The young woman was unsure which was worse: harboring the secret of her lost virginity or confessing that moral failure before an audience of college peers, faculty, and administrators.

Years of masking the truth had resulted in self-imposed walls that left her isolated from others, and she was weary of the bondage. Stepping up to the microphone in her college chapel, she became one of hundreds of students at colleges, universities, state schools, and seminaries to experience spiritual renewal through public confession and prayer.

"I have never felt such freedom!" she now says. "I know that it's all right, that they accept me for who I am. People tell me that they're glad to find out I'm not this perfect person."

What before may have seemed impossible has become the norm for many Christian students. Confession, acceptance, release, and joy all have been components of a historic renewal moving across the nation. A growing number of schools have reported impromptu meetings where students have openly confessed sins, cried, and prayed for one another while discarding items such as pornographic magazines, illegal drugs, compact disks, tobacco, romance novels, and credit cards.

AUTHENTIC RENEWAL: So far, meetings exhibit no signs of orchestration or planning. Milo Lundell, executive vice president at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, reports that the activity there was not a display of "emotional exuberance or sensational demonstration, but the reverent, quiet moving of God's Spirit."

Some renewal meetings have been significant in size and scope. Attendance numbered 900 at Wheaton College's initial March 19 gathering, which lasted more than 12 hours. Students conducted nightly meetings for the next four days, ...

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