Student Perspective on Community in Quarantine

by Josh Castillo, Computer Engineering student at Concordia University

 

It was during a weekly InterVarsity large group gathering when I first heard that Concordia university was going to close. Someone had tested positive for the coronavirus just a few blocks from us. Almost immediately, the summer travel plans I had been looking forward to were cancelled.

 

It was all too easy to be impatient with God. Not being able to be physically present with people made me feel more lonely than ever. Despite this, I found myself avoiding social media and struggling to communicate through technology. It has been a constant battle to fight the urge to withdraw from community.

 

Remaining Connected

 
But I am relearning that God has provided and will continue to provide. He gives and takes away, and I’m simply called to entrust my plans into his hands.
 
My InterVarsity community has been particularly valuable because we have been able to study together, chat and continue doing life together. Being known and cared for by my community has really helped, and I appreciate having people I can be comfortable with supporting me.

 
 

A Call to Compassion

 
During this time, I have learnt to be grateful for friends, family and InterVarsity—particularly for the people holding me accountable to regular bible study, productivity, and healthy living. During MARKnest (a week-long, online Bible conference on the Gospel according to Mark), students, alumni, volunteers and staff spent an entire week meeting Jesus in Scripture and being challenged everyday by the life that he lived.
 
Being immersed in Scripture, I found myself identifying with the disciples who initially would rather help themselves than feed the people for whom Jesus had compassion. The disciples didn’t always understand what Jesus was doing. I was refreshed seeing Jesus’ compassion, particularly in his interactions with the disciples and the masses.
 
I’m seeking to grow in compassion like Jesus, particularly in the way I interact with people. I want to confront my tendency to satisfy my desires for comfort by being in community digitally and by seeking obedience rather than being held back in fear.
 

Adjusting to a New Normal

 
Although a lot of things have changed, I’ve been encouraged to see our InterVarsity fellowship step up to meet students and their needs. Manuscript Bible study groups resumed online, more people started attending our daily morning prayer meetings via zoom and study groups were formed to keep each other accountable and productive. I was seeing a group of people caring and looking out for each other.
 
One thing I and a lot of our community continue to struggle with, however, is staying focused, disciplined and productive in our studies. It seems to become more and more difficult as the days go by, and along with that, feelings of loneliness are as real as ever.

 
 

Lending a Helping Hand

 
We can all help each other in this by building an accountability system or simply sending a message of encouragement. It’s one of the easiest and most helpful ways we can be reaching out to care for each other during this time. I’m still learning what it looks like to serve in this time, and I’m encouraged by Jesus’ words: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

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Josh Castillo is a Computer Engineering student and a member of the InterVarsity undergraduate fellowship at Concordia University. In 2019, Josh was selected to be a student speaker at World Assembly, a conference hosted by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

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