I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes I will remember the miracles of long ago. – Psalm 77:11
It’s often when someone asks me something related to what I experienced over my time studying abroad that I remember with renewed clarity the wonderful, miraculous details— a handsome stash of stories of God’s faithfulness tucked away in my heart. Studying abroad in New York at Barnard College of Columbia University was a time unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to God it was breathtakingly beautiful. He brought me there and led me all the while I was there. I experienced God’s love in very deep and new ways and learned that everything that happens as we walk with Him is purposeful and planned and safe in His hands.
It’s felt like God has given me the most beautiful tale to tell and I haven’t yet really told it. I have felt the gentle and sure call to share these stories, and this step of obedience has been a long time coming.
I want to write a series of posts about what God did over that period prior to and during my exchange. There are so many wonderful stories to share and I just want to write them out and share them.
They are not in chronological order and the quotes aren’t necessarily exact, but they do capture the gist of it 🙂
I’ll start with the story which, after sharing it with a friend recently, reminded me to write these blog posts:
One of the very exciting things about going to Barnard College of Columbia University was the knowledge that I would have the opportunity to study things that I might not have been able to at UCT. While the courses I could take at UCT for my degree where more “set out”, as a visiting student at Barnard I could choose from an abundance of amazing courses.
Before getting to Barnard we were given a spreadsheet of courses available to us as visiting students. I really wanted to improve my visual art skills and hoped to do something related to photography. I checked the list but did not find photography or visual arts classes that were available for 2012 (the year of my study abroad).
When I arrived at Barnard—sigh, so much to share about what came before! — we were very warmly welcomed and had orientation and were told the details about registering for classes. There was a “shopping” period where you could attend classes that interest you and by a certain date you would have to declare which classes you are registering for. They explained that all Barnard and Columbia classes were available for us to choose from. It was also advised that if you really want to get into a class it’s good to attend the very first one.
Over the shopping period I visited the classes I hoped to take and had settled on three I really liked but I was still looking for a fourth one. I got the idea to do a bit more looking on the Columbia University website and I found there was a photography class offered at Columbia! The class was offered by a professor named Thomas Roma. I excitedly checked for when the first photography class would be and found… it had happened that very morning. I was quite sad and upset with myself for not seeing it sooner, and that I hadn’t been more “on the ball”. I prayed that I would still get in; it seemed just what I was looking for!
The day scheduled for the next photography class, I walked over to find Professor Roma’s office. I was very nervous when I got to the door and prayed outside for a while. Eventually I knocked on his door and stepped in. Professor Roma sat at his desk and there were a few other people there in the room. I explained that I was a visiting student and had missed the first class and would like to attend the next class if possible. “Okay,” he said. “Go to the classroom and we’ll talk there.”
I was elated. I thanked him and stepped back out into the hallway, grateful to God. I soon realised, however, that I had no idea where the classroom was, but wasn’t sure about going back into the room to ask. A young man who was nearby asked if I was going to photography class and needed directions. Thankful, I said yes. He explained that he was also on his way to the class and we could go together.
We got to the class a bit early and waited in the hallway since the room was closed. Other students also trickled into the building. Professor Roma arrived later with the Teacher’s Assistants (TAs) and they let us in, closing the door behind us. After some time, Professor Roma looked around at us for a while and then, addressing the TAs, he said, “Okay, TAs. Everybody here in this classroom—this is the class. So take down everyone’s names.”
I was so thankful. I was in the class?!
In the course of chatting to the young man I walked to the class with I was curious what they did in the first class, and so I asked him.
“Oh we had a test,” he said.
I have no idea what the test was about but I was amazed. I had little if any knowledge about the study of photography so I do not know what would have been in that test. Or even if I’d have had the confidence to return to the class if it hadn’t gone well. But God in His wisdom brought about a testimony I couldn’t have planned on my own. I was upset with myself about not checking properly, missing the first class and maybe jeopardizing entry into a class I really wanted to take. But God led the way and turned my seeming “blunder”—not being there for the first class— into a blessing.
It was, and continues to be for me, such a fresh reminder to walk in peace and confidence, knowing that when we trust Him and walk with Him, He leads the way and straightens our path. I was reminded that God is familiar with all my ways (Psalm 139:1-3) and knows how I’ll respond to various stimuli and exactly what I will do, even when I don’t. And He uses these.
I don’t know how clearly I prayed to take a photography class while in New York, or if it was simply “just a hope” that was in my heart. But God brought it about. Better than I would have even known to ask.
That photography class at Columbia University went on to be one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had—and God used it to bring about even more testimonies.
So what great confidence that He also hears the things we ask out loud!
It’s such a blessing to walk confidently with God who knows us and answers us when we call to Him.
O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
You know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
You have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4
Come and see what God has done,
how awesome His works on man’s behalf! – Psalm 66:5