Christian off-campus ministry welcomes students
The Furnace, a campus-focused Christian ministry, is coming into the light.
The ministry has been active on campus for nearly a decade, reaching out to the the student population since the 2006-2007 academic year.
“I wanted to do something I knew would have a guaranteed impact on 50,000 students,” creator of the Furnace Jessie Still said. “I know that sounds crazy. … you can only meet, in person, so many people.”
The Furnace is moving from its previous subterranean location, the Prayer Room, to a more prominent location called House of Prayer East Lansing (HOPE) on 619 E. Grand River Avenue.
"'Onward and upward,' those are our keywords,” Still said. “We’ve been kind of underground and hidden; you know literally we were at an underground spot so this is a time. … to come out of hiding and let people see the goodness of God and what he’s been doing with us.”
Despite the magnitude of his mission, Still believes it can succeed.
“The idea of prayer is that if you really have faith, and believe that God hears and answers prayer, and you pray for God’s love to be made known to 50,000 students, he will really do it,” Still said.
Still’s belief in the power of prayer also carries over as a focus of the group, setting the Furnace apart from many other ministries.
Residential College of Arts and Humanities senior Josh Schriver spent time exploring his spirituality through a variety of methods, but he kept coming back to the Furnace.
“Experimenting with other kinds of spiritual practices kind of took me away from myself,” Schriver said. “And I was really trying to find that again.”
Schriver said he feels the method of prayer the Furnace teaches is authentic.
“(It’s) prayer as communication rather than rehearsed sayings,” Schriver said. “And prayer as learning your language in the context of a divine creator.”
The Furnace is non-denominational and welcomes anyone who seeks to find God through the Bible.
“We hold very closely to what the Bible teaches,” the Furnace Director and MSU alumnus Justin Reid said. “But so long as you agree with it, the Bible as the standard of what is right and wrong, what matters, then we can play together.”
Eric Lynch, a staff member at The Furnace, spoke of how his participation in the group has sharpened his personal connection to God.
“I’ve really learned how to pray better and how to go deeper in praying as well,” Lynch said. “I know that when you kind of first come into the faith and into the presence it’s hard, and it’s kind of intimidating at first, but you kind of realize the accessibility, and how free you are to enter into a place of worship as the Furnace.”