A 3x3 foot wooden cube sat in front of an attentive crowd of students. The box was painted black, screwed shut and contained hundreds of confessions. First, the screws came out, and then the secrets did as well.
Will Townsend, a Communication major at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, sat with the others listening as the confessions were read aloud.
“I was kind of shocked with how many problems were in that box and the significance of those problems,” Will said. “Yet they weren’t willing to tell anybody about it except God.”
Among the disclosures were “I feel responsible for the rape of my younger sister,” “I had an abortion at 13 weeks and regret it,” and “Most days I wish I didn’t exist.”
UNCW Cru held an event last march called the Black Box, which coincided with a “confessions” movement on campuses across the nation. While other campuses had Facebook pages and smartphone applications that allowed students to publically but anonymously confess hidden thoughts, Reece Johnson and his staff team had already been planning an outreach along the same vein.
The team left a black, wooden box in the middle of the UNCW student center, along with slips of paper, pens, instruction and information about the event where the confidences would be read aloud.
“The idea was for people to write their deepest darkest secrets or confessions in there, things they never told anyone,” Reece said. “We didn’t count how many submissions we got, but it was probably over 200. Some were…things they may have been ashamed of.”
A group of UNCW students attended the event, including Will, a recent transfer student. Will had been coming to Cru and wrestling with the logical validity of the Bible.
“It was kind of off and on with whether I believed in Christ and whether I believed in all of this, whether it actually happened,” said Will.
At the event, Miles O’Neill, a staff member with UNC Cru, spoke about the historicity of the resurrection and the evidence behind the Bible. He afterward read a number of confessions slipped into the black cube and spoke about Jesus Christ entering the stories of each person in pain or shame.
“He started to really talk about the facts … [and] that was something that really clicked with me,” Will said. “Then we had this black box thing and that [was impactful]. One was talking about how [a student had] been sexually abused for four years. But just that she was willing to come to this part of campus and put them in the box, and have God speak to her meant something.”
Will gave his life to Christ that evening. He said the combination of factual evidence and seeing the faith of others motivated him toward trust as well, and he now meets with Reece weekly to “dissect” the Bible.
He said that within a week of his decision for Christ, God gave him two further opportunities to trust him, including caddying for Web Simpson, a professional golfer, and Simpson’s friend CJ Mahaney, a Christian pastor and author, who encouraged him in his faith.
“There was just a hole that’d been missing and that hole was filled by these people putting that faith in Christ,” Will said. “It was kind of like the perfect storm in a good way. It just had the logical information backed right up with the relationship. It was like, wow, how could you not come to this as your number one option.”