by As told to Michele (Cummings) Solomon '91
Cedarville University desires not only to inform students, but to transform lives. You’ll see that evidenced all across campus — from biblical integration in each classroom to meaningful conversations in the residence halls. But perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in chapel.
Over the course of their approximately 1,000 days on Cedarville’s campus, students will attend hundreds of chapel services. While students collectively hear the same message, God may use a particular message in a deep, meaningful way to speak to an individual student. For some, it may be a call to pursue God more vigorously. For others, it may be a challenge to trust God in a deeper way. And for still others, it may be recognizing for the first time the need to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, a life truly transformed.
Read as some of our alumni share their most impactful chapel memories.
Abide in Me
Lisa (Steele) Wiggershaus ’86 – Warren Wiersbe has had a longstanding relationship with Cedarville University, dating back to James T. Jeremiah’s presidency. He spoke in chapel at Cedarville numerous times, no doubt making an impact on countless students with his gifted speaking from God’s Word. For one alumna, Lisa (Steele) Wiggershaus ’86, Wiersbe’s words became a pivotal moment that changed the trajectory of her life and still speaks to her today. (To read about Wiersbe’s recent extraordinary gift to Cedarville, see page 34.)
I was a freshman sitting in the Jeremiah Chapel in 1982, looking ahead at life and trying to decide which way I would go. The speaker that day was Warren Wiersbe, and his message from John 15 spoke directly to me: “Abide in Me.” Dr. Wiersbe painted a picture of the strength and joy we have in Christ if we stay close, coupled with the warning, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” These words — this message — forever changed the trajectory of my life.
Life is not pain free. We are pruned by God so we will “bear more fruit.” I was a freshman then; now I am a grandmother. I can look back to see the graciousness of God in my college years; throughout our marriage, especially during Tom’s (’84) bouts with cancer; in career changes; and in rearing and advising our now married children, Heidi and Erich. Almost 37 years and all of these experiences later, the core of it all has always been, “Abide in Me.” I haven’t always. Thankfully, He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Matt. 28:20) and is our great High Priest who understands us and wants us to draw near (Heb. 4:16).
These are priceless truths. I am forever thankful for them and for Dr. Wiersbe, who spoke truth into my life so many years ago.
— Sarah (Mattke) Garland '97
William (Butch) Davis ’92 – Bruce Wilkinson, one of the world’s foremost Christian speakers and best-selling author of The Prayer of Jabez, spoke at Cedarville in January 1992 as part of the Winter Enrichment Conference. He spoke on Joshua and his desire to serve the Lord all his days. His messages touched students’ lives deeply that week, with hundreds coming forward to make a commitment. One of those students was William (Butch) Davis ’92.
I’ll never forget the impact that Bruce Wilkinson had on me from Winter Enrichment Conference my senior year. At the beginning of the week, Dr. Wilkinson placed three chairs on the chapel stage and left them there all week as a visual.
- Chair No. 1 represented Joshua and his famous statement, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). He chose to follow the Lord no matter what.
- Chair No.2 represented the people in Joshua 24:31 and Judges 2:7, those who had only known of the work of the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel.
- Chair No. 3 represented the people in Judges 2:10, who “did not know the Lord or the works that the Lord had done for Israel.” Later in Judges 2:13, we learn how the people abandoned the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
Dr. Wilkinson’s challenge was this: “Which chair are you sitting in?” Are you in Joshua’s chair, committed to following the Lord? Or are you in chair No. 2? Are you only seeing what the Lord did in your parents’ lives and the generation before you, but you really aren’t pursuing God with everything yourself? Or are you in chair No. 3? You aren’t even interested in serving the Lord. He drove home that whichever chair we were in, most likely the generation to follow us would naturally fit into the chair next to us unless at some point a major decision was made to pursue God intentionally.
The impact for me was seeing myself sitting squarely in chair No. 2 and what that meant for generations behind me, my future children, specifically. If I didn’t make God my highest priority, my kids only would have heard stories and potentially not seen God’s hand directly and as a result, could potentially end up in that third chair, not interested in the things of God at all.
I had never been a “go forward” kind of guy, but that night my heart was so stirred that I did. I made the commitment to truly align my focus on God once and for all. By God’s grace, my wife, Dawn
(Hicks) ’90 and I, along with our three children, have been blessed to be used together as a family in furthering the Gospel and His Kingdom.
— Marianne (Palmer) Schuck '97
Fear God, Not Man
Mark Hershey ’07 – Mark Vroegop ’93, Lead Pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, spoke in Cedarville’s chapel in August 2006 on being free from the fear of man. For Mark
Hershey ’07, it was a message that convicted him at the time and still resonates with him today.
There were so many impactful chapels during my time at Cedarville, but one that stands out is when Mark Vroegop spoke fall of my senior year. I can still hear Pastor Vroegop pleading with us as a student body to stop allowing the fear of man and people-pleasing to rule our lives.
He read Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” He reminded us how dangerous it can be to live to please others instead of God. We can easily allow the words and impressions of others to trap and imprison us, which causes us to miss out on the good that God has for us.
Pastor Vroegop shared personal stories of his battles with being afraid of what others thought of him and how he came to discover that the only one we need to bow down to is the Lord Almighty. God is so much more worthy of our attention than anything or anyone else.
As a student body, we were also challenged that our families, friends, and those around us need someone who cares more about what God thinks than what the world thinks. These words resonated with me when I was a student at Cedarville and still ring true as I serve as a pastor today. I often need to check my motives and discern who I most desire to please, God or man, as I write messages, counsel, and lead those under my care. It is a message that is convicting and powerful for any stage of life.
— Sherri (Wilson) Patterson '84
A Blank Check
Elisabeth ’18 – In January 2016, David Platt, then-President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, was the keynote speaker at the annual Missions Conference. He spoke on how God can give ordinary people extraordinary power to do great things for him. His message changed the life trajectory of Elisabeth ’18.
My whole life, I thought that missions work meant going to the middle of nowhere in Africa. When I was younger, I had thought about going into missions, but once I decided I wanted to be a teacher, it didn’t seem to fit any longer. I didn’t see how teaching and missions could work together. I decided to leave that dream for the people who were going to be pastors or doctors. They could go to Africa; I was going to stay in America and be a teacher. That all changed for me when I heard David Platt at the Missions Conference during my sophomore year.
Dr. Platt talked about the importance of using your calling, whatever job you were suited best for, as leverage for the Gospel. He challenged the student body that there were mission opportunities in any career field God called us to. I was shocked. This idea completely changed my thinking. I could use my calling as a teacher to honor God, wherever He led me. It was almost as if I could feel the Lord whispering that he meant me.
Then Dr. Platt talked about the importance of being willing to do whatever God asked us to do; he called it “giving a blank check to God.” I remember sensing the Lord asking me to write that blank check. And so I lifted my hands and whispered, “This is my blank check, Lord.” Two summers later, I went to China and fell in love with the people and the country. I knew this is where I’d been called. Now, I am in China long term serving as a university English teacher. I love watching God continue to write my check.
— Sue (Orth) Boyd '90
Megan Orr ’19 – Clayton King, founder of Clayton King Ministries and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, North Carolina, spoke at Fall Bible Conference August 2015. King challenged students to embrace their weakness in order to find strength from God. For then-freshman Megan Orr ’19, it was a message that proved to be life-changing and life-saving.
I grew up attending church, but by my junior year of high school, I felt like I was just going through the motions. I had tried to get involved with youth group at church, but I didn’t seem to fit in. By my senior year, I stopped going to church completely.
When it came time to choose a college, my parents encouraged me to consider Cedarville. I reluctantly agreed. I thought maybe it would give me a clean slate where I could rewrite my story. I came to campus fall 2015 knowing I wasn’t a Christian. People welcomed me warmly, but I always wondered if it was fake. I wasn’t happy here; I wasn’t happy with myself. Everyone here seemed so good, and there was so much sin in my life. I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I questioned if I should be here. I even questioned if I wanted
That first week during Fall Bible Conference, Clayton King closed one of his messages by challenging people to invite Christ into their life. I’ve heard a lot of altar calls before, and I was really good at tuning them out. But this time was different. As Clayton prayed, I felt something stirring in me. I knew this was something I needed.
After I got back to my room that night, I spoke with my Resident Assistant. She prayed with me, and I asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins and be my Savior. Prior to the service, I had decided that this would probably be the night I would kill myself. By the end of the evening, I was filled with an incredible peace from God.
Since that night, God has given me an incredible thirst for Him. I joined a discipleship group and have been mentored by my church. I am growing more and more into the woman I know God wants me to be. I still have tough days, but I now know that I can take those feelings to God and receive His strength.
I know that God brought me here to not just save my life, but to bring me into a close relationship with my Savior. I am so thankful.
Michele (Cummings) Solomon ’91 is the Copy Editor for Cedarville University Marketing and Communications.