The APU community had an opportunity to come together and share their stories during a bonfire event

In the spirit of acknowledging God’s goodness and faithfulness, the APU community gathered around Trinity Lawn on Friday, Feb. 16 for a bonfire, worship and testimony-sharing. It was hosted by Dr. Terry Franson and Dr. Matt Browning.

Dr. Matt Browning, senior vice president of Local and Global Engagement, shared about the vision for this bonfire, which is creating time and space for everyone to glorify God and be aware of His goodness.

“The event is just an opportunity for APU students, faculty and staff to come together on a Friday evening to worship, be still and listen to what God has to say to us about ourselves, our campus, community and the world,” Browning said.

Junior social work major and East Campus chapel worship leader Autumn North expressed her motivation for worshipping and sharing her testimony.

“I felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit to share what He has been teaching me,” North said. “It’s scary to step out, but God uses us in such a profound way to speak to one another when we respond to His prompting.”

North explained how she decided to declare the message God has placed on her heart to show His love.

“My prayer was for God to reveal His deep love in a new way for people, because we sing about God’s love so much but we never fully understand it,” North said. “I think sometimes we resist God’s love because we feel angry and we think God’s love looks like human love.”

Senior Vice President for Student Life Dr. Terry Franson emphasized the focus of the bonfire and various ways of demonstrating individual spiritual expression.

“This event is about submitting to the Holy Spirit, and allowing students to freely express where they are in their relationship with God through worship, prayer, spoken words or whatever God chooses to do,” Franson said.

Dr. Browning explained part of the reason for hosting this bonfire is because of Franson’s retirement at the end of May.

Dr. Franson shared his desire for the APU students to learn the importance of being together as one community and maintaining a safe environment to share stories about each other’s lives.

“I love the scriptures of Acts 2:42-47; the importance of being together as brothers and sisters in Christ and feeling safe to share our pains, struggles, hopes and joys,” Franson said.

North spoke about the encouraging and freeing environment being offered through a community gathering.

“This event was a beautiful representation of the kind of community that can happen on this campus if we make a space. The space was my favorite part because there was no structure or time constraint, just freedom and rest,” North said. “It was great getting to hear testimonies from students, which was an encouraging expression of worship,”

Dr. Browning expressed his hope for the students to be able to hear and share each other’s stories.

“I would really like students to hear from each other, realize that no one is perfect and be able to share things in front of others to remind ourselves that we are all sinners saved by grace, which is a healthy and God-honoring thing to do,” Browning said.

North declared the necessity of group prayers after Bonfire, because regardless of the forms and styles of worship, praying for others is always an important element.

“One student prompted us to pray for North Korea, which was such a good reminder that our worship is a catalyst to deeper forms of justice and community and love for another,” North said. “Being able to pray on behalf of our brothers and sisters against oppression and evil in a moment of corporate worship is so powerful.”

Dr. Browning said this event was created many years ago so this time was to bring that same tradition back.

“I am hoping we would have it twice a semester,” Browning said. “We may want to be strategic about maybe having one at the beginning of the year to celebrate God’s faithfulness over the summer and bring us back together. We are looking for a good time to do that.”