Students Learn to Invest in Relationships

Editor’s Note: Fusion, the BCNE’s fall retreat for college students, is one of the largest Christian conferences in New England for college students and young adults. This year it took place from Oct. 26-28 in Hyannis, Mass.

Stepping out of the Johnson and Wales’ vans, our students arrived excited for Fusion.  They anticipated an enjoyable weekend at the Cape with peers, forging new friendships across New England and being freshly encouraged that they are not alone in their faith.  They entered the hotel and conference center with high expectations for Word-saturated teaching and fun times. Amid games in the lobby, mealtimes and World Series watching, students had their fill of living out relationships and learning how to invest in them.

This year we explored the topic “Relate...Moving from Meaningless Isolation to Meaningful Interaction.” We focused on our need to be intentional in cultivating relationships and pursuing them through wise methods. The main sessions sketched out how Jesus saves us to Himself and to His people, outlined responsible use of social media and smartphones and described specific relationships every Christian should pursue.

We were encouraged that God initiates a relationship with us and bring us into His family as children. One student having a difficult year was reminded that God loves and cares for her. Hearing she is loved as a child of God through His mercy and grace fortified her. Another student recognized that as God saves us to His people, she can adopt a spiritual family during her college years even though she is hundreds of miles from her biological family. This weekend she chose to let people in for the spiritual good of both herself and others.

From 2 Timothy 2:2, we learned four specific relationships to pursue as a Christian: people walking ahead, beside, behind, and away from us in the faith. These ideas became all the more relevant when an entire session highlighted the potential dangers of social media and the smartphone. Real human relationships require time, attention and care in the presence of real human beings. Students resonated with the remark that social media can worsen whatever already besets them, like feelings of disappointment and hurt when seeing others’ lives painted like fairy tales. Comparison corrodes contentment. Challenged by these warnings, several students and I have already changed some of the notification preferences on our phones to free our minds to better enjoy life outside the screen.

Back at Johnson and Wales this week, a student and I had the opportunity to engage unbelievers in a conversation. Using the simple question we learned at Fusion, “What do you mean by that?” enabled us to find the difference between our assumptions and their assumptions about life, God and the purpose of life.

Together, the weekend’s sessions clearly mapped God’s initiative to bring us to salvation and continue working through us. We are built up into the community of believers to meaningfully relate to those around us in the world. Our lives in Christ call for intentional pursuit out of meaningless isolation and into meaningful interaction.

Molly Peele serves as a collegiate missionary at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.