own age who are more than I deserve.
It’s also been a few years of experiencing God’s fatherhood, and that means a lot too because it’s not a full life without some spiritual spankings, pain, heartbreak, and frustration. In my last year of college I still wanted to go right to graduate school and get a nice job out west after that, and in my heart I was unwilling to be too far from my family in Ava, Missouri. (Near Branson, and no I don’t act, dance or sing.) He lovingly, slowly, and painfully, changed my heart about those things, and others. I blew my chance at graduate school for that year because of late applications and poor studying for the standardized test (I’m glad now). Through His words of “Follow Me” when calling Levi to Himself, I realized that following Jesus was worth even abandoning my family. And I never wanted to be an overseas missionary, even for a short term, but that’s what He wanted, and my desires soon followed. He put people in my life who I never thought I could love, and showed me how to love them. He put a person in my life who I thought I could love for the rest of my life and He closed the door. He’s let me taste some of the bitter consequences of my sin, and through it showed me my foolishness and renewed an urgency to abide in His greatness.
My relationship with Him has given me greater joy, sadness, peace, uncertainty, and surprises than the American Dream would ever have, and that’s in only a few years. That’s living fully. His works through things like the Nehemiah Project only continue to amaze me how He could bless me with such a wonderful opportunity to know Him and His people, and I can’t do anything but praise His goodness for that. But my life looks nothing like what I thought it would’ve if you had asked me a few years ago, and I like that. I know many of you can say the same, and it reminds me of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:14 – “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider – God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.” God promises a full and adventurous life. He hasn’t let me down so far.