By Mackenzie Montross
The quaint, white house that sits between Student Publications and the Confucius Institute can often be overlooked by those passing by.
It looks like just any other house that surrounds Western Kentucky University’s campus, but with a clear label out in the front yard: ‘Christian Student Fellowship.’
A wooden door with a mosaic glass design welcomes anyone who approaches. It opens easily without any protest due to the countless number of people who have streamed in for worship. Warm, yellow light bathes the rustic decorated living room. Bible verses are hidden in plain sight throughout the house’s decorations.
It’s the last Tuesday night worship service of the Spring 2018 semester. Countless students have filled the basement and living room to worship God together.
Nathan Ayers, the associate campus pastor, stands to make some final announcements before closing the service. Because CSF has been growing and developing, and with plenty of more students joining, the organization would need more full-time staff members to help with planning events and worship services. He asked if there were any graduates who were interested in a position.
Conny Jenkins stood in the crowd, heart pounding fast inside her chest.
“Was this what God wants me to do? Is this what he’s pushing me to do right in this moment? I am not adequate for this job. I’m not equipped to do this,”she thought.
There were plenty of verses in the Bible about being equipped to fulfill God’s will. Jenkins’ recalled some of those verses which added up to, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.”
Jenkins is a 22 year old from Glasgow, Kentucky, who has served CSF as the director of the encouragement team for a year now. She has black hair, tan skin, a bright smile and she carries herself with a sense of maturity and friendliness that invites people to approach her. She grew up in the Catholic church, but never took her faith seriously until after her freshman year at WKU.
“My freshman year, I was in a bad relationship. I didn’t have many friends yet and I just felt lost, angry and guilty. I didn’t know where to go,” Jenkins said.
She became so overwhelmed one day she went to confession at the Catholic ministry on campus. Jenkins wept and confessed everything to the priest and at the end she felt a great pressure being lifted off her shoulders. The priest had told her she was forgiven and to celebrate this forgiveness.
From that point on, Jenkins wanted to know more about Jesus and to follow in his footsteps.
The summer after her freshman year, Jenkins helped staff at a Christian camp. This was when she saw how the Lord worked wonders in individuals who had faith. This was when she decided she was going to take her faith seriously.
The following fall semester, she started attending CSF every Tuesday night for worship. She made plenty of new friends and had found her home on WKU’s campus.
“[My faith] changed everything when I took it seriously. The way I lived my life was that I had a greater purpose. My faith is not perfect but it affected the way I wanted to love people and not finding satisfaction in worldly desires,” Jenkins said.
Before joining CSF full-time, Jenkins graduated from WKU with two bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and childhood studies. She got married and she also received a full ride to attend graduate school at WKU for Spanish.
“I remember praying about it and talking to my husband. There were so many things we felt like we should do. We decided we’d work at CSF together. I declined the scholarships and hoped I hadn’t screwed up,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins has been building the encouragement team and defining what they do to help students in CSF and students on WKU’s campus. The team has handed out flowers and food to students on campus–not to spread CSF’s name–to show love and compassion.
Inside CSF, the encouragement team writes notes to students who attend worship with things that uplift them to let them know they are not alone. Jenkins believes plenty of college students need some time with others to “just do life.” She meets with them to talk and to listen about anything.
While there is a welcoming environment in CSF, places outside might discourage students from being an out and proud Christian.
“People can notice when you are Christian in the classwork or workplace because you’re going through things a lot differently. You’re living boldly through Jesus and loving other people selflessly. An example would be a student in the classroom and a professor noticing that student is aware they are a representation of Jesus wherever they go. It’s how you act and how you love others that make people notice,” Jenkins explains.
She believes that God called out to her to serve her mission at WKU’s CSF. She knows this was where the call was from and she answered it.
She believes Christians are called to step out of their comfort zone to lead a better life. Christians, she says, are to spread the love and compassion that Jesus gives to everyone.
“I believe the people of Jesus and the love of Jesus can change people’s hearts” Jenkins said. “I’m not telling them they’re doing anything wrong. I just think loving people has the biggest impact in creating relationships with people and friendships that last.”