Olivia Harris

olivia harrisThe Wesley Student Center and the Wesley United Methodist Church offered me my first chance to really be an adult in the church. While I technically became an adult member of my home Lutheran church follwing my Confirmation in eighth grade, it was hard for me and the people had known me since infancy to really make that leap. I didn’t feel qualified to participate alongside my parents’ peers yet. I was just in high school.

When I arrived at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2011, I knew I wanted to go to church. I just didn’t know where. I’d never church shopped before. I followed some of my friends to the church they were attending on campus, but I didn’t feel connected there. So I just started sleeping in on Sunday mornings instead.

I came to Wesley several months later at the invitation of a friend. “We’re having a Lord of the Rings movie marathon,” she said, and I thought, “how bad could it be?” and took a chance on a new community. The students at Wesley were very purposeful in asking my name and inviting me to participate. Everyone was very cool and very nice. I felt excited to be here.

I kept coming back to see what else these people liked to do. The positive atmosphere of Wesley encouraged me to be open about my faith, my doubts. I was invited to share insights at Bible studies, lead a weeknight worship service, and plan just-for-fun events like Trivia Night. Leading and planning is something I’ve always liked to do, and Wesley taught me how to direct that for God’s work.

Now, back at my home church, I’m volunteering to read lessons in service and I speak up during Bible study in a ring of people much older than me. I feel that no matter where I go in the world, because of the opportunities provided by Wesley Foundation and Church to practice being a Christian and to think-out-loud with peers to better develop my personal sense of God and faith, I will continue to be an active member of the body of Christ.

Thanks to Wesley and all the students, staff, and clergy who make personal growth such as mine possible!