During the Spring and Summer of 2017 a team of people moved their lives from different places in Washington and Idaho to a small town called Monmouth, Oregon. God had plans that they could not even see yet and one of those plans involved saving a wonderful woman named Courtney Niswonger. God did not stop there and continued to transform her life from living for herself to living for Him with a heart for the nations. So on the typical rainy school day at Western Oregon University I had the pleasure to sit down at Pressed, the library coffee shop and study area, to ask her these questions about her story.
Resonate Send Team (RST): Basically, I just wanted to ask how did your first get involved in Resonate?
Niswonger: Actually, I was was working here at Pressed and someone from Resonate came up to me. She was just talking to me while I was working and I was like ‘who is this crazy girl and why is she talking to me?’ Then she just asked to hang out. That is really how it all started. We got coffee together and literally talked for three hours and I didn’t even know this girl. I opened up to her and it was the craziest thing because I had never opened up to anyone really. It just felt comfortable with her even on the first day and from there I got involved in village.
RST: What would you say was your coming to Christ moment?
Niswonger: Actually, it was a couple times because when I first started following Jesus, I was at a barbeque at a park and a friend and I were talking. It was a conversation that turned into something of her deeply wanting to understand me more, and we just talked about my background. How there was a void in my life and I was trying to fill that void with partying. My entire life, I grew up Christian, but it was an option to go to church, and I realized that the reason I felt so empty was because of not having Jesus in my life. So she helped me to realize this and I decided to follow Jesus that day.
The second time was a few weeks later, give or take, in Ellensburg during a service we visited. They were talking about the Holy Spirit and how it is always with you. Listening, I just started bawling my eyes out because I had finally realized how much I had missed out on in my life by not being a follower of Jesus, and realized that He is always there for me. It was the weirdest moment ever and I looked over to a friend and she was bawling too. It was a moment that I almost can’t even explain what happened, I just felt that Jesus was there with me. He is here and he is helping me.
RST: How has your life changed since following Jesus?
Niswonger: Well, college… I just tried to fill my emptiness with partying and now I know I don’t have to turn to that old lifestyle. I can turn to God, I can pray, read my bible, and I can do little things like that to remind me that He is there with me. Before it was like, ‘yeah I know who God is, and we’re chillin’, but now I know for a fact in following Jesus that He is there for me. It made me realize I do not need that party lifestyle to be happy. All I need to be happy, is Jesus. This has been a huge thing for me because coming to college all my friends were partiers. So if I wanted that community I needed to go out and party, but now God has given me community that has given me some of my best friends. I do not have to live in sin to have best friends. I can turn to Jesus instead of my old lifestyle.
RST: Can you recap your experience at conference for me? How did God used this time to transform your outlook of village and missions?
Niswonger: The week before, a couple came to Monmouth to talk about international missions and living overseas. I was literally in the mindset of ‘why would anyone want to do that? Why would anyone want to go to overseas? I would never do that.’ Then the next week at conference they were talking on the stage and I just felt this huge push and pull of God telling me I need to go. While I kept saying no, no, no, I am not doing that. Then we all started praying and I started bawling my eyes out and I did not really know why, but during worship there was a moment that I knew I had to go. God was telling me to go.
This correlates with village because when we first started, everyone was together, and then we ended up multiplying and everyone went separate ways. There was a place for the athletes, the people who are musically talented, then there was my village. I felt like I was put in this random village and it was weird because I got separated from all my friends and I did not know my village leader that much. It was told to me that I am now in the international village. I was like ‘why am I in this?’ It was hard at first because I did not understand why I was placed here and honestly did not want to be there. It was a change and I honestly did not feel comfortable with it. Eventually this village multiplied as well and I started to step up more and this group of people, that I was once not comfortable with, is now my family. Now I have gotten to know these people and I am planning to visit a friend in Japan next summer or next February. I think stepping up made me realize that ‘wow I actually love these people. It is not a job to lead, but something I enjoy and want to do.’ Now I have a devotional group with these gals and it is amazing to go through these different transformations with them. I went from ‘why am I in this village and why am I doing this?’ To it finally making sense at conference. I got put in this village because God wants me to go overseas and it was an Only God moment where I realized this is what He wants from me. It completely wrecked me and I was like ‘this is what I have to do.’
RST: What is your action step in this?
Niswonger: For right now God is telling me to go to overseas for Christmas break. I do not know what is to come after this. Whether God will call me to go back or not, but if He does I will do that too. It is all in His hands and I am going with it.
RST: Based off of your story and these experiences, and whether they know Jesus or not, what would you tell someone who feeling stuck in life or tugged in different directions?
Niswonger: Honestly you just have to just go with it. There is nothing you can say or do in your power to change these situations. What I do is I pray. We need to be asking God, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? If I was not praying during this time I do not think I would be where I am. There was a point where I wanted to switch villages, so this constant prayer and talking to God about how I did not know what to do really helped me. My biggest thing is that you have to go with it. There is nothing you can do, but God puts out these stepping stones and you do not know when or where He will put them, but you just have to step. You have to trust and believe that you will step on the rock because He places them beneath you.