Make your relationship with Jesus foremost in your life. This was the core take-away message of John Brown University’s Spiritual Emphasis Week, held Sept. 4-6.
From a scene of life after the party in the parable of the prodigal son to a barkeeper’s tale of Hosea’s unconditional love for Gomer, Acts of Renewal sought to speak into students’ lives.
The speakers, Jim Shores and Carol Anderson-Shores, aim to connect with students and offer advice to them through individual conversations, Shores said.
“We can provide a different voice about these issues and a safe place for people to share their struggles since we are only here for a short time,” he said.
Their ministry started when Anderson-Shores presented a skit at Harvard University, she said. More schools asked her to come and to bring more stories.
Now the couple continues to expand their repertoire to match requests for various topics.
“Humor resonates with college students,” Anderson-Shores said. “Entertainment provides a different avenue of speaking to them rather than simply lecturing them. The stories are relevant and engage them at a deeper level.”
When they are not travelling around the country, the couple lives in Ashville, N.C. with their teenage sons.
In the early days of their ministry, they raised the boys on the road. Now, however, they leave them with friends since they have more commitments at school.
“It’s doable,” Shores said. “It’s harder on us as the parents than on the kids. It always breaks my heart some to drive away from them.”
Anderson-Shores added that the boys have had a variety of opportunities from travelling with their parents, such as going on a cruise or visiting the Gentry Safari during their last time at the University.
The couple’s most recent visit to Siloam Springs marked the fifth time they have come to the University.
They spoke in three chapel services and at smaller gatherings in the evenings.
The first day in chapel centered around the idea of forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is not all about the other person,” Anderson-Shores told the students. “Forgiving other people is about setting the prisoner free and then realizing that the prisoner is you.”
That evening, the couple provided tips about communicating with the opposite sex. They reminded students that God created men and women differently, and thus do not always process or share things the same way.
The session encouraged students to talk with their boyfriend or girlfriend about how they are doing with communication in their relationship.
The next morning in chapel looked at how to deal with stress. The couple used their dramas to build a list of simple reminders for combatting feelings of anxiety:
1. This moment is not the end of your life.
2. Jesus is still at work, even when you do not see how.
3. Utilize the plumb line of prayer to keep perspective on God.
4. Rest, in accordance with God’s gift of Sabbath.
5. Reach out to others and live in community.
In the evening, Shores spoke to men, sharing his testimony of transition from the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” lifestyle. God changed him both spiritually and physically as Shores turned to him in daily devotions.
During the same time, Anderson-Shores shared with women about body image issues. She reminded them beauty is more than just physical qualities. True beauty comes from the inside character.
On their last morning, the chapel service focused in on the heart of the matter: allowing God to transform the lives of his people.
Shores reminded the students that even when they choose to turn away from God and go after other gods, God’s love for them never ends.
Their last piece focused on the idea that Christians do not need to try to bear all the weight of their own lives.
“In the midst of our complicated lives, we can lose the living sense of God’s presence,” Shores concluded. “But it is a life-transformational truth. God is our Abba Father, our Savior, and our Lord and he desires to be in relationship with us.”
Although the Acts of Renewal ministry began with college students, the couple now speaks to a wide variety of audiences. Shores said they are frequently encouraged to hear stories of how God used their dramas to help change peoples’ lives.
“God can pierce hearts through our ministry,” Anderson-Shores said. “We just desire to be what God uses to start people on the road to healing.”