Feeling Whole Again
Sarah Jayne Kennelly was living a double life during her freshman year. Some saw her as a good Christian girl. Others thought she was just another fun-loving college student. She shares how authentic community and meaningful friendships helped her discover her true identity in Christ. And now she plans to pursue God's purpose for her life during a two-year internship in Vermont.
Over the past four years as a student at Appalachian State University, my life, my heart, and my soul have been completely changed. Tenfold.
Coming into my freshman year (perhaps like many other students), I carried with me a lot of hurt, pain, and anxiety. The root of these feelings was bitterness. I was bitter about leaving the comfort of my hometown in upstate New York and moving to a small town outside of Charlotte the day after I graduated high school. I was bitter at how I seemingly faced more challenges coming from a single-parent, low-income household than those surrounding me.
I was also bitter about constantly trying and failing to find community in the Church. I never felt like I was wanted there. And I witnessed my mom constantly rejected by Christian communities because she didn't have a husband alongside her.
Despite this hurt, I was still eager to make God a central part of my life in college. But it would be a challenge.
That's because during my freshman year, I felt like two people in the same body attempting to find community, love, and acceptance. While half of me was working at finding meaningful connections in various campus ministries and bible studies, the other half of me was trying to fit the mold of what I thought it meant to be a college student.
My life became a balancing act. I wanted to make sure I seemed like a “good Christian girl” to the women in my bible study. But I also wanted to be seen as a “fun college student” to the other half of my world.
I was deeply afraid of being vulnerable. I didn’t want my friends-that-went-out to know who I was with my good-Christian-people, and vice versa. It was exhausting.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." — Matthew 11:28
In the second semester of my freshman year, a friend in my art class invited me to Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a campus ministry that I hadn’t been to before. I went to RUF’s large group gathering in the student union. Instantly, I felt incredibly loved, welcomed, and accepted. Not only did the people want to know my name, but they also wanted to know who I was. Not the person I was trying to be, but who God intentionally made me to be.
RUF became a place I could find deep rest, even at points where I was taking 18 hours of classes and had seven part-time jobs. RUF provided me with friends and mentors who wanted to sit with me in my pain and rejoice with me in my successes. RUF proved to be a place that served me and allowed me to serve others in various roles.
I’ve been so blessed to be able to host a group of women in my own apartment to develop deep, lasting, vulnerable relationships that I had craved so deeply my freshman year. I've hosted art-making events. And I've even traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn., to work with an incredible Christian organization, Hope for the Inner City.
It was at Hope that I was able to truly see the ways that I could work intentionally with and serve communities for the rest of my life. For me, using art as a means of connecting with people is something I discovered while working at a screen printing studio that was open to the community of Chattanooga.
This experience helped lead me to a better understanding of God's plans for my life.
Seeing More Clearly
RUF not only helped me see how deep my soul was longing for a community that sought Jesus, it also encouraged me to attend and invest in a local church. theHeart provided a place for me to learn more of who God is, a place to bring my friends that felt ill towards Christianity, and a place to serve through Kids Ministry.
"In a culture where nearly 90 percent of Christians coming into college leave the church, RUF and theHeart played major roles in God reaching me and making me feel whole again." — Sarah Jayne Kennelly
Through all of these opportunities that God so graciously put in my life, I began seeing more clearly His intentions for me in my life and my role in the Church.
I am so thrilled to have been accepted for a two-year internship with RUF. I will be serving college students at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont.
This opportunity includes reaching students with the gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping them to serve Him, not only on their campus, but throughout all of life, just as RUF did for me at App State. I will be caring for students relationally, hosting bible studies, planning events to provide a space of rest and joy for students, and sharing the gospel with them.
Asking For Support
Another huge part of my job is to find people to prayerfully and financially support me. I would love to invite you to prayerfully consider partnering with me through your financial support. My goal is to raise 85 percent of my total budget, or $35,700, by July 20, in order to move to Burlington. All gifts are tax-deductible, as RUF is certified 501(c)(3) organization.
To help financially support Sarah Jayne, please visit www.givetoruf.org/donate/1858.
Support Sarah Jayne
If you would like to talk to Sarah Jayne more about this amazing opportunity, or if you would like to be become a prayer partner, or be added to her mailing list, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (585)727-3719.