When only days into the beginning of the winter semester, college students living in residence received the news that the province would be entering a stay-at-home order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As for many across the province, this announcement led to many changes to daily life. For students living on campus this meant classes would continue to be delivered online, indoor community spaces would be temporarily closed during the order, and efforts to serve in the community were not able to happen.
Though at times this was a discouraging situation, many students looking back now see how God used the circumstances surrounding the stay-at-home order to grow their heart for prayer.
With guidelines allowing the opportunity to meet outdoors, students coordinated opportunities to continue meeting for prayer during the stay-at-home order outside, physically distanced, and in groups of five in the parking lot every morning and evening.
In the mornings, groups would focus on different topics like unreached people groups, government leaders, and the staff and faculty at Heritage. While in the evenings, their prayers were always centered around a Bible passage, which would be read and prayed through.
“It was so encouraging to see more and more students coming out and being part of this amazing ministry,” says Shannon Jabs, a Bachelor of Religious Education student who helped coordinate these prayer meetings. “It brought us together in a time when there wasn’t really much we could do ministry wise, while also being helpful in raising our spirits and encouraging us to discipline ourselves to pray in a time of great need.”
Bachelor of Religious Education student Ethan Skinner explains that these prayer meetings have become a such a large part of community life at Heritage not only because of how they have positively impacted the mental health of the students, but how he has seen the students grow in their belief in the power of prayer.
“There are many students who believe that God is literally changing the world through the prayers of His people; that God’s hand is not shortened by the amount of people who are praying (Matt. 18:19-20),” explains Skinner. “Coming together to pray over each other and intercede on behalf of the community has brought us together in a very special way.”
As much as these times of prayer have had a deep effect on the spiritual health of the student community, they have also greatly impacted individual students in how they have strengthened their faith and given them a new opportunity to treasure prayer more.
Tori Lesniara, a Bachelor of Religious Education – Intercultural Studies student, explains that as a student learning and growing in her love for God, that her heart has found great comfort by sharing what she has learned in the classroom in praise and petition through prayer with her brothers and sisters on campus.
“While we haven’t been able to worship together as frequently as we’d like, together we are learning the discipline and delight of drawing close to the One who continues to hold us,” says Lesniara. “We come together as children of God, weary because of the circumstances, to pray to our Father who has been faithful to give us rest in Him.”
For Jabs, these times of prayer provided a reminder of the importance of prayer in the lives of believers, while being a source of personal peace in the midst of the stay-at-home order.
“There were many times when I didn’t feel like going out in the cold and, even though there were many times when it was chilly and uncomfortable, it always encouraged me and made me feel peace and joy in the Lord’s presence,” explains Jabs. “I don’t know how we would have gotten through the lockdown without the Lord’s grace and faithfulness, and it was so wonderful to seek His face as a community and be reminded of our great need for Him.”