by Bethany Priest, Student Public Relations Writer
When Colette Sweers enrolled at Cedarville University in 2017, she wanted to trade her ticket to Ohio for a ticket to Liberia in West Africa and her class schedule for a mission. She was confident God had called her as a missionary, and she was impatient to go, but she had much to learn before she was ready to follow her calling.
During Sweers’ senior year of high school, her life trajectory changed. Her plans to enter the armed forces, which she had been working toward for several years, were set aside when she believed God was warming her heart toward international missions, not the military.
When a missionary from Liberia contacted her and offered her a position, she thought her plans were set. She would have her own ministry to lead and a place to live and work — all she had to do was get there.
“Everything in my heart said ‘I’m going to the missions field; God is calling me to the missions field,’” Sweers said. “So one of the worst days of my life was the day I told my parents, ‘I’m going to take a year off school to go into the missions field,’ and they said, ‘No.’”
She followed her parents’ wishes to attend college, but her head and heart weren’t in it. She planned to get her Liberian visa and go as soon as she turned 18, regardless of what her parents said. “It was my stubbornness,” said Sweers. “When God said go to the mission field, I heard ‘now’, when really he was saying ‘someday.’”
Sweers wasn’t at Cedarville very long before God showed her she was exactly where he wanted her to be.
On the Saturday night of freshman orientation, Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville University, addressed the incoming students. She sat in the front row, 50 feet from the podium.
“Dr. White looked directly at me as he said, ‘You are here for a reason. You belong here at Cedarville University. God has you here for a reason,’” she related. “I looked up at God and audibly said, ‘No, I’m not.’”
After the message, she spoke with White, breaking into tears as she shared her frustrations. “He turned to me and said, ‘I think your problem is that you need to submit to the will of the Holy Spirit, because you do belong here, you do have a place here, and God wants you stay.’” In their conversation White shared a statement that became Sweers’ slogan for her freshman year: “A call to go is a call to prepare. Colette, you are here to prepare.”
Sweers continued to battle with the Lord in her heart and, slowly but surely, she began to realize the God-given wisdom of Dr. White’s words.
She met often with her advisor, Dr. Matthew Bennett, assistant professor of missions and theology. Sweers explained that Bennett was an important influence and an encouragement as she struggled with her calling. “He helped me through everything and was patient, kind and really longsuffering.”
She completed fall semester, returned in the spring, and at the end of her freshman year, she began a five-year track toward a Master of Divinity degree.
Colette spent this past summer on the missions field in Limbaži, Latvia, but returned to Cedarville with a heart ready to learn what God has to teach her next.
“There’s something special about this place; how God is working amongst the students,” she said. “There is a beauty in this being a training ground for people who will be going out into the rest of the world. God is working here in the classes, in chapel, on the campus in everyday interactions. I’m just honored to be here.”
Encouragement and guidance can transform a person’s college experience. For Sweers, it has been the support of Cedarville University faculty that has spurred her on to prepare for her calling: long-term pioneer missions. She now finds joy in her studies at Cedarville, knowing she is being prepared to reach the unreached with the Gospel.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,193 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.