The back of my hand pulled a black streak of makeup across my face as the tears rolled down my cheeks. The door had barely clicked shut, but I found myself sitting cross-legged on my new bed doing that shoulders-heaving, where’s-the-oxygen-kind of cry (you know the one). I had just hugged my parents and brother goodbye, and as the rain beat down on my window, I was discouraged to find this as my highly anticipated hello to college life.
I made a cup of coffee in my new coffeemaker as my first official act in my dorm, and I sat wondering what I was supposed to do now. Classes didn’t start for a few days, it was pouring rain, and my roommate wasn’t there yet. I felt lonely and out of place.
Suddenly, I whirled out of my chair. I took the half-step journey to be in front of my sink to throw water on my flushed face because I had remembered something: I had a place to go! A college ministry called the Table was having an event, and someone had invited me to come. I wasn’t totally sure what event it was (it could have been a sewing night for all I cared), but I had somewhere to be.
It turned out it was a welcome night, so I left my (lack of) sewing skills at my dorm. I pulled up to an off-white house on Husband Street with a sign hanging over the porch labelled “The Table”, so I figured I was in the right place. I walked in and ate some good food, met so many friendly faces, and tried to be subtle in sneaking looks at name tags when I forgot all the names. It felt warmer and so much more like home than my dorm, so I decided to check out their regular meeting times.
Thursday night looked a little different than the welcome night. I was still grateful for name tags and good food, but we sat down in chairs, and two not-college student guys got up to teach. They each taught for about 20 minutes, and they tossed out homemade cookies to newcomers (me!) during the halftime in between the teaching.
I remember they talked about how the Table believes in submitting to the Word of God fully and completely, and how the Table is committed to equipping college students to live Gospel-centered lives. They covered how important community is for us as Christians, as well as how vital it is to get involved in a local church. They told us about how they teach through a book of Bible each school year, not skipping hard passages and working hard to interpret the Bible in the way it should be, not just in the way it’s convenient for us.
So, I came back the next week. And the next one, and the next one.
I started spending each Thursday night at the Table continuing to meet people, building relationships, eating a lot good food (shoutout to the cook team!), and soaking up the deep teaching from the leadership I’ve come to appreciate so much.
I enjoyed the large group gathering at the Table so much that when I heard about joining a Table group, I was rushing to put my name on the sign-up. Almost every night of the week, a different small group was meeting in a host home. There were girls’ and guys’ groups with all different upperclassmen leaders and co-leaders so that you could find one to fit your schedule. The leaders talked about making a serious commitment to be at the group you joined, week in and week out, regardless of all that marketing homework. I joined one and showed up.
My host home is a true home. Not a dorm, not an apartment or a house being shared by a bunch of students. My host home has non-commercial carpet (also mentioned in my piece “College Myths that Are & Aren’t True: My First Semester”), homemade pumpkin bread, our sweet host who knows much more about everything than me, and a rocking chair that I have since claimed as my own. We sat down and got to know each other as we talked through the last week’s Table lesson. Throughout the semester we wrestled with hard questions, talked through things going on in our lives and shared our testimonies of God’s pursuit of our hearts. We played Scattergories (currently on a bad losing streak), ate too many brownies, and began to build relationships in community.
My Table group is the place where we figure out how to live Gospel-centered lives in real time, with all the struggles and challenges of daily life in college.
Aside from Thursday nights and committing to be at Table group each week, I’ve spent hours studying for finals in that off-white house and hours playing games or watching movies on a Friday night there too. There’s something really special about becoming part of a community that is so committed to glorifying God together.
I’ve spent the last semester at the Table, and I’m so grateful for it. I’m thankful for leaders who grab coffee with me, invite college kids to eat with them in a busy student union, and model following Jesus and knowing Him in His Word so well. I’m thankful for a place to feel at home when my dorm room feels anything but. Most of all, I’m thankful for how I leave every Thursday night challenged and encouraged to pursue the Lord in all that I do.
I’ve learned firsthand that college can be hard and lonely. But one thing has been a game-changer for me, and it’s been being a part of a college ministry and church that is committed to building the Kingdom in Stillwater, Oklahoma, especially in college kids like me. I’m so grateful to have walked through that door and found there was a seat at The Table for me and anyone else who wanted to come on in.
If you’re ever in Stillwater or decide to come to Oklahoma State for college, come visit the Table, there’s a seat for you. And as a bonus, you know I’ll be there.
If you’re interested in checking out more of what I get to do with everyone at The Table, go check out it out on Instagram at @thetableosu!
If you have any feedback, questions or would just like to talk, I’d love to connect with you! Feel free to DM me on Instagram (@rachel_madden99), Twitter (@rachel.madden11), or on Facebook! I can’t wait to hear from you!