United States (MNN) — College campuses get a bad rap for being the graveyard of faith. However, for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship‘s National Director of Catalytic Partnerships R. York Moore, his faith was born while he was attending the University of Michigan in 1989.
A Personal Testimony
Moore, now an evangelist, was raised an atheist. His parent’s home had a sign on the front which read, ‘The Moores, the atheists.” They even had a barrel for burning Bibles and religious propaganda. Then, at the age of 6, Moore had a supernatural encounter with God.
“I’ll never forget, I was sitting in my bathtub…playing with my rubber ducky and my battleship and minding my own business when all of the sudden I heard the voice of God. I began to talk to God. Now I wouldn’t have called it prayer, because my parents told me there is no such thing as God, and so I was just talking to God,” Moore says.
Not long after, Moore’s parents walked in and asked him who he was talking to. When Moore responded with “God”, his parents, with a look of disdain, re-explained how there was no god.
“They walked out, and being the naïve 6-year-old that I was, I had to at least finish the conversation that I was engaged in. So, I looked back at the ceiling and said, ‘Well, God, my parents say you don’t exist so I’m going to have to stop talking to you now.’ That was the first day of the next fourteen years of living life as if there is no God. And when we try to live life as if there’s no God, life just doesn’t work. We weren’t created to live independent of God.”
Searching for an Answer
Moore’s family struggled with seasons of poverty and homelessness. They lived on the streets of Detroit, staying in abandoned buildings, cars, and other similar places of refuge. Moore says at a young age, he fell into the “early entrapments of adolescents,” including sexual promiscuity and drinking. But then, Moore found himself on the campus of what he calls the greatest college in the United States: the University of Michigan.
“While I was there, I just fell in love with the whole world of ideas, debates, dialogue, the intensity of the university campus, and really gave myself to it. [I] became an honor student in a couple of different departments including the philosophy department. [I] earned [a] nickname from my fraternity brothers and the people in my classes, my nickname was Satan, because I persecuted Christians, wrote papers against Christians,” Moore says.
Students attend college for a myriad of reasons. It might just be a rite of passage, or to build the skills necessary to find a good job, or even to find a spouse. For Moore, he had one question he wanted answered: “How can we have meaning and purpose if there is no God”.
To find this answer, Moore became a student of philosophy. After three years of study, he concluded that we can’t find meaning, no matter how long we might live. It was at this point that Moore decided that if our lives have no meaning, he would commit suicide.
Moore’s decision to end his life wasn’t born out of depression or despair. Life was good. He was in a fraternity, had a girlfriend, and enjoyed time on campus. For him, ending his life was a logical decision. At least, that’s what he thought at the time.
Before ending his own life, Moore wanted to make sure he was in the clear religiously, just in case his conclusion was wrong.
“I knew that out of all the gods I had heard of, the Hindus, you know the Buddhists, it was [this] Jesus guy that I was going to have a problem with because if the eastern mystic religions were right, I could have many opportunities to get it right. If Allah was the one true god I could work myself out of Hell, right? But I heard Christians say crazy things like it’s appointed on us once to die and then to face judgment. And so, I thought I better get this Jesus part figured out before I kill myself,” Moore recalls.
Moore then went on an interviewing spree. He interviewed his girlfriend, coworkers, and even a pastor. What he found was that none of these individuals had an argument for Christ. In fact, the pastor he interviewed told him it wasn’t possible to know the Bible was God’s word. When atheist Moore heard this, he says it discredited everything else this pastor said since it fell under personal opinion. This supposed man of God had thrown out the very foundation of Christianity. Rather than helping Moore find Christ, his interviewing spree strengthened his resolve to stop living.
Moore did try praying, though he says his prayers related more to a drive-thru order than a genuine desire to connect with the Creator of the universe. He found no answer from those prayers.
A Firm Decision to Die
Then, on December 24, 1989, as Moore was in a movie theater watching “The Little Mermaid” with his girlfriend the day before Christmas, he decided it was time to fulfill his plan.
“Here I am with 400 strangers in a Christian nation on the verge of a national Christian holiday, or so I thought, and all we’re doing is entertaining ourselves to death. There is no God, there is only “The Little Mermaid”. There’s just entertainment. There’s just sex and consumption and material goods and that’s all there is to life. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or an atheist, it’s all the same,” Moore says, sharing his thoughts from that night.
After he dropped off his girlfriend, Moore brought his car up to 90 mph with the intention of smashing it against a wall near the home he was staying at.
“As I got that twisted sense of courage that you’re required to kill yourself, I fully intended to kill myself, I got up to that moment of decision and the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit [came into] that vehicle. And I wouldn’t have said it that way, I had a supernatural encounter with Jesus. It wasn’t enough to actually change my mind about killing myself, but it was enough to get me home that night,” Moore says.
Moore went home in a cold sweat that lasted until morning. When he woke, for the first time in his life, he prayed in desperation to God, asking God to show him if it was His presence in the car the night before, because he still planned to kill himself if it wasn’t.
Christmas Day, a New Beginning
That morning, Moore walked into the next room where his two older brothers were, just having arrived home from different campuses, with a gift for the family. The gift was a framed poem of “Footprints in the Sand.” Moore had read this poem before and never thought much of it, but this time something was different.
“As I read this poem, I heard the voice of God. The same voice that spoke to me when I was six in the bathtub. He said three things that changed me forever. He said number one: I do exist. Number two: I’m the reason why you exist. (Now for a philosopher, those are the only two data points you need, right.:? Because if there is a God and my existence emanates from His being, then everything can be derived from that. Purpose, meaning, function can all be derived from those two data points.) But the third thing changed me forever. He said number three: I’m the one who kept you from killing yourself last night. Which meant that I was on God’s radar.”
In tears, Moor went right back into the previous room and called his fraternity brothers. When they picked up he told them his was giving his life to God. Picture that: a man nicknamed Satan who persecuted Christians on campus, calling on Christmas day to proclaim his belief and dedication to live his life for God.
“I was passionate about my faith from day one. The one good thing that that pastor friend did for me, he gave me a bunch of books. Most of them were nonsense. Since then I’ve now come to realize that there are a lot of Christians who are just kind of cultural…they don’t believe in the power of God. They don’t believe in the Word of God, right…I call them decorative Christians, functional atheists,” Moore says.
“But the one good thing he did for me in all of the stacks of nonsense that he gave me, there was a simple book called “God is not Absent”, and it told me about sin. How I was separated from God because of sin and how Jesus Christ was sent to this earth as God’s righteous son, who went to the cross and died for our sin. How he rose again on the third day, and how because he was alive, I could know him personally. I could have a relationship with him… because he was a real living being. He wasn’t some religious figure that was dead, and if I would repent, if I would place my faith in Jesus, and confess him as my leader or Lord, I could be born again.”
Moore says as he read this book, the same voice which spoke to him at age 6 and on Christmas morning, spoke to him again. The night, Moore got on his knees and asked God to come to his life and lead it. Decades later, Moore is still sharing about the purpose we have in Christ on college campuses and equipping believers on campus to do the same.
A Fuel for College Campus Ministry
Moore’s own story helps fuel his work. Since that first night he gave his life to Christ, Moore became passionate about people’s eternal salvation. That passion hasn’t wavered; he’s praying for a revival.
He says the idea of people not knowing Christ should propel us to share about Jesus with as many people possible.
“I believe that InterVarsity is a powerful tool in the hands of God, in the time that we’re living. Because what it does, it provides a witnessing opportunity, and opportunity for a Christian community to not just merely carry the message of the Gospel onto a campus, but to be a place where it can be lived out,” Moore says.
Moore says when non-Christians come into a community where the Gospel is lived out, they see it. Christ becomes real in a whole new way. And InterVarsity wants to see every corner of every campus reached with Christ’s message by 2030. The vision is their 2030 Calling. Will you help?
“Don’t just pray for us from the comfort of your living room or your office, log onto everycampus.us and you will be instructed how to pray for an unreached campus. We’ll provide use of assets and some tools that will help you to effectively prayer walk a campus. We’re always looking for financial support,” Moore says.
The 2030 Calling will require millions of dollars to resource plans to get the Gospel to every corner of about 5,000 college campuses. It will also require faithful prayer warriors.
Another way to come alongside the 2030 Calling and help bring revival to college campuses is through Urbana 18. Urbana, a triennial student missions conference held in St. Louis, Missouri December 27-31, challenges students to decipher God’s call on their life and how to live it out. Urbana has been a space for 300,000 people where students are mobilized for Christ, worship with thousands of other believers, and step into a book of the Bible. This year’s book is Revelation and the theme is “Faithful Witness”.
Help send a college student to this catalytic event where they can dig into a 5-day experience focused on what God is doing around the world.
Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
*Note: This article previously inaccurately stated that Urbana is held in a space for 300,000 people. Over the years, Urbana has been a space for 300,000 people to encounter God.