I remember the unrest on campus a little more than 50 years ago. There were protests about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict. I was a freshman during that troubled time. It was not a time when I would have expected God to intervene in my life. But, in the midst of the unrest, I believe God was at work on the Oswego campus during the 1969 – 1970 school year.
I have rarely seen God work directly in my life, and I didn’t see it and fully appreciate it until decades later. God performed a miracle in my life at SUNY Oswego. How else could a shy freshman find a wealth of conservative Christians on a large secular campus in the fall of 1969? Forgive me if this memory sounds more like an article for a religious magazine. I don’t mean to preach, but religion was an important part of my experience at SUNY Oswego.
God laid the foundation for the miracle while I was in high school. A friend invited me to attend Pioneer Girls meetings at her church. Pioneer Girls is an organization like Girl Scouts, but with a fundamental Christian focus. At the Pioneer Girls meetings I learned the gospel of salvation and accepted Jesus as my savior. I grew in my faith throughout the rest of high school. When it was time to choose a college, I chose SUNY Oswego because it was affordable and I liked the location. I certainly did not expect to be supported in my religion at a secular state university. Actually, I didn’t even think about the fact that as a fledgling Christian I would need teaching and fellowship to continue to grow in my faith. But God knew my needs, and God made plans for me.
In the beginning of freshman year I tried attending a church in Oswego because the college provided transportation to the Sunday service there. I soon became disillusioned with the church, especially when the minister asked everyone to come forward and hold hands in a circle. I think we were supposed to be sharing the love, or communicating good vibes. I just knew holding someone’s clammy hand was not what I needed to grow in my faith.
Then, one fateful day in the middle of fall semester, I was doing laundry downstairs in Cayuga. I overheard a girl talking about Pioneer Girls. I knew instantly this was a girl I needed to get to know. It was easy to get to know Chris. I don’t make friends easily, but Chris had a way about her that made me know I could trust her as a friend. Chris and I had a lot in common because of our shared faith. She led me to find other Christians on campus and in the community. Chris helped me find a conservative Baptist church near Oswego. We became involved in a missionary outreach on campus called Campus Bible Fellowship. The fellowship and teaching at church and CBF helped me grow as a Christian, in spite of the fact I was attending a college where there was very little conservative Christian influence.
This may not be a miracle in the true biblical definition of miracle, but I consider it to be my personal miracle. God clearly intervened in my life to help me find Chris. She was a rare find; a fundamental Christian believer at a secular state university, I believe God planted Chris and me in the same dorm, knowing we would meet, and knowing Chris was exactly the friend I needed. She was my cure for homesickness during freshman year, and my lifeline to the conservative Christian community at Oswego. I will never doubt that God was at work on the Oswego campus in the fall of 1969.
Written in memory of my friend, Christine Casterton ’73; d. March 2011
By Patricia Symonds Snell ’73