This is the second installment in our Northstar blog series, “Tributes,” where we celebrate people that God has used in our lives for his glory and our good. This week’s post is by college student and Northstar intern Nicholas Alley.
A True Brother In Christ
When Erin Peterson first asked me to write a blog about someone who has had a major impact upon my spiritual walk, the names of several people popped into my head. However, one name stood out from among the rest: Andrew Cook. Some of you may remember him as a former intern and member here at Northstar, but I met him first at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) at Virginia Tech.
When I came to Virginia Tech as a freshman in August of 2016, I would not have considered myself to be a Christian. I was someone who had grown up church adjacent, attending practically every Sunday of my young life, but the concept of “Be the Church” that we hear so often at Northstar would have been foreign at best to me. While I would say that I was aware of God and His love for humanity, the concept of actively pursuing Him and a relationship with Him was nonexistent. Personally, I was angry with the world and with just how messed up and broken I found it to be, and also with the way that I had not really encountered anyone who understood why I felt this way. In retrospect, I think that is probably one of the biggest ways that I had struggled leading to college, I had not really been understood or truly ‘known’ by anyone up until that point.
I think that God used Andrew at a very special time in both of our lives to meet me there in that place.
A pastor that I met this past summer said, “Discipleship begins from the moment that you meet someone,” and from the moment that we first met and played Viking chess behind the BCM, Andrew began discipling me. At no point did he ever declare this, did he say, “I am mentoring you,” or anything like that. Instead, from the moment that we met God simply began using Andrew to disciple me and grow me toward Himself. Perhaps the closest that we came to this was my decision to join his Bible study, which is technically not the one I was assigned to, but neither of us knew that would happen when we first met. Yet, the desire to genuinely get to know me and build a relationship with me was one that Andrew had made in a split second.
After this, Andrew consistently made decisions which would give him presence in my life. If I ever asked if he had time to talk, to hang out, or to do schoolwork the answer was almost always an immediate yes, no matter what else was going on in his life. To this day, the way that Andrew shared his life and, in those moments, showed Christ to me shines brightly. Even in each of the Gospels, the way that Jesus is so often described as eating with a group of people or spending time with his disciples stands out to me in a similar way. In resemblance to how Jesus shared his life so consistently with those around him and with those who were reaching out for relationship, Andrew shared his life with me.
Part of sharing life with me meant listening to me tell stories, which if you have never heard me tell one you should know that I have no idea how to conclude them. Normally something comes after the climax, but mine just keep building until we finish with the climax. Through these stories and also through the time that he spent with me and questions that he asked, Andrew was able to confront a lot of different stubborn beliefs and thoughts which I had. As I anticipate a lot of college freshman to do, I felt like I knew everything and had a valid reason for everything I thought. The way that Andrew spent time with me and the ability which he had to patiently challenge these different beliefs about Christianity and the world, even when frustrated, had a major impact upon me. Not only had I begun to feel known by someone, but God placed a person in my life who could very willingly challenge me and explain why baptism, church membership, purity, theology, etc. matter to the life of a Christian. As I mentioned, before college my view of church was vastly different, and at no point had anything really been explained to me, instead merely presented to me “because”.
On October 9 of 2016, I submitted to Christ and was baptized by Jeff here at Northstar.
Over the course of 7 weeks of college, God so greatly impacted my life through a ridiculously large number of ways that I decided that my life should be dedicated to him and to the service of his Kingdom. A huge part of that was the way that Andrew loved on me. Now as a servant of God, I have sought to live similarly to how Andrew did when we first met; to share my life with others, to gently challenge, and to be available for people. To this day, Andrew is one of my most valued friends and confidants as he is an intern at the BCM at University of Tennessee Knoxville and I hope to be an intern at a BCM this coming academic year. Words cannot express how truly thankful and grateful that I am for God gifting Andrew and I with this incredible friendship, but I hope that these may convey the awesome power of our lifestyle and its impact for Christ.