Three U Christians share stories of their faith

Vadim Lavrusik

S Editor’s note: This story is the first in a five-part series that examines students’ experiences with different faiths. Throughout the week the stories will look at Christianity, Judaism, Islam and atheism/agnosticism. Friday’s story will look at the results of a Minnesota Daily survey on religion.

1ome people believe faith is believing in things you cannot see. Some say it is like the wind; you only see it in the things it moves.

Students who put their faith in Christianity are doing just that, and many of them say their belief in Jesus Christ as their savior has moved their lives in a new direction.

Christianity, a widespread religion on campus, has prompted students to create many Christian groups at the University over the years.

These are the stories of three Christian students, and how their faith affects their lives.

Chris Cook

Statistics graduate student Chris Cook, who is working on his doctoral degree, said he has grown up with Christianity all his life, but didn’t believe until after finishing his undergraduate degree at Baylor University.

Cook said that during his undergraduate years he was seeking happiness with nights of drinking and sex; trying to fill a void, but feeling hollow the next day.

One night while working as a restaurant manager he collapsed and couldn’t move, he said. After realizing he was going to die if his lifestyle didn’t change, he decided to do something.

“God came back to get me,” Cook said. “He brought me out of sin and depression.”

Two weeks later he was asked to come to church with some friends and later that night he asked Jesus to come into his life.

“I was forgiven and set free from my sins,” he said.

Since that night, Cook said, he aims to follow his faith and profess the name of God. He became a youth pastor at Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield where he has served for five years. He also has served as president of Maranatha Christian Fellowship at the University while continuing his education.

Cook said pursuing a doctorate has increased his faith in the existence of God. Even at the core of mathematics, he said, one has to make assumptions and have faith.

“They believe that only the material exists and I believe in God,” he said.

Scientists and mathematicians such as himself believe in what they can reason or understand, but scientists can only reason a finite amount of knowledge, and God’s knowledge and truth is infinite, he said.

“It is pre-arrogance to say I won’t accept him until I know everything about him; we will never know everything,” he said.

Cook also commented on preachers in the Mall area who proclaim everyone’s damnation. They are not telling the full truth, he said.

“I wish they would just shut up,” he said. “They are not offering the good news and the salvation that lies in Jesus.”

Cook, who is qualified in high-power statistics, said he worked on Wall Street and earned about $200,000 a year, but said he didn’t have peace about it and the lifestyle wasn’t appealing.

“I wanted to be my own boss,” he said.

Instead, Cook and his roommate started a short-term business in construction, which Cook said earns him plenty and gives him more time for his ministry.

He said he ultimately wants to move into full-time ministry.

Nikki Olson

First-year student Nikki Olson grew up going through the motions of attending church.

Olson said her mom is Catholic and her dad is Lutheran, but her dad doesn’t practice so she invertedly was influenced by her mom’s Catholicism.

Olson was baptized shortly after she was born, went through confirmation and accepted God her freshman year of high school, she said.

“God was working in my life; he directed me into a new direction,” Olson said.

She said that at first she had doubts a god existed, but fellowship with her Christian friends helped her understand what Christianity is all about.

“I have to believe there is a God because there are too many amazing things that happen and exist that science cannot explain,” she said. “How can you not believe in God?”

Olson said something had to set the universe in motion, and she believes God did.

However, just because people are Christian doesn’t mean they’re perfect; everyone screws up, Olson said.

Olson said the difference is that before she became a Christian she had her priorities all mixed up and felt lost, like she had no direction.

Religion is something people draw morals from and everyone is drawn to believe in something greater than themselves, Olson said.

“We’re always home seeking for heaven,” Olson said. “We’re not from here; we’re always looking for something not from this world.”

Olson is involved in several Christian ministries on campus, such as Campus Crusade and Campus Outreach.

“I still don’t know everything,” Olson said, “but I know that Jesus died for our sins.”

Chris Bjorling

First-year accounting student Chris Bjorling said he didn’t like being forced to go to church when he was younger but now appreciates that his parents made him go.

Bjorling said he didn’t make the decision to become Christian until earlier this year after he was introduced to a friend who helped him explore his beliefs.

“I think it is important for everyone to find what they believe in,” Bjorling said.

Bjorling said religion and faith are two completely different things because religion is a set of guidelines someone before you has put forth, and no one should be restricted to those guidelines. He said faith is someone’s relationship with God, which can’t be categorized into any denomination.

“Christianity gives me a more positive outlook on life; it does guide my action but I don’t think works get you to heaven,” he said.

The problem, Bjorling said, is that everyone bases everything on facts, and religion is losing the battle.

“If you rely on facts you will never have faith,” he said.

He said he doesn’t need facts because when he prays he can feel a connection with God that can’t be mistaken.

“What sets us apart is we have hope,” he said. “The average person only lives for the things on earth and the fear of death. I’m not afraid to die; when I die I know there will be a heaven.”

Bjorling, who doesn’t go to a church on campus or at home, said he is exploring options but has a lot to learn and much more growth to do within Christianity.