“Having high-level, biblical teaching in the midst of my formal education fueled a deep sense of stewardship in me,” says Carla Sivek. “To this day, I regard my skills and abilities, along with my tangible resources, as belonging to God, and merely entrusted to me to use for His kingdom. The weekly CCO-led fellowship meetings, weekend retreats, and the Jubilee conference were central to the development of this view of how I fit into the created order. We had great discussions about local and world events from an unwaveringly Christian viewpoint.”
Carla encountered the CCO’s ministry during the first week of her first year as a student at the University of Pittsburgh. “In my first days at Pitt, I was in awe of the numbers of people and amount of activity surrounding me, and can still recall feeling somewhat isolated and apprehensive,” she remembers. “My Christian faith had become central to my life in high school and I was not sure how it was going to be sustained in this bustling and demanding urban university environment. During those first days on campus, I felt a little lost.”
Meeting CCO staff member Stacey Gidas was an answer to prayer. “I vividly recall walking up the stairs to the Towers dorm from Fifth Avenue to go to dinner and seeing Stacey, who was standing on the steps handing out invitations to a college fellowship. What an incredible relief to learn that there was a fellowship right on the campus! I don’t think I actually clung to her, but it felt like I had been given a life preserver. Stacey was warm and easy to talk with and made me feel very comfortable visiting the large fellowship for the first time.”
The decision to connect to the fellowship was a life-changing one for Carla, who started attending along with another woman from her dorm floor. “She and others I met in that group, including my husband, Jeff, became the friends who helped me to get through college with my faith not only intact, but better integrated into my life.”
Today, Carla and Jeff continue to live in Pittsburgh, where they are actively involved with East End Anglican house church. They have a grown son, and Carla works for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs as Deputy Director for VA Healthcare.
“As I moved through my career, I sought to discern God’s will in each major decision and many of the small ones,” Carla says. “I applied for positions only when I had peace that it was what I was led to do. The career I have had in social work and health care administration, serving the elderly and veterans, is one I have loved. My mother reminded me recently that when I started my career at the VA, I shared with her that I could not believe anyone would pay me to do something I enjoyed so much. I think that kind of joy comes as we live in a way that uses our God-given talents as He is leading us. The solid foundation which the CCO provided in those critical college years has helped me to find this place.”
Carla is convinced that her life is richer now because of the CCO’s influence then. “The messages in those Wednesday night meetings were in-depth biblical studies that tied the word of God to our role as students and those we would assume in our professions. Stacey and the others who served on CCO staff led with the assumption that our faith was central and our studies were equipping us to serve God in whatever we did. I was surrounded by people seeking to live out their faith and I was inspired to do the same. We were given a solid foundation for living as Christians not only on campus, but throughout our lives.
“Jeff and I support the CCO today because we want other students to have the same kind of grounding in God’s word and joy in Christian fellowship that meant so much to us. I can’t imagine what college would have been like without this organization and remain grateful that I did not have to wait even a week to find out!”