“…being Lutheran is still about open access to the Gospel. It will always be about access to God in Christ Jesus.” —A. Trevor Suttton, Being Lutheran
As I sit here trying to synthesize all the wonderful experiences of being a College Conference Volunteer (CCV) at the Higher Things conference in Colorado, I find that there is almost too much to write. How can I describe the joy of meeting with other college students who are have experienced the reality that Christ and Him crucified is not welcome on college campuses and that great feeling of relief that you do not have to explain your worldview to them because you share it? You can actually have discussions and talk about issues and know that the other person is not actively trying to tear down at every opportunity.
As CCVs, we come to a Higher Things conference ready to work—ready to walk all over the given campus; ready to direct and assist the attendees; ready to deliver water, diet Coke, and diet Mountain Dew to the breakout speakers; ready to cheer on our Tetramorphs; ready to scuttle out of chapel to hang up posters—and yet we never really know what experience is in store for us until we get there. By the end of the week, we can be exhausted and sore, but also overly energetic and sentimental after the final Divine Service. We meet wonderful people and make new friends, uncertain of whether or not we will ever see them again. But one thing is certain: At each Higher Things conference, we get the chance to hear about Jesus, receive His gifts, and learn and grow in our faith!
We still get to attend the breakaway sessions (after we deliver enthusiastic evaluation speeches, of course) and we get to soak up each individual topic presented by the speaker. We get just as excited about attending chapel with everyone else as any conference member, even though we may constantly walk around asking people to be quiet and look overly serious, and we get even more excited when someone near us knows the harmonies to the liturgy. We love sitting together and listening to a plenary session (even if our phones are buzzing off the hook the entire time). For us CCVs who come to the conferences, it’s about the opportunity to hear the Word in a community of believers—to hear, see, and receive Jesus.
Sure, there are some extra perks to being a CCV other than participating in 14 services over the course of the week. We do get some of our own time to goof off and be silly (especially in the company of our CCV managers) and just talk about life experiences and college. We also get the chance to meet and talk to a lot of the staff and pastors who are at the conference. We learn how to drive golf carts, sell and inventory merchandise, give semi-accurate directions around a campus we are not 100% familiar with, and run some pretty great entertainment for the youth. I guess what being a CCV boils down to is the chance to serve our neighbor and we relish the opportunity! It’s because the experience is not about us or about what we do, it’s about the Gospel and Jesus given and shed for you in the Sacrament. This is what truly draws us to become CCVs year after year.
One final thought: to all the staff, pastors, and volunteers who give up their time with their families, energy, and brain power to put on these conference and preach the Gospel, we THANK YOU! None of us could attend these conferences without your tireless efforts. Thank you for patiently working with the CCVs during our less-than-finest moments of forgetfulness and tardiness. Thank you for standing as an example to all of us of faithful adults who have survived the waters of college and are braving the tide of everyday life. Thank you for confessing Christ and daring to be Lutheran.
Monica Berndt served as a CCV for Bread of Life in Ft. Collins, Colorado. She attends the University of Washington and is a member at Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle. Her goal is to become a music teacher and teach young Lutherans the joys of singing hymns.