Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Senior 2016: Jon Iavarone

During the opening days of the fall semester, we typically spend an afternoon playing the game we call "Big Red Ball."  It's a chance for us to spend time on North Campus and have some fun as we meet new students settling into Cornell.  We are always praying for "divine appointments"; opportunities to meet people who are spiritually open and curious.  Four years ago I was standing on the sidelines when a freshman kid named Jon Iavarone came riding by on his bicycle.   I invited him to play with us, but as he was on his way somewhere, he decided not to get in the game.  We ended up watching and talking for 10 minutes or so.
Jon grew up on Long Island where his family has owned a couple of local grocery stores for many many years.  Jon and I hit it off right away for at least a couple of reasons: #1 he was riding a bike!  Most people walk across the vast sprawling campus of Cornell, but some of us have an indelible appreciation for the wheel!  #2 Jon was a "hotelie", he was studying in Cornell's famed School of Hotel Administration.  Although I didn't attend Cornell as a student, if I did, I would want to get the hotel degree -it is definitively my favorite major here.*   Jon was looking for a particular building where he needed to drop something off, and since he was new to campus I jumped on my bike and helped him get where he needed to be.

I am so thankful for that providential meet up that day.  Over the years Jon and I have grown to be great friends.  Jon connects well with others, he's very friendly and also very generous.  Like most Cornell students he is driven and ambitious, but not in a way that's neurotic!  Jon likes to live life, he loves to fish and eat and spend time with people.  One of my favorite memories is the time time Jon came over to my house in the morning, we went to the store and bought these huge steaks, and then we grilled 'em for breakfast!  

Although Jon grew up with a Catholic background, when he came to college he wasn't really looking for a spiritual community.  Like most students, seeking and connecting with girls was a way higher priority than seeking and relating with God!  On his own, he wasn't going to come looking for a group of Jesus-loving students to study the Bible with.   He wasn't trying to find any Friday night worship meetings or mission trips or small groups!  He probably wouldn't have even stopped at our Cru table at an event like "clubfest".  When I met Jon Iavarone 4 years ago in front of Dickson Hall he was a really cool guy, but he was not a guy that was planning on growing in the gospel during his time at Cornell.  Thankfully, God had other plans.  
Jon (middle) with Sean Salmon and Will Poon
Jon started coming out to our Large Group meeting on Friday nights, he got plugged into a small group and then during spring break, Jon went on  Cru's Big Break Trip!  At Big Break, students hear awesome Bible teaching, they get trained in how to share their faith effectively and they spend every afternoon engaging others with the good news of Jesus.  That trip was huge for Jon! That week living in community on mission was very helpful for Jon's understanding and experience of the gospel.  

Last year Jon was out in England at the London School of Economics.  To finish out his senior year, I asked Jon to be a part of the freshman Community Group that I was leading.   Jon was a servant leader all the way through this year and his faithfulness was a real blessing to the younger guys!  We had an awesome year meeting up every week with a phenomenal group of dudes.   

Jon is headed to the Bay area to work with a small company in Real Estate Investment.  My prayer is that God will use Jon in San Fran just as he has out here in Ithaca.
Jon and I cooked the Fajita's for our Men's time. 

*(I take credit for convincing a number of students to change their major to Hotel Admin.) 

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