When I came to college, there were a lot of things that I didn't know, like that a great friendship combined with a spider infestation would change the course of my life.
I met my friend Sarah during our freshman year at Allegheny College, and sophomore year I ended up living on the very back corner of campus. This meant that there were bugs and critters all the time, which I thought would be fine, until I ended up with a whole bunch of spiders in my room! And that's how I knew I needed to move out.
Sarah was living in the Lighthouse, which is the women's Christian house on campus, and the bed next to hers was empty. I was not a Christian at the time, but I needed a bed so badly that I was like, “That's fine.” I just needed to get out of where I was living.
Living in the Lighthouse was a good experience, but at the end of the year, I still wasn’t sure what I thought about Christianity. I ended up moving out of the house and into another living situation, where I was living without the guidance and love of Christians around me. I struggled a lot and felt really alone in that next couple of months. Afterwards, I decided that I was going to take a semester off, but not before I tried to get some kind of help. And so I ended up talking to our campus minister, Mollie.
When I left campus, I took a Bible from the Lighthouse and basically spent my time away in God's presence, focusing on what life would be like when I got back to campus.
I didn't grow up in a Christian household, so I didn't know a lot about who Jesus was or what Jesus did. I just knew the stereotypes about Christians. But I got to a point in my life where it felt like I kept making decisions that I thought were good for me, but they'd end up making me feel alone and broken. I could see how Jesus was everything that people talked about, someone who was perfect. A savior. And I knew that I didn’t have to do this by myself.
Then Jubilee happened.
I remember one specific moment. The speaker was like, “If you're ready to give your life to Jesus, come to the front right now and we'll have somebody pray for you.” And I remember sitting next to Sarah thinking, “I really want to get up, but I don't want to interrupt this whole line of people on the way out.” After a while of sitting I decided to go for it and said, “Sarah, I need to go up.”And she walked up with me, and there’s this picture of us hugging and crying and praying together. That was a new beginning for me.
Now Sarah and I are back together in the Lighthouse. Our senior year in the middle of Covid is really strange, but it's also been a huge gift to live together again. It also helps because I’m doing my senior project on Christian environmentalism, trying to educate younger Christians on the importance of creation care in their own spiritual journeys, and Sarah has been a good person to bounce ideas off of.
This summer, I got accepted for LDW, or Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness, which is a CCO project in the middle of Wyoming. I won’t be able to avoid the spiders there, but that’s fine with me! Jesus is with me, and I know he’ll lead me every step of the way.
—Mandy Hernandez, Allegheny College 2021 | April 2021