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Student-led Prayer Enhances Ski Safari 

by eileen scott, contributing writer

Christian Union Nova’s annual Ski Safari in Upstate New York offered Princeton students a holy space where the Spirit moved and attendees bonded through fellowship and fervent prayer. In late January, approximately seventy students and Christian Union faculty attended the five-day event at Camp of the Woods in Speculator, New York.

Nicole Williams ’22 discerned the palpable presence of God at Ski Safari. “Many of us, in our devotion time, felt God highlighting the importance of prayer,” said Williams. “As friends shared with one another, it seemed to affirm what God was speaking to us individually. Many of my peers had a hunger for prayer that they previously did not have.”


WilliamsSmallFor example, a short devotional about the importance of intercession and praying for the lost evolved into two hours of deep prayer and repentance. “It absolutely wrecked us,” said Williams, describing how the students prayed through tears of sorrow over failing to live out the Great Commission. 

“I had a vision where Jesus was on the cross and I was literally the one piercing His side,” said Williams. “In that moment, I became so aware that it was my sin, my rejection of Him that put Him on the cross. I became so aware of my brokenness.”

Brian Foster ’21 attended the ski trip to relax, spend time with friends, and meet new people. But he, too, could sense something deeper happening. “There seemed to be a sense of revival brewing and a lot of people felt it,” he said. 

Christopher Heslep, Christian Union’s ministry director at Princeton, said the faculty’s decision to encourage students to take leadership of the prayer initiatives produced much fruit and a greater sense of unity.

“The students have found an identity in leadership, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” he said. “There was also a sense that students were spending much more time together than normal. Not isolating themselves, but building relationships.”

The momentum of the Ski Safari continued into the spring semester when the students returned to campus. Heslep said attendance kept increasing at the daily 12-1 (noon to 1 p.m.) prayer hour, right up until the campus closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freshman Lance Yoder did not attend the Ski Safari, but was inspired to pray and worship with others on campus at the start of the second semester. Yoder and other students gathered regularly to pray for Princeton University and for God to move on campus. He also participated in a weekly prayer group at Forbes Residential College.

According to Heslep, ministry staff and student leaders felt that God was preparing the students for something.

MountainTopSmall“Little did we know that He was preparing us for this,” said Heslep referring to the spread of the coronavirus and the subsequent closing of campus. The Ski Safari experience and prayer gatherings on campus set the stage for a deep unity of prayer among the students, even after they went home to continue classes online.

Meeting over Google Hangouts, students continue their daily noontime prayer meetings. Together, they intercede for each other, for nonbelievers to come to Christ, and to stay focused and disciplined while they finish classes at home.

“My prayers are for us as a ministry, and for Christians as a whole, to take this time to reflect on our relationship with God and mend the areas that seem to be broken,” said Foster, whose prayer times are even having an impact within his own home.

“My dad has been eavesdropping off-camera on some of the sessions, and I’ve been able to talk to him afterward about the devotionals,” he said. Other initiatives include a Princeton prayer chain created by Yoder, where students pray for one another when they are not meeting online. The freshman also started a Bible study with some of his high school friends.

Despite the disruption and grief caused by COVID-19, Yoder and members of Nova continue to pray and study the Word from home and are looking forward to seeking and serving the Lord on campus once again.