people praying
On Sunday, February 9th, 2014, several dozen students at Corban University gathered in a dorm to listen to testimony and sing together—despite a significant snowstorm. (Photo: Joshua Stevens)

By Joshua Stevens, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

On Sunday, February 9th, 2014, several dozen students at Corban University gathered in a dorm to listen to testimony and sing together. Given most normal circumstances, this would be a heartwarming but normal occurrence. But this was no ordinary circumstance.

That week in 2014, Salem, Oregon, was hit with a significant snowstorm that slowed most of the city, and events were canceled due to the weather (Tomlinson, 2015). Late into the evening on Saturday, February 8th, students around the campus began receiving texts or notifications that churches across the city had canceled their services for the following day.

Over the next few hours, a couple of students began working on a plan to arrange a church service in the dorm at 9:00 AM. They went to the computer lab, printed two dozen pages of lyrics for people to use, planned songs, and asked several other students to share their testimonies. Working into the late hours of the night to ensure everything was correctly set up and prepared. They came up with a theme, “Even when Church is canceled, church isn’t canceled.”

On the morning of Sunday, February 9th, those students prayed, gathered chairs, had pages of lyrics ready to hand out, and by 8:58 AM, it was just those five students and a few others sporadically spaced out around the room quietly talking amongst themselves. However, within the next few minutes, dozens of students would begin to walk in from all over campus. So many came in that people needed to share the handouts with two or three people to one. Together they prayed, worshipped, and listened as they participated in church.

Everyone heard from three students who were asked to give their testimony. They were not the first students you might think would be sharing their testimony at a Christian university. Some were quiet and soft-spoken; some were jokesters who were loud enough to be heard clearly across the campus. But each student was Christian, believing in the risen Christ and transformed by the grace of the gospel.

I often think about this day, not because some grand miracle occurred by college students walking across the snow and being late to church or because they had to overcome some great obstacle to participate in church. The inconvenience was relatively small compared to what a great many believers must do to attend a similar service. I like to think about this day for a few reasons.

First, it is a beautiful reminder of the power of the body of Christ. Where a few people set out to give a place for believers to come together and worship, we saw the body respond. We saw people willing to lead worship and share their testimony. Students trek across a small, steep, and frozen campus to join in praising our God and listening to how God worked in other people’s lives.

For many students who came and participated, it was their first time living alone or away from their families. This was a moment for them to make their faith their own. No one was forcing them to wake up, get ready, and go to this. Due to the weather, no one would judge them for shrugging their shoulders and sleeping in. But they overcame and joined the others to worship and fellowship.

Those students joined in a great tradition of those who love Christ overcoming obstacles to join in song, in fellowship, and devotion to the Lord. The sacrifice these students made cannot be compared to the sacrifice of the early church or even churches spread across the globe. Hopefully, it is the closest they will ever get to being in such a situation. I hope it deepened their faith as much as it has mine. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2 (Crossway Bibles, 2001)

Lord, thank you for the constant provision you have provided so that we may be allowed to worship and praise you. Thank you for the opportunities each of us has to gather together to fellowship, share hardships, pray, celebrate victories, learn, and support one another. As we continue into this year, may each of us grow to appreciate our communities more and allow us to grow deeper in our faith with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

¹ Tomlinson, S. (2015, February 5th). February 2014 snowstorm: A look back at the snow, the ice, the misery and the fun. Retrieved from Oregon Live: 

² Crossway Bibles. (2001). The Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News Publishers.

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