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At the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, football is almost a religion. Football players stop traffic. And on game days practically the whole state wears the Husker's color red.
But when former Husker linebacker Matt Penland (1990-92), looks back on his experience at UNL, school and football aren't the most significant things he remembers.
Matt was mentored at UNL by Cru staff member Keith Davy, who would go onto write the CoJourners strategy.
“It is a part of me,” says Matt. “Sometimes as Christians it is easy to see people as projects and CoJourners taught me to see people as someone God loves.”
For example, three years ago Matt was working in Hy-Vee, a Midwest grocery store. Cody, a 17-year-old co-worker, loved someone who had recently died. Matt was reading the CoJourners material.
“I would read the questions and think, 'I could ask that,'” Matt remembers. “So I asked Cody if he thought people continued to live after they died.” As a result, Cody kept talking with Matt about his spiritual questions and eventually became a Christian.
Matt also was able to invest in a co-worker in the meat department nicknamed Jonesy. Yet, when Matt first arrived at Hy-Vee the owner warned him to stay away from Jonesy because he was “anti-Christian.”
Matt decided to get to know Jonesy anyway, even after discovering that Jonesy believes we came from aliens.
“Before I understood CoJourners,” Matt says. “I would have written him off. But now I still call him and he still calls me and we have breakfast together.”
“So many people see evangelism as a one-time shot. They think I've got to get this person converted and that is the finish line. But CoJourners helped me see that when someone becomes a Christian they are at their spiritual starting line and I need to stick with them.”
Matt has given Jonesy an opportunity to accept Jesus as his Savior several times. So far Jonesy hasn't accepted. But Matt is not going to give up on him.
“I am going to keep having those conversations and asking questions and giving opportunity for the Spirit of God to move,” Matt says.
After leaving Hy-Vee, Matt went back to UNL as the team chaplain for football and baseball. Once again, he is immersed in the football frenzy. But this time, instead of being mentored by Keith, Matt is journeying with other people toward God.
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