Friday, May 21, 2010

It's All A Gift

:: [Guest post by Ian Clark] ::

According to the American Heart Association website, "approximately 95% of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital."

Sometime between 12:10pm and 12:20 pm on April 14th my world was turned upside down.  During a run over my lunch hour, I went into full cardiac arrest and collapsed.  At 32 years of age I had a heart 32!  This was completely unexpected and the circumstances surrounding my survival are nothing short of miraculous.  

For starters,  I've been a runner all of my adult life and I had completed a 4.2 mile run just two days earlier.  I have never ran over the lunch hour before, but on this day, I thought I would run home during lunch.  I happened to collapse in front of someone's house who just happened to be coming home for lunch, which I'm told this person, Carlos, didn't do on a regular basis.  When he found me, I was not breathing, I had no pulse, and my flesh was blue.  Carlos called for help.  A woman named Gayla was just one block away at a park eating lunch with her husband.  When she heard Carlos yell, the two came as quickly as they could.  Gayla was an administrator and former director of nursing at the local hospital and immediately sprang into action.  Gayla began performing CPR, and ultimately saved my life.  She later told me that I had been without air for at least six to eight minutes.  Experts say brain death starts to occur four to six minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest.  There were several others involved in my rescue including the local ambulance and hospital staff.  Everyday I learn more about these events that make my survival seem more like a miracle.

This challenges me theologically. You see, I've never liked hearing people say, "Everything happens for a reason,"  and I don't think the families of the 95% of cardiac arrest victims that don't survive like it either.  Was I really the recipient of a miracle, or were the hundreds of little things that needed to occur at just the right time and in just the right order for me to survive, just a matter of chance?

The answer is, I don't know.  However, I think there is a more productive way of looking at it.  The apostle James wrote this:
"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1 v16 & 17 TNIV

This event has made a life changing impression on me.  It's all a gift.  My survival is a gift.  My wife, my children, a gift.  My friends, my family, it's all a gift.  Working at Newchapter and working with those of you in the field of college ministry is a gift.

In the same way, for a student, the opportunity to get a college education and to fully experience "college life" is a gift.  Unfortunately, many students are deceived and, as James says, are dragged away by their own evil desire.  College life becomes a period of self-absorption and self-gratification, which in a secular world is perfectly acceptable.  But college ministry offers students something different - the chance to experience the gift of genuine community, where selfish motivation is challenged and personal relationships, accountability, and service to others is put into practice.  It's our job to create environments where this type of community can flourish.  In fact, that is Newchapter's mission; to create living environments designed to foster intentional college community.

We've seen first-hand how important the gift of community is to these students.  According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Ivy Jungle Network, the State of Campus Ministry, the number one reason college students connect with a college ministry is for the opportunity of experiencing authentic community.  In fact, community ranked twice as important as teaching or worship in attracting students to a ministry.

How is your ministry responding to students' desire for authentic community?  Are you offering a life-changing gift to students, or just another option to hang out and meet people?

Ian Clark is married to Crystal Clark (for nearly ten years) and they have 2 children.  He is the Director of Business Development for Newchapter and also serves as an elder at Crossroads Church in Monticello, IL.  You can find him on twitter and facebook or email him at