Connecting you to God’s work through Cru
How Patricia found Jesus on the Internet.
"Is there a God?" Patricia Calderon typed into her computer. Ask Jeeves, The Internet search engine, boasts the ability to find the answer to any question. This was just one of many search engines Patricia frequently used to find all kinds of information, from news to music. But could it really tell her about God?
Her search started as a search for prayer. Her high-school friend Alicia Huey was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Patricia wanted to help her, to pray for her. But she didn't know how. Patricia's mother, drawing from her religious background, suggested she should pray to St. Jude, although their family had not been to church in years.
So Patricia looked for St. Jude's prayer on the Internet. "I would look at the screen and then bow my head and try to pray, then look at the screen again to check. But I was getting the words wrong," she remembers, recalling frustration and doubt.
Next she called a prayer hotline. She listened intently to the man, especially after he told her his name was Jude. "He told me truth," the 5-foot-2-inch student remembers. "He told me that God loved me, that God wanted to spend eternity with me," she said. "I thought, That's really nice theology, but I don't know if I even believe in God."
So immediately after she hung up the phone with Jude, she was back online. "Is there a God?" she asked into cyberspace.
The first site she opened was www.everystudent.com, an evangelistic effort by Campus Crusade for Christ. Just a month away from starting college at the University of California-Davis, she knew by the address that the site would apply to her. But she blinked in amazement when she saw the first article. It was titled, "Is There A God?"
"It freaked me out," she remembers about looking at the entire list of articles. "Every single question I had, it was all right there."
She started reading, frozen to her computer. The minutes turned to hours: "I read through the whole site, even the articles for guys and the one about eating disorders."
She read about knowing God, and she read about how to become a Christian. "With the St. Jude prayer, I was trying so hard to get the words right," she remembers. "But when I read that God doesn't care about the specific words, He cares about our hearts, it was so freeing. So I just prayed, 'Yeah, what it says on the screen, God, I want that; I want to know You.'"
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of online Americans use the Internet to perform spiritual and religious activities, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But Patricia's story is an example of how God is using the Internet to reach young people today. An America Online survey reported that 73 percent of American teenagers surf the Net five or more days a week and 53 percent go online every day.
It was early in the morning when Patricia invited Christ into her heart, with tears streaming down her face. At 2:49 a.m., she sent an e-mail to Ana Arias, one of 60 Campus Crusade staff members linked through the EveryStudent.com site. Once she left for college, Patricia feared that something might happen to her mom. "If I pray hard enough," Patricia wrote, "do you think she'll be OK?"
Ana e-mailed back the next day, assuring Patricia that being honest with God about her fear was a good thing, that she should give all her fears to God and trust Him with the future.
"He never shows us the whole future of our lives," Ana wrote, "for if He did, we would not have to trust, we would not have to live a life of faith in Him. He only shows us the next step."
Patricia's next step was college, and one of the first people she met was a student involved with Campus Crusade. She also showed up at the first meeting for the campus group.
"It was a praise night," Patricia remembers. "I was crying the whole time. As we were singing, I felt joy from my head to my feet. I thought, I've been in choir most of my life, but I've never felt like this before."
She filled out a contact card during the meeting, and the following week junior Leslie came to her door. The two became fast friends, and Patricia joined Leslie's Bible study. Within a year, Patricia moved into Leslie's apartment with four other young women. Community, she discovered, was important for her growth as a Christian.
"I struggle with being independent," says Patricia, "because that's how I came to Christ: It was all on my own, just me and God. It's easy to think I can still do it all on my own."
Leslie was a big help. "Patricia is a really smart girl," the now 22-year-old graduate says, "and she doesn't make decisions on a whim. She also has a huge faith that just keeps growing. If something challenges her faith, she addresses it right away instead of just shrugging it off."
Now a junior at UC-Davis majoring in communications, Patricia's life is filled with classes, textbooks and research papers. But she also finds time to learn more about God, soaking up biblical archaeology and investigating other religions. "I want to know what other people think," she says, "so I can know what to say to them."
Every Wednesday, Leslie and Patricia set aside an hour together to talk about God and life, and they frequently use that time to walk around campus and start up spiritual conversations with their peers. One day they talked with people sitting at literature booths on campus, including Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. "We got them to realize some of the things they believe that aren't consistent," says Patricia. "But it was exhausting."
When she's not talking with people face to face, Patricia often talks to friends online, using instant messaging. She keeps in touch with her friend Adam this way, and frequently talks to him about God.
"After I became a Christian," Patricia explains, "Adam asked me every single question he could think of, trying to shake my faith. But I always had an answer. So I guess he'll always have this weird Christian friend. Or maybe," she adds, laughing, "he'll become a weird Christian guy."
Patricia goes online to check her Spanish grade, then checks the news and updates her weblog, an online diary. Besides becoming a Christian through the Internet, she says her first miracle also happened online, when she was trying to register for classes. All the courses she needed were full. "I just prayed, 'God, I really need to get into these classes,'" she recalls. "Then I checked again and there was one spot left in all of them."
Patricia first met God through the computer, and spends hours in cyberspace. But when she unplugs, she carries these online lessons to the world around her. She still might ask Jeeves a question, but she doesn't settle for the Internet butler. She knows now that she can ask God directly. He answers.
You can contact the writer at Becky.Hill@ccci.org.