Finding another Moody grad in Rockford, especially amid the more conservative Baptist circles, is like finding a diamond in your jewelry box.
I knew I was taking that risk when I decided to follow in my parent’s footsteps and attend Moody Bible Institute.
At my high school/church, there were only a few “officially” endorsed colleges, and Moody was not among them.
Moody was and still is hailed as a liberal college where drinking, dancing, and debauchery is king. (Legalistic, cult-forming, brain-washing, uneducated, and uninformed lies – let me just state right here and now.)
In fact, my high school principal asked if it was okay for him to omit where I – the valedictorian – was going to college when he read my name from the stage.
I flatly told him, “No, it’s not okay. If you don’t say it, I will.”
I had lived and breathed legalistic fundamentalism my entire scholastic life. When I set foot, as a high school sophomore, on MBI’s bustling Chicago campus, everything felt poised to change. The air crackled with enthusiasm.
I spent the weekend orientation meeting other prospective students. There were kids from public school in awe of going to a college where God was mentioned in the daily curriculum. There were non-denominationals, Lutherans, Anglicans, Mennonites, and many, many more. There were kids from mega-churches, country farms, overseas, and inner-cities.
There were smiles at every turn, and I felt swept up by the sound of whooshing Chicago traffic along the college sidewalks. I envisioned myself in a high-rise dorm, storming the underground tunnels in the dead of winter, and reflecting quietly in the woodsy parks embedded in the big city college.
Over the weekend, I went to chapel, tagged along on a Practical Christian Ministry assignment in Cabrini Green, and met scores of other Christian teenagers who weren’t legalistic in the least. I sat in classes where the professors snagged my attention for the whole hour. I was disappointed when the buzzer rang announcing the end of classes.
I spent the night in a high-rise dorm with girls who made me laugh so hard, I cried. By the time I met my parents back at the River North Hotel, I had already decided. It was like God had handed me this giant gift, this treasure, and I had instant peace about enrolling as a student in two short years.
My years at Moody are among the most precious time in my life.
For the first time, I learned about God away from the surface, the external, the right-and-wrong rules. I learned about a true relationship with Jesus Christ. I learned what I believed and why.
I participated in ministry – real, life-changing ministry. I led Sunday School classes, tutored Hispanic children in deteriorated neighborhoods, ministered to female inmates at the Cook County Jail, and spent time on my knees praying with unwed mothers at the massive Cook County Hospital.
Say what you will about big city temptations – a big city offers ministry opportunities like no other.
Moody prepares students and lifeguards them into the ministry waters, even as freshmen. They don’t spend four years force-feeding and then thrusting students into a harsh, real world with no ministry experience.
Moody excels at providing real-world ministry experience.
If it isn’t obvious already, I spent my four year at Moody deep-breathing, after nearly suffocating to death in the staid halls of IFB prison. I was a free woman in the most amazing city in the world.
I’ve been back in Rockford for eight years now. In that time, the only other Moody grad I’ve encountered is my mom.
When Alice and her family showed up at Mom’s church, the pastor announced they were Moody grads. Mom’s antennae quivered happily, and almost instantly, she and Alice were fast friends.
In short order, Mom introduced me to Alice, via her blog. We started out on how-are-you’s and have progressed to a frantic, writer-y, e-mail relationship that is a continual high point in my life.
Last night, we went out to dinner at Olive Garden. We stayed so long; they practically had to kick us out.
Now, I have no problem imagining we’d still be friends if Alice had gone to Maranantha, Northland, Bob Jones University, Pensacola, Pillsbury, Ambassador, Crown, or Hyles-Anderson (although the thought of Alice there makes me smile). I’ve friends from all those learning institutions who I respect and love dearly.
But there’s just something about a sister Moody grad.
It’s made even more interesting, because Alice didn’t grow up as an IFB. She’s just now navigating the trails where I became an expert tracker. Every so often, she’ll throw questions at me and ask “Why do Baptists do this?” Lately, she bestowed on me the title of Baptist Translator.
I plan to put that on my resume. Just FYI.
We barely talk about Moody. It’s just an unspoken, underlying gratefulness for our education and unique ministry experience that permeates our conversation. Your house rests on a strong foundation, but how often do you reflect on it?
Alice’s friendship has been a joy to me, and the fact she is a sister Moody grad is really just icing on the cake.
But that icing is oh-so-delicious. Sort of like something you might find in a bakery. In Chicago. The best city in the world.
Not that I’m biased or anything.