Usually when we hear of a child being adopted, we imagine that they are now part of a loving family that will provide a stable environment for them to flourish and have a “normal” childhood. We hope that they experience such a nurturing environment that, when they reminisce upon their early years, one word overwhelmingly comes to mind. Love. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Tim*.
I met Tim this past weekend at New England Students’ annual spring retreat, Cultivate, held in Spofford, New Hampshire. The theme of the weekend was “Relentless: God’s Gracious, Merciful, Faithful Love”. It was an incredible weekend for college students to come together from all across New England to worship the Lord and to be engaged in an environment meant to equip them with the tools necessary to cultivate, grow, and share their faith.
Josh Wyatt, a pastor and church planter in Boston, served as the platform speaker for our worship gatherings and did an incredible job communicating truth about God, His love and how that impacts us in our daily lives. Joe Frey & the Broken Vessels also joined us by leading our New England Students in worship at our worship gatherings.
Over the course of the weekend, students had numerous opportunities to engage with one another in a variety of fun activities such as basketball, hiking, and a bonfire. Cultivate also gave students opportunities outside of the worship gatherings to participate in breakout sessions based on one of three tracks: Explore, Grow, and Multiply. Students could choose breakout options in their track based on where they currently are in their faith journey, whether they are unbelievers learning about Christianity or Christ-followers who desire to lead in their communities.
On the Sunday morning of the retreat, I found myself sitting with Tim at breakfast. As we sipped coffee, I asked Tim about the weekend and what he had learned. At this point, Tim shared his story with me and how this weekend had impacted him.
At a young age, Tim was adopted into a family of twenty-three children and was both physically and emotionally abused by his adoptive family. At one point, he remembers coming home from a church service and being told by his adoptive mother that God could never love him. In his college years, Tim ran away from home. For a time, Tim lived homeless. Without hope, he turned to alcohol and drugs, desperate for relief from the pain that he had experienced.
It was in this state that a friend who was a Christian told Tim that there is Someone who loves him, Someone who has always loved him and will never stop loving him. This kind of love was foreign to Tim; the only concept of love he had known up to this point was a perverse, self-serving type of love. Yet Tim heard of the reality of God’s love for him – an unrelenting, undeserved, and unending love. Now, two years later, Tim is involved in a local church and campus ministry surrounded by men and women who love him. He has found a home.
Before becoming Christ-followers, we are spiritual orphans like Tim. But those who trust in Christ are adopted into the family of God (Eph. 1:3-5, Gal. 4:3-7, Rom. 8:14-17). In this family, we experience the gracious, merciful, and faithful love of our Heavenly Father.
As this semester is coming to an end, please pray for the university students in New England. Pray that God will give unbelieving students eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of the gospel. And pray that the Christians on these campuses will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to make disciples in the areas where God has them, both now and in the future.
*Name has been changed.