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Illuminating the Gospel: student revival at SAU

Spiritual life at SAU has been shifting.

To be sure, we still have Chapel twice each week. We still worship with Chapel Band, listen to Chapel speakers, participate in small group Bible studies and pray in classes and before meals. As an institution, we’ve never stopped setting Christ as our perspective for learning or celebrating our rich, Wesleyan heritage.

But lately, independent, student-led worship has taken on a newfound zeal. Tangible energy and excitement for the Gospel and personal relationship with Christ have spread across campus.

The students at the heart of these events call it “revival.”

interpretive dance

It started around the time that an event called Let’s Fly took place on campus, in February 2018. Junior ministry major Bryce Bauman, sophomore special education major Josiah Kitchen and junior pastoral ministry major Jonah Engle spearheaded the event, a 12-hour session of worship, prayer and testimony that went from 8 p.m. one evening to 8 a.m. the next day.

During the event, worship sessions lasting 30-40 minutes began at the start of each hour. The remainder of the hour was spent with those present sharing testimonies, passages of scripture and prayers over an open mic.

Bauman had hoped that Let’s Fly would lead people into full surrender to God. “We wanted people to truly experience God, where they couldn’t leave the same,” he says.

Bryce Bauman

According to Bauman, every day for a week after Let’s Fly, students broke out in worship in the plaza. Hearts were changing, and so was spiritual life on campus.

Junior advertising and public relations major Genesis Maple attended Let’s Fly shortly before she was scheduled to speak at DEEPER, a sort of “Chapel After Dark,” in which students worship and hear the Word together. When she had asked SAU Chaplain Brian Kono if she could speak at DEEPER, she had no idea what her message would be. A sophomore at the time, Maple only knew that she felt led to speak. She had experienced an enormous amount of spiritual growth since the beginning of her freshman year at SAU, and it was pouring out into every facet of her life, including her role as a Spiritual Life Advisor (now called Spiritual Life Leader) in her residence hall. Now, she was bursting to share God’s Word with campus — she just had to figure out what to say.

During a visit home, Maple decided to speak on prayer, and in the days leading up to her DEEPER talk, it became increasingly clear just what God wanted her to say to her peers. “God would just download into me what to say,” says Maple, who remembers being in class and having to quickly jot down messages that God was laying on her heart.

Speaking at DEEPER was revelatory. “That was the spark for me. I saw that everything that I had gone through to get to this point was for something,” Maple says. “I was amazed by what God was doing in my life and on this campus.”

After Maple spoke, she and her friends offered personal prayer to the students at DEEPER. “We were speaking truth to people. People were crying. People were getting set free,” she says. After that night, Maple was eager to plan another spiritual life event on campus before the energy of Let’s Fly and DEEPER died down. “People were excited. They were in the expectation of God,” she says.

Maple and a few other students approached Kono with the idea of planning another “revival” event. To their surprise, Kono informed them that two other student groups, including the Let’s Fly group of Bauman, Kitchen and Engle, had recently approached him to ask the same thing.

Genesis Maple

The three groups were brought together, and a new event, Illuminate, was planned. Illuminate was a shorter event packed with spoken word, worship, dancing, drawing, painting, testimony, and even a bonfire in the plaza, where students could write down sins and struggles on slips of paper and toss them into the flames. Beside the fire, Bauman delivered a message from scripture.

The event was a success, and another Illuminate was scheduled for the fall. The second Illuminate, which took place last October, brought in people from nearby colleges and cities, in addition to SAU students. Word of revival was spreading, and people were responding. “As people continue to surrender to Christ and give their all to him, that’s something that grabs other people, as well,” says Bauman.

Of his experiences at Illuminate, Bauman says, “I’ve witnessed people being set free, to be able to worship corporately with other people, but just in a way where they don’t care who is around them. They were able to cry out. They were able to express themselves however they needed to.”

Putting on both Illuminate events was a team effort, coordinated by Maple, who is currently serving as Spiritual Life Director for SAU’s Student Government Association. “It’s been really cool to have Genesis go throughout campus and look for different areas of talent and passion — kind of bring us together for these two nights,” says Bauman.

Bauman and Maple hope to plan more Let’s Fly and Illuminate events (as well as other spiritual life events) in the coming years at SAU. They and their peers don’t take credit for starting a revival at SAU. They simply acted when the time was right — when God had already been working in students’ hearts. “This wasn’t anything new,” says Maple. “It was just the time to execute it.”

“For me, revival is when single hearts are awakened and set ablaze,” says Bauman. “That’s when things start to happen.”

“You feel it,” says Maple. “It’s too much to contain. It’s like a fire. You know that it’s real when others are feeling the same thing.”