Michigan College Students Move From Religion to Relationship With Christ

By   •   September 30, 2022

girls hugging
Sprinkled throughout the crowd of more than 8,000 people at the God Loves You Tour stop in Flint, Michigan, were groups of students. The city is home to several colleges, including campuses for Michigan State and the University of Michigan.

A group of college students huddled on a blanket in a Michigan park Thursday night.

While many of their peers at University of Michigan’s Flint campus might’ve been studying or partying, the small group decided to check out the God Loves You Tour. As the sun set and temperatures plummeted, they heard music and messages highlighting God’s love for them.

“I’m not here tonight talking to you about a religion,” Franklin Graham told the crowd of more than 8,000 dotted across the grassy field on lawn chairs and blankets. “I’m talking to you about a relationship with God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.”

That distinction stuck out to Gabriel, a junior computer science major.

His family attended church for a couple years, but then stopped. His childhood friends believed in God, but didn’t really pursue Him.

But this school year, Gabriel noticed a longing for something deeper than a religious belief. And Thursday night, the college student invited Christ to be his Lord and Savior.

“I’ve never really known what it’s meant to have Jesus be Lord of my life,” Gabriel explained afterward. The music from Newsboys and Marcos Witt and message from Franklin Graham helped him understand how to totally submit to Christ.

“I’ve been really wanting that,” he admitted. “I’ve been really wanting to say, ‘Here, God. Take it all. I’m going to give it all to You. Wherever you tell me to go, I’ll go. Use me, Lord.'”

Franklin Graham in front of crowd
“By standing, you’ll be saying to God, ‘I want to trust [Jesus] as my Savior, and I want to follow Him as my Lord,’” Franklin Graham told thousands in Flint, Michigan.

And Gabriel wasn’t alone. Among the hundreds who stood and prayed a similar prayer of surrender were two people right next to him—his friends, Caden and Matt.

“I’ve always believed in Christ, but I haven’t asked for forgiveness in a really sincere way,” said Caden, a sophomore at University of Michigan–Flint.

In Franklin Graham’s fourth message of the God Loves You Tour, the evangelist focused on God’s longing to forgive and reunite with His children. He referenced the story of the prodigal son, which just happens to be one of Caden’s favorites.

“This past year, I took my focus off [God],” the college student explained, adding that he’s been prioritizing his studies over his relationship with God. “I felt compelled to say sorry and rededicate my life to Him.” He has been prioritizing his studies over his relationship with God.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, Gabriel, Caden, and Matt prayed aloud—verbally surrendering their lives, their skills, and their futures to God.

“It’s kind of a reassuring thing that we can all be there for each other,” Caden said.

>>Get a glimpse of the God Loves You Tour in photos.

Witnessing that moment hit home for Krystin, the trained prayer volunteer who connected with the three young men.

Even though she grew up in the church, she fully surrendered to Christ about a year and a half ago. She’s been amazed by the changes she’s experienced—and the ways God is using her life.

“[Volunteering for the God Loves You Tour] helped push out a boldness in myself, in order to step out and even evangelize to those that are around me,” the 25-year-old Flint native said.

The training she received before Thursday’s event helped give her the resources, words, and confidence to share the Gospel in all sorts of unexpected scenarios—from a coffee shop to a car accident.

“I truly believe that the Lord is doing something big within Flint right now,” said Krystin, bubbling with excitement. “He’s really outpouring His Spirit and revealing Himself to the people of Flint in ways that we haven’t seen before. … Tonight, I believe, was an example of that.”

Flint River
Running directly through downtown Flint is a river by the same name. The city hosted an evangelistic event where thousands heard about the source of living water—Jesus Christ.

This weekend, the God Loves You Tour continues in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Oct. 1), and Rochester, Minnesota (Oct. 2). Get details for the final two tour stops.