Union College offers students
Hohnberger’s take on the ultimate escape
by Becky Dewey and Jacque L.
In Jim Hohnberger’s book, Escape
to God, the author describes his own journey with the biggest challenge
common to all Christians: the daily struggle to surrender to God and listen to
His voice. In the year and a half since reading Hohnberger’s testimony in
Escape to God, Dr. Michael Duehrssen, director of Union’s international
rescue and relief (IRR) program, found a changed perspective and a closer walk
with the Holy Spirit that he couldn’t resist sharing with campus.
“So many of Union’s students, faculty
and staff are already passionate about a real relationship with God,”
Duehrssen said. “I prayed the campus would be open to the even more intimate
approach to God that Jim described.”
Duehrssen and a close friend whose
life has also been impacted after reading the book provided the funds to
purchase 2,000 copies of Escape to God. They offered the books free of
charge to Union College students, staff, and members of College View church.
Duehrssen felt impressed that the best way to motivate students to make
reading the book a priority was to offer financial incentive and give them a
chance to meet Hohnberger.
Union’s Campus Ministries student
leaders helped confirm Duehrssen’s hunch, and the team agreed each student who
read Escape to God and responded to a survey by the end of the semester
would receive $25. Hohnberger also grasped the vision and helped make the
dream a reality.
“Jim was incredibly excited by how
much Union College’s passion for reaching young people for Christ paralleled
His own,” Duehrssen said.
Because Hohnberger is careful to keep
in practice all that He shares, he refuses to become overcommitted, which
means his speaking commitments are usually booked at least 18-months in
advance. Providentially with less than two months notice of Union’s Escape
to God reading plan, Hohnberger had a speaking cancellation for November.
One month before the Hohnberger’s
arrival on campus the books were made available to the campus and church.
Within three weeks 100 students had finished reading the book. The week
following Jim and Sally Hohnberger’s visit to campus, another surge of
students turned in their surveys and received their $25. According to Rich
Carlson, campus chaplain, by the end of the semester, 272 students had
participated in the incentive plan for reading the book in addition to
employees and additional students who he knows read the book but didn’t turn
in a survey.
“This reading program was an amazing
gift that proved to be a worthwhile investment and shows a remarkable
commitment to the spiritual growth of Union’s students,” Carlson said. “Many
students have shared that the disciplined life demonstrated in the book and
described by the authors while they were on campus inspired them with the
value of making a deep commitment to God.”
Zane Downs, sophomore IRR major said
the theme of surrender in Escape to God caught his attention. “The book
is one man’s journey with God and the extremes it took for God to reach him,”
he said. “I like that he didn’t try to force his opinion and just showed his
Hohnberger affirms not everyone is
called to live in the wilderness; however, each person is called to a
wilderness experience wherever they are. The heart of that experience is what
Hohnberger calls “the gospel in six words: yes to God, no to self.” This is
the daily, living and breathing connection to God he hopes students will
discover and act on.