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 Jacque Smith, Director of Public Relations

Outlook - February 2006

Union College offers students Hohnberger’s take on the ultimate escape

by Becky Dewey and Jacque L. Smith
        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 life story.” 
        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.