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During the first NightLife of the school year, senior psychology major Austin Kleman connected an experience he had in Africa to the power of hope.

Standing in front of an audience of 30 in St. Thomas More Chapel last Friday, Sept. 14, Kleman opened his talk by saying that he wanted to tell a story about a time he was afraid he “would never come home, never be found, and no one would know what happened.”

He led his audience through a nerve-wracking experience he had two and a half years ago while on a mission trip in Africa.

The village elder, who knew no English, led him around to the different houses that had requested prayers. At one point, the elder got frantic, and Kleman was made to understand through somebody who spoke broken English that she wanted him to visit an alcoholic 16-year old who had two kids. Followed by a crowd of others from the village, they found her crying at the village bar.

They moved to the back of the bar, and Kleman started praying for her. She suddenly threw herself at him like “she wanted to tackle him.” Then she blacked out after being removed from him.

Followed by a considerable number of villagers, the girl was brought to her room, and Kleman was told to keep praying. In the room with him were the elder and five “very large grown men.” Meanwhile, “half the village [was] outside the house.”

As he was praying, she started convulsing. Kleman started backing up, but one of the men blocked him and two of the others stepped in front of him; the elder told him to keep praying.

The girl suddenly blacked out again. He was told again to keep praying.

She woke up and came at him, “ready to go.” Four adult men had to pin her down, and again, the elder told Kleman to keep praying.

After a significant amount of time, the girl blacked out for the third time. The elder told him to keep praying.

The man with broken English passed on with the elder that the girl had been struggling this way “for a long time” in such a way that they did not know what was going on, either, nor did they understand the language she was speaking.

The elder and Kleman skipped the rest of the village. An hour late, the elder dropped him off at the place where they’d met in the morning.

Kleman said that he “needed a lot of hope…a lot of trust.” While he was frantically praying for God to help him, he also thought about the people who were important in his life whom he’d miss back home. He specified, “[n]ot the cliché important…they’re important, they’re valued,” but important in the way of each individual has a personal story and “there’s a love that God has for them beyond anything [we] can know.”

He said, “When you truly love Jesus, you learn to love every single person,” and not in a cliché “We all love each other and sing Kumbaya.” Rather, “[y]ou love someone for their very being…beyond who they are, you love them because they are…because God is in them.” All of us are “called to be a community…because we share in that love” and the hope that comes from such love and community.

Kleman concluded, “[R]emember that when you pray and when you have those struggles, we come together as a community, and you should never feel alone. You are always loved. You should always have hope.”

Following Kleman’s talk was an hour of adoration with worship music from the Tommie More band that plays for the 9 p.m. Sunday Mass.

LifeNight is a student-run ministry with support from Campus Ministry. Senior philosophy major Mark Schumacher started LifeNight during the 2015-2016 school year. Upon his graduation, he asked Margaret Vetch to carry on the ministry. Vetch, a senior biology major, has been the student leader for the past two years in addition to this one.

Vetch says that LifeNight is meant to be “an alternative Friday night event focused around faith sharing, fellowship, and praise and worship.” She is the sole coordinator at the moment but is “looking to bring someone on to help organize in the next few months so that the event can continue after [her] graduation” this school year.

The next LifeNight is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19, starting at 7 p.m.

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