Cierra McFadden is a personable, intelligent, hard-working student at Towson University, majoring in Speech Pathology and Audiology. Life in college can be crazy: a heavy course load, part-time job, preparing for the future. Yet Cierra enjoys the freedom of college, the ability to set your own schedule, and the diversity of the college crowd. As she navigates through life as a young woman in college, Cierra is guided by her faith in Jesus.
Walking in faith is not new to the McFadden family. Cierra recognizes the great treasure she has in her godly parents, Chuck and Tanya. They are an anchor for her and a daily encouragement. Any day of the week, no matter what, Cierra knows her mom and dad are ready to encourage her with a story from the Bible or a memory verse. She remembers her family’s weekly habit of two-hour Bible studies together when she was in middle school. The example of her parents’ daily habits of Bible study and pray are a bedrock of strength for Cierra and her siblings, Imani and Isaiah.
As a Christian, Cierra’s worldview can sometimes conflict with that of her peers. While Cierra clings to the truth of the Bible and seeks the Lord in prayer, her classmates are more offhanded about life in general. There’s an apathy about life issues and the truth is found in the latest textbooks, not the Bible. Life is about partying and relationships are for pleasure. Cierra recognizes that college students today struggle to be motivated in their lives. Easy answers and experiences provided by the Internet and social media have bled away their drive and left them passive and indecisive. Students often spend their time online rather than getting outside for some fun and exercise.
Cierra observes that this situation is an opportunity for youth ministry. Teens in church are looking for a chance to interact socially and build relationships. They need an environment where they can talk to peers in a safe space and discover how Jesus would’ve handled different situations. Teens need to be shown how to use the Bible to find solutions to their questions and problems. A classroom-type setting where a teacher informs them of the correct answers in life tends to shut them down, but a Bible-driven social environment would feed them emotionally and spiritually.
If college-aged Cierra could speak to her younger self, she would say, “It always gets better. Obstacles are a test of your faith. God has a plan for you; don’t sweat it, don’t overthink it.” Cierra can look back at challenges she faced in high school and see how she has grown in her faith. Bullied in ninth grade, she struggled with migraines. She tried to figure out her problems on her own; she didn’t pray, feeling that the problem was too little for God to be concerned about. Her faith was seriously challenged. But God was faithful and provided answers to her struggles.
Cierra responded much differently when her place in the Speech Pathology/Audiology program at Towson was challenged after freshman year. There are only seventy spots and each year they are awarded to only the top students. After her first year, her place was in jeopardy. Shaken, Cierra took comfort from Geoffrey Golden’s song, All Things Get Better. Then a statement by Pastor Lee stayed with her, he said, “No matter what, in anything, thank God and pray. You don’t know what he has planned.” A big change took place in her heart; for the first time she thanked God in the face of defeat. Cierra felt free to move forward in faith and sought placement at other schools. Again this June she awaits the decision which will allow her to continue in the program. In the meantime, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University in Baltimore are both eager to receive her!
Cierra recalls her father’s admonition to “Never be a thermometer that changes temperature based on its environment. Be a thermostat that is proactive and sets the temperature for its environment.” If her environment offers her partying, textbook “truths”, and what seems to be failure, Cierra has already set her thermostat on the Lord. She is continually learning to be thankful and be aware of the Lord at work in her life, no matter what her environment may be doing.