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Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. students from various dorms, majors, sports and friend groups make their way to the Longaker Recital Hall. The 125-person occupancy room nears capacity. Conversations hush, an acoustic guitar begins to play and the students stand to sing.
It might sound like a typical chapel hosted by campus ministries, but it’s not.
It’s more of a relaxed setting than what chapel is,” Kyle Schwerdtfeger, a member of the Refresh leadership team, said. “We don’t offer chapel credit or anything like that. We’re just a group of individuals wanting to help our community any way we can.”
Refresh’s aim is to do actually what its title suggests—refresh students on campus.
“We want to get them excited about the week of ministry they have to do here at Huntington or wherever they impact,” Schwerdtfeger said. “It’s like a spiritual energy bar.”
The worship, prayer and scripture-focused gathering was inspired by other universities in the area, including Indiana Wesleyan, Anderson and Taylor.
“I worked at a camp last summer and made a lot of friends who attend Indiana Wesleyan University,” Zach Shultz, another member of the Refresh leadership team, said. “Last October, Kyle and I were invited to go to something called The Well at IWU — it was really cool how students just worshipped, got in the Word and fellowshipped with each other.”
The Well has been existent at IWU for about a year, Shultz said. He and Schwerdtfeger decided something similar needed to be held at HU.
In November, Refresh: HU was born.
“I thought ‘Refresh’ is appropriate because it’s refreshing,” Shultz said. “It’s our goal — to come and be filled for a little bit and fellowship with others.”
They formed a leadership team composed of Shultz, Schwerdtfeger, Chris Morrical, Trevor Maggart, Caitlin Trainer, Levy Francois, Lindey Kuvshinikov, Kyle Geiss, Journey Masters and formerly Logan Conley, who is now on PRIME.
“We [the leadership team] come together each Sunday around 4 o’clock,” Shultz said. “We normally kick things off in prayer, lay our ideas out on the table and see what we can do for the upcoming week.”
During the beginning stages of forming Refresh, Shultz said they planned on meeting in Fetters Chapel.
“It didn’t get used much,” Shultz said. “We thought we could start this and no one could show up, or six people, or 10 people or we could have a bunch of people — we just had no idea.”
The Refresh Facebook group, which now has more than 500 members, surprised everyone.
“The first week when we found out how many people became a part of the group on Facebook we had to switch locations,” Shultz said. “It was huge for us and so cool to see the campus receptive of what God was doing in our hearts and how God was working on campus.”
The atmosphere of Refresh sets it apart from other worship opportunities.
“It’s small-scale acoustic,” Schwerdtfeger said. “At IWU there was no projector; it was just a guitar and a guy and people were singing. They wanted to be there. They believed the words they were singing. This is what Refresh is developing into.”
Trainer said she sees the gathering as a time for the core of the campus to come together to worship.
“I think of Refresh as the core of Huntington and a place where the student body can feel united and free to lift up their hands and praise and pray with each other,” Trainer said. “It’s a time specifically for worship and giving back to God.”
Trainer added that during the speaking section of Refresh, they try to stay away from sermons.
“We try to make it that the people speaking at Refresh are not preaching, but sharing,” Trainer said. “Most of the time when someone is standing on stage they are telling a story or a testimony so that in love we can listen and pray.”
Shultz said the ministry is not easy.
“It takes effort to do ministry,” Shultz said. “Ministry is not an easy thing and a lot of us are not ministry majors — we’re learning.
Schwerdtfeger is the lone ministry major of the leadership team.
“Yeah, I’m being trained academically so I can bring that perspective on it, but at the same time it’s my passion just as much as it is Zach’s, just as much as it Caitlin’s and everybody else that is involved in the leadership team,” he said.
Refresh does not offer chapel credit and never plans to, Shultz said.
“I think that people get in the mindset of making it to chapel and getting in 30 chapels,” Shultz said. “It’s a good thing we have to experience going to chapel and having opportunities to listen to different speakers, but people get in the mindset it’s something they have to do, like checking it off a list.”
Schwerdtfeger said he credits Refresh’s success to the work of the Holy Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit gave Zach and I the vision and provided all of us with this opportunity,” he said. “God’s handiwork in this is really evident and it’s why we’re still going; it’s why people are coming.”
Shultz said he does not think anything they have done obtained the turnout.
“If the campus wasn’t ready or if is wasn’t God’s will for it to happen we wouldn’t have gotten numbers like we have,” he said.
In the future, Shultz said he hopes they’ll be pushed out of Longaker Recital Hall.
“We’re praying everybody hears about it and that everybody at least has the opportunity to come.”
Video courtesy of Victor McCarty for HTV.