When I arrived at Georgia Tech as a freshman, I was an ardent atheist. I had been raised as a Hindu in a good family, but as I got older, I found myself struggling; I just couldn’t see the connection between science and religion. At the same time, I was appalled by acts of terrorism being committed by extreme religious sects. Consequently, I began to see religion as a place of division and pain. So in high school, I made it my mission to convince others that God didn’t exist. But God had different plans for me.
During my first semester in college, a friend told me she would pray for me. I told her to go ahead, but I quickly added, “It’s not going to work because God doesn’t exist.” She quietly assured me that a powerful and all-loving God does exist. That began a series of long discussions and friendly debates with her about Christianity.
Something interesting happened in these conversations. The more I tried to disprove Christianity, the more I found myself failing to convince myself. Many of the things my friend said made sense. For example, I had been taught that people had to rely on themselves and their own piety to reach God. But she introduced me to a God who had taken the initiative on his own to reach out to me in my brokenness. At the same time, I started meeting Christians who were such good people and who also seemed incredibly happy. I wanted to have what they had!
Becoming a Christian. At my friend’s suggestion, I began to read the Gospel of Matthew—just fifteen minutes every night. When I got to the last chapter on the resurrection, I was blown away. I concluded that God exists, that Jesus is real, and that I wanted a relationship with him.
A few weeks later, while trying to attend an Episcopalian service, I accidentally ended up at Mass at the Georgia Tech Catholic Center. The homily was about turning our lives over to God because of his deep love for each one of us. At that point, I had no idea what the consecration was, but when the priest lifted up the Host, I realized that I wanted nothing more than to know God. Within two weeks, I was in RCIA, and on Easter 2015, I was baptized, received Holy Communion, and was confirmed.
After my baptism, all I wanted was for other people to know God’s love as I had come to know it. However, because the concept of evangelization doesn’t exist in Hindu communities, I had no idea how to share my faith. So I began to pray about finding a way to share all the joy, peace, and hope I was experiencing.
Sharing My Faith through Love. Soon afterward, I met Stephanie, who came to Georgia Tech with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), a Catholic college outreach to students. Over the next several months, Stephanie helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus by praying with me and sharing her faith and knowledge. She also helped me understand that as Christians, we are called to evangelize by walking toward Jesus with the people around us.
Through our deepening friendship, Stephanie showed me how to give myself to people and share my joy so that they too might find Christ. This is what Jesus had done with his apostles and what they in turn had done with the people they encountered. I realized I’d finally found a way to share the gospel!
College is a time for students to be challenged and make decisions about who they’ll become, decisions that will affect their entire lives and everyone around them. I had experienced firsthand the change that is possible on a college campus. After having learned so much, I knew that Jesus was calling me to be a college missionary. Joining FOCUS, the organization that had been so helpful to me, seemed like the ideal next step.
I accepted an offer from FOCUS to become a missionary and attended their summer training. So many young Catholics were on fire for Jesus and his mission. Why? It was simple: a Christian disciple had been willing to walk with them, and they had experienced Jesus’ love through that person.
Back on Campus. In the fall of 2018, I stepped foot on Georgia Tech’s campus once again. Now, instead of wanting to convince people there wasn’t a God, I wanted them to know how deeply God loves them!
I started leading a Bible study for freshmen. All the students had come from different places. Some went to Sunday Mass every week, while others hadn’t attended regularly in years. Together we would watch movies, study, and go to Mass. I invited them to all the Catholic Center’s events and joined them whenever they were at the dining hall. It was a slow process—but then I saw their faith come to life. Some of them went to Confession after years of being away from the sacrament. One of them came on a mission trip with me to Peru.
The next semester, six of these students decided to lead their own Bible studies and walk with other students on their journey of discipleship. The following year, the women in their Bible study started leading Bible studies for freshmen. In 2020, these freshmen are sophomores and are now leading Bible studies too. There are now about three hundred students in Bible studies, most of which are led by students.
Today I have a new role within FOCUS. The people are different, but the mission is the same. It has always been the same: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). I am certain we will reach this generation if we continue to be faithful in investing in them personally and in showing them how to do what Jesus did.
Srishti Gupta is the FOCUS team director at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. To learn more about FOCUS, go to focusoncampus.org.
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