Three large boards currently on display outside Gregory Plaza pose the questions “What are you going to be for Halloween?”, “How does the world need to change?” and “If you were face-to-face with God, what would you ask or say?”, with students’ responses written below in permanent marker.
The answers to the Halloween question remained surface-deep, listing costumes like “Harambe” and “Ken Bone.” The question about changing the world garnered serious responses related to social justice, in addition to more humorous responses such as “Kanye 2020.” The board about talking to God seemed to elicit the most personal responses, such as messages to deceased loved ones and pleas for forgiveness.
These “free-speech boards” are part of the Longhorn Baptist Student Ministry’s 72-hour Prayer Tent, open from noon Monday to noon Thursday.
The purpose of the tent is to promote discussion and give all students a place to pray and be prayed for, said BSM campus missionary Ashley Harrison.
“We believe God is love and … the best way that we can love students is to pray for them and answer any questions they may have and just be approachable,” Harrison said. “All people struggle and … Christians call that sin, but at the end of the day, it’s just the same crap that we’re all dealing with. We don’t want to push anyone away.”
Campus Renewal, a religious organization that seeks to unite campus ministries, held an All Campus Worship event on Gregory Plaza Monday night, which set the stage for the ongoing prayer event. Several students from various Christian ministries led the audience in singing worship songs and highlighted “prayer points” relevant to UT.
Some prayer points from the event included the unification of students on campus as one and students struggling with mental illness, said Hannah Wilmeth, a textiles and apparel junior who is on the core team at Campus Renewal.
“[Mental health] is a huge thing we try to pray for every year, because there are so many students here who have a fear of failure and a fear of not being good enough, and that can lead to a lot of mental health issues,” Wilmeth said.
Jed Lee, a supply chain management junior who lingered outside the tent long after the worship night ended, said he found solace in praying with friends after a particularly difficult week.
“It really brings you closer together, just being able to share your burdens with each other,” Lee said. “Praying really helps us be unified as a community … it’s just a way to love on each other better.”