Caroline Capper is Campus Staff at The University of South Carolina
Last week was such a mix of emotions on campus: nervous freshmen moved in from all over the country, leaving their families behind, while excited upperclassmen returned to familiar faces. In college ministry, Welcome Week is one of the busiest, longest, and most important of the year. There’s so much going on and it is our goal to love our campus well and get the word out about RUF.
We have tried a few different techniques over the years. Sometimes we’ve handed out Gatorade to the dehydrated. Other times we’ve tossed packets of ramen noodles to those that haven’t yet figured out how to navigate a grocery store (I was once that kid). This year, we decided to toss out Capri Suns– because who doesn’t like nostalgia? You’re never too old or important for a Capri Sun. No matter what we hand out, we always have information about RUF and ways for them to connect. Some immediately throw the flyer away… but some scan the QR code, find RUF, and along the way, end up finding Jesus. You never know. That is why it’s worth doing.
But, there is one technique that never fails. Rain or shine, this secret weapon will draw students to your table without a doubt. It’s called a dog. And thankfully I have one. His name is Camp (short for Mellencamp) and he loves students. So I slap his RUF bandana on and we head to campus. The sweet spot is found with the students that miss their own dogs. I tell them that Camp can stand in as long as he needs to. He’s our RUF mascot and probably should be on the payroll.
As we were handing out Capri Suns on the first day of class, I was sitting with Camp under our tent, making sure he had enough water. I felt that someone was walking up to him so I looked up to see a girl with the brightest purple hair I have ever seen.
She sweetly asks “can I pet your dog?” I say “of course!” and as she starts to pet Camp, I notice that there is a stream of blood flowing from her knee down to her ankle. I ask if she’s okay and she starts to tell me and Sammy (our Campus Minister) that she fell walking down one of our campus’ treacherous hills. This is when her tears, like her knee, start to flow. Through embarrassment, she says “I don’t know why I’m crying! I’m so sorry.” As she looks to Camp for comfort, she continues saying “I’ve got class in thirty minutes across campus in the science building and I don’t think I can make it.” Thankfully, I remembered that I had parked nearby and offered to give her a ride. The look on her face is one that I’ll never forget. It truly felt like a holy, Spirit filled moment.
I am not a great speed walker but I tried my best to get to my car that was around five minutes away– which is an incredible parking distance when it comes to parking near campus. I told her where I would pick her up and to wait for me there. I wasn’t concerned about not being able to find her (you know, because of the purple hair). Our new female intern, Naomi, walked her down to the pickup spot like any good intern would.
She got in my passenger seat and I realized I didn’t have any bandaids. But I did have leftover napkins from the Wendy’s drive thru and some water which ended up being sufficient. As we drove to the science building, she tried to gather herself. I could see her trying to make sense of how she ended up in my car and why her first day of college was going the way that it was. We only had a few moments to talk but she told me about her parents, her major, her hometown, and how she hasn’t been able to eat solid food the last couple days because she just got her lip pierced.
She thanked me profusely as she grabbed her backpack from the floorboard and stepped out of my car. It was an honor to tell her that it was no big deal and it’s part of my job to take care of students like her. I gave her my number and told her if she ever needs anything, just to shoot me a text.
I don’t tell you this story to boast about some good deed or show you proof of me doing my job. I truly do believe it was the Lord that reminded me how close my car was. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from the purple-haired freshman again. I really hope that I do. Will you pray with me to that end – that she may find a place to belong and hear the Gospel, maybe even for the first time? No matter if it would be her hundredth time hearing the Gospel, we all need to hear it on a daily basis. Our hearts are broken, in need of a Healer. I was deeply reminded of this as I reflected on this quirky little story. Because honestly, we all know that we are walking around with bum ankles and bloody knees. We walk with a limp because our first parents ate the fruit. But here’s the good news– Jesus didn’t come just to hand us a pair of crutches and a pat on the back… or even a car ride. No, He came that we may know life and know it abundantly. He came and died so that we may have hope and look forward to that one day when we will no longer have to limp (Revelation 21:4). Until then, He promises a bruised reed He will not break (Isaiah 42:3). He is for us and He is with us and He loves us, especially my new purple-haired friend.