Why I Decided to Go with the Christians

Most people say they grew weaker in their faith once they got to college, but I grew stronger—after I traveled 1,600 miles with 25 strangers.  

I transferred to the University of Pittsburgh after a not-so-great freshman year. Transferring is a challenging experience, to say the least. While you feel like a freshman, you’re not, and those your age and experience level already have established friend groups. So what do you do?

After some thought, I decided to go with the Christians. There were a number of campus ministry groups on campus—I figured they would at least have to be nice to me.

I grew up in a very small church with an older population that didn’t have a youth group or any youth activities, so being around a bunch of young people who all worshiped Jesus was something I was not accustomed to seeing. Still, I thought it would be a good step to meet people. Through several odd circumstances, I stumbled upon a fairly small ministry group that seemed massive by my standards. I was intimidated, but I attended two small-group Bible studies over the course of two months.  

At that second Bible study, I learned about a spring break mission trip. This was something that never happened in my small church, so I was immediately intrigued. The next day, I put down a deposit and decided to spend my spring break with 25 students who were all friends with each other—and had no idea who I was.

Even after signing up, I still couldn’t bring myself to go to their large-group gatherings, so I only knew two people by name when we finally left for the airport a few months later. I was feeling very much like a fish out of water; they were all Presbyterians and I was raised Catholic. Would that make a difference to them? I had a personal belief that denominations should not divide people; a Christian is a Christian. Still, when it came time to pray before boarding our flight, I was apprehensive—they were all doing, as I dubbed it, “freestyle praying.” In the Catholic Church, we recited prayers—the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be, etc.—and now I had to make up something up off the top of my head? Would we do this during the entire trip? (Spoiler alert: yes.)  

Once we arrived in Belize and began working with a local church, I realized why God had put me through this challenging transfer experience and campus ministry culture shock.  

One day when we were sent out into the local community to invite people to an event the church was holding,  I was placed in a group led by the church pastor’s wife, Elsa. As we walked along the dirt roads dotted with shacks, I could hear yelling and banging coming from inside the thin walls; unfortunately, alcoholism and domestic abuse are big problems in Belize. This reality was juxtaposed with flourishing tropical trees—coconut, mango, banana, lemon, orange, and grapefruit. Being from Pittsburgh, we were all in awe of those trees, and at almost every home we stopped, the owners would offer us the fruit we were clearly admiring. To them, these trees were normal and nothing special.

As we were walking and talking, Elsa opened up to us about her spiritual journey. She said that in her early twenties, she realized that while she had gone to church and followed the typical Christian guidelines, she wasn’t truly living out the Gospel. Just calling yourself a Christian and going to church every Sunday does not mean you know the Gospel in your heart, she said.

It really surprised me that the wife of a pastor could admit such a personal spiritual struggle with a bunch of strangers, but her honesty made me realize I had been living the exact same way.  

I did all that was required of me to fit the “Christian” lifestyle, but I did not truly know God. I did not spend time reading the Bible. I did not think about how I should be living God’s word throughout every aspect of my life.  

When I got back from that mission trip, I decided to change things.  I started to actually live out the Gospel in my life.  I made some great connections with people on the trip and continued those relationships by becoming involved in the ministry. I started attending Bible studies and large-group sessions regularly. Now I am spiritually stronger than I ever was. It took transferring to Pitt, traveling 1,600 miles to Belize, and a walk along a dirt road for God to show me how weak my faith was.  

Thankfully, when He took me on this long journey, He did not let me walk the road alone. 

—Madison Moro attends the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Media and Professional Communications major with a certificate in Nonprofit Management, and expects to graduate in April 2017. Currently, Madison serves as a CCO Events Intern.