By Leilani Corpus
Published June 1, 1989
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (FR) – Students at the University of Virginia celebrated the 100th anniversary of the construction of the school’s chapel by staging an impressive march on campus. Over 80 people carrying flags and banners walked through the U.Va. grounds to draw attention to the Christian tenets of the university’s founding.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” the group shouted enthusiastically as they marched. Led by children carrying a banner which read, “Jesus is Lord of U.Va.,” the group walked around the stadium to the Rotunda, then down the Lawn and into the amphitheater for a rally. The march was organized by Pastor Mark Beliles of the Maranatha Christian Church in Charlottesville.
Pastor Beliles said the march and rally also were held to remind the university of its Christian heritage and mission. “This university was founded as a secular institution, but not as a non-religious university as many tend to assume. U.Va. was never started as a non-religious institution,” he told the university newspaper The Daily Progress.
Beliles compiled a 22-page pamphlet documenting “Religious Freedom and Jefferson’s University: In Recognition of the Centennial of the University Chapel (1889-1989).” The biblical phrases carved into the university’s buildings are evidence of the school’s Christian heritage, he noted. For example, on the portico of Cabell Hall, facing the Rotunda, is inscribed, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” a reference from John 8:32. On the gateway to the university is inscribed a passage from Proverbs: “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
The University of Virginia campus was once again confronted with the gospel in early May during the “Tour de Trump” bicycle race which took place in Charlottesville. Of the more than 100 cyclists who lined up for the inaugural race, winner Alexis Grewal is an outspoken Christian who told his fans that he was racing “to glorify God.”
Five years ago, Alexis Grewal had been at the top of the cycling world when he won the gold medal for bicycle road racing at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Before the Olympics, Grewal said he had been racing simply to satisfy his own ego. “I was on such an ego trip that I thought I was my own sufficiency,” he said. After he won a gold medal, he realized that cycling offered no real fulfillment. “There was a void in my life and I could never fill it up. I could never be satisfied – I could never find joy. I decided to look elsewhere.”
Grewal turned to spiritualism and many religious philosophies in his search. He explored Buddhism, Taoism, Rajneeshism, Shamanism and Zen, but he could never find the truth. He says he now understands the reason why people turn to New Age philosophies and occult religions. “There is power in those philosophies – but the power controls them; they don’t control the power. But I never found anything that didn’t contradict itself. All those other religious systems were just works.”
Grewal’s desire to know the truth led him to read the Bible and to eventually become a Christian. Although he is still a new believer, he doesn’t hesitate to tell people about his conversion. During the special NBC newscast from Charlottesville’s Tour De Trump, he freely told millions of viewers about his faith in Jesus Christ. After his cycling career, he said he would like to travel and share the gospel.
- by David Smith and Leilani Corpus
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