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Christian Union: The Magazine
September 2, 2021

Stutz ’21 Thankful for Remote Experience

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

Most college students experienced the last academic year staring into laptop screens, suffering through Zoom fatigue, and lamenting limited or no social interaction. Stanford student Rachel Stutz ’21 also took online classes, but was blessed to do it in some of the country’s most scenic locations, living in community, breaking bread with friends, and growing deeper in her faith.

During the 2020-21 academic year, students with CU Caritas, Christian Union’s leadership develop ministry at Stanford, rented houses during three of the university’s four quarters, living in Washington State in the fall, South Carolina in the winter, and Nevada in the spring.

A Rachel StutzStutz, an engineering physics major from Leawood, Kansas, said living and studying together with fellow believers helped her academically, socially, and spiritually. She was also blessed to experience parts of God’s creation that she had never seen before and often meditated on Nehemiah 9:6: “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You.”

Justin Woyak, Christian Union’s senior ministry fellow at Stanford, was proud of how Stutz and the CU Caritas students committed to living in community during the past academic year.

“In a year of such isolation, it was so encouraging to see friendships deepen among these students—probably more so than they would have had they been on campus in a normal year,” he said.

In all three locations, the students attended church together every week, sometimes in person and sometimes online, depending on the location and the state of the pandemic.

“Often, the sermon we heard would spark discussion,” Stutz said. “Hearing my friends’ different perspectives on certain issues really made me think about my own convictions, some of which I’m still reflecting on now.”

Stutz also noted the joy that stemmed from prayer times and the way everyone in the house was eager to support each other in their walks with Christ.

“In South Carolina, we even had morning prayer, where everyone who was awake would gather on the porch and start off the day praying for each other,” she said.

One of the weekly highlights were nightly family-style dinners.

“These dinners were the setting of many lively discussions, including theological ones. More than once, someone would bring up a topic that they’d been thinking about from their own personal study, a Bible course they were a part of, or even the church service we had attended together that week,” recalled Stutz.

As she begins her senior year at Stanford, Stutz is not only grateful for the last year, but also for her overall spiritual growth as a result of being with CU Caritas for the past three years.

“Christian Union has really helped me grow as a leader,” she said. “I entered college anxious about whether I would find a Christian community, but the Lord is faithful, and He provided a group of people who have encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened me.”

“I went from being too nervous to pray out loud freshman year to being someone who could close our large group gatherings in prayer junior year. I've also grown so much in my understanding of the Word throughout my time in CU's Bible courses, and I look forward to how I can put that understanding to use to further the Kingdom in years to come.”

As CU Caritas prepares to greet incoming freshmen in the fall, Stutz is a leader that Woyak is counting on to introduce first-year students to the ministry Christian Union offers with Bible courses, leadership lecture series, and one-on-one mentoring.

“Rachel is about as true and faithful a friend any of these students can have,” he said. “When you ask her for help, she helps. When you invite her to be present for ministry, community, or support, she’s there. She has an others-centeredness that continually refreshes those around her.”

Woyak also noted how the experience of some of CU Caritas leaders living together has fortified the ministry coming after over a year-and-half of COVID-19 related challenges.

“I think their community together this past year is one reason we have a record number of students who have stepped into leadership positions for this upcoming year,” he said. “People love to lead and serve alongside their friends.”

Because there was no freshman outreach campaign last year, Stutz is looking forward to welcoming two entirely new classes to campus this fall.

“Ministry online during this last year and a half has been difficult, but I am hoping that the chance to be in tangible, in-person community with others will draw many new – and old – faces to CU Caritas this coming year. Plus, there are a few faces I’ve only ever seen over zoom, and I’m so excited to meet them face-to-face!”

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