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Small handwriting sample of Ashley's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page

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7 November 2005

You were there to wrap your arms around me
When my nights were cold and lonely
When I needed shelter from the rain
All I had to do was call your name
Never let me down you’re always there
Told me all my burdens you will bear
Never truly understand your ways
But I understand you love me and for this I want to say
You are my Joy.

If God thinks a rock giving praise to him is beautiful
And it has no mouth,
Just imagine how God will think of you giving praise.
—Chioke from Texas State University

If you take time out for God,
He will give that time back to you.
—Keyhanna Williams*

Gospel Fest 2005

In all of the 19 years that I have been living, never once have I experienced anything like “College Day.” Through the university’s Innervisions Gospel Choir there is a day where we travel to another university and are joined by several other gospel choirs from different schools, and we just praise God for all of his goodness and blessings he has bestowed upon us. This year’s “College Day” was held at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The order of the day was going to sessions, which was equivalent to a Bible study, mass choir rehearsal, which was all of the choirs integrated to sing as one huge choir, and then there was performance time.

I don’t think I was really ready for what was about to take place.

During the Bible study sessions there was one scripture in particular that just stuck with me and kept going through my head again and again. It was James 1:2 and 3 which reads, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” What this says to me is that although we may experience pain from our trials and tribulations, it helps us grow and become patient with God. He may not come when you want him, but he is always right on time. In the end it will work in your favor even if you may not think so.

You just don’t know how many times I’ve looked at a class that has seemed to be unbearable or a little challenging and said to myself: Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? However, when I kept my faith and worked just a little harder, that challenge always became something so simple.

The next part of “College Day” was the mass choir rehearsal. Choirs from the University of Central Oklahoma, Texas Southern University, Huston Tillotson University, Prairie View University, Texas A&M University and, of course, Innervisions from The University of Texas at Austin, participated. Here we sang as this huge group to represent gospel recording artist, producer and writer Ansom Dawkins. It felt really good to meet new people from other schools who were filled with the Holy Spirit. We all didn’t just sing, we sang. Everyone was dancing and pouring their hearts out, and to me it was just truly genuine. No one was judging anyone, no one cared what they looked like, no one cared if our schools were rivals. We were all just in it together.

Finally, there was the performance part of the day. This is where each school’s choir sang two songs. This was not “Sister Act 2,” where everyone took their performances as a competition and acted coldly toward the other groups. No matter which group was up there, every member in the audience, including the other schools, sang along, danced and shouted. It was awesome. There was not a dry eye in the place. I don’t think I have ever cried as much as I did. As a whole, everyone in the audience made the Pacific Ocean look like a puddle in the street. It was that powerful. With that said I just want to say kudos to every single group that participated because everyone did a fantastic job.

Words just cannot express how I felt coming out of that place. One of my friends, Julian, who is also part of the Innervisions choir, said it was just meant for him to go to and experience “College Day.” He said that he was supposed to be in another city that particular weekend, but he decided at the last minute to attend because he assumed there would be a shortage on tenors. Beforehand I even told him how much I needed to study that weekend and was tempted not to go. However, we made it and were so glad that we did. I had so many rewards coming out of that auditorium, and it was by no means physical—it was all spiritual.

I even saw one of my former high school classmates whom I haven’t seen in five years and who sings in the Prairie View Gospel Choir, and it was a blessing to see him up there singing his heart out.

When I came back home** I knew that I had a lot to study and ultimately a lot to do for a coming test. However, I didn’t feel stressed at all about it. I didn’t do my usual agonizing about the things that I needed to do. I just did them. I turned on the computer to check my e-mail. The greatest gift to end the day was in that e-mail. My TA (teaching assistant) sent the results of my philosophy paper that I was anxiously waiting for. I made a 95. God is good!

* Keyhanna is part of the choir and also a good friend. I told her that I had a lot to study for and how I was worried and that is what she said to me in response.

** Home. It’s funny how I’m referring to home now as a little dorm room in Austin, Texas.

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