Reaching the unreached on campuses across the USA
700 students and 300 staff gathered in Anaheim, California for InterVarsity / USA Ambition conference in January. Ambition is where the mandate to reach every corner of campus is proclaimed powerfully, and where students are encouraged to think beyond current strategies, goals and limits.
Read on to hear how Ambition students are saying yes to that mandate.
Yes to prayer
“Go and pray at Moorpark College.” It seemed a strange thing to do. Moorpark wasn’t even where he was studying. But Nathan felt God lay that on his heart at the Ambition conference three years ago, and so he said yes. On his first Tuesday back after the break he set out to pray around Moorpark College and unexpectedly ran into an old friend from high school.
“Nathan, why are you here?”
“Well, I’m actually praying.”
“Why are you praying?”
“I’m part of this Christian ministry… and we pray…”
“So… is there going to be a Bible study on campus?”
“Well, if there was, would you go?”
“If there was a Bible study tomorrow, would you go?”
“Does 16:30 work?!”
As he continued on his prayer walk, Nathan ran into three others and had similar conversations. Five students were at the Bible study at 16:30 the following day.
Three years later, with encouragements and discouragements along the way, student ministry at Moorpark College continues to grow and reach the corners of the campus. Student leader Cheyenne reflects on how God has been at work in her:
“Every single time I passed by students, my heart grew for them. As I was receiving God’s goodness more and more I had an increasing desire to share that goodness with those who are starving for it. My desire is that the students may not just meet him, but also know him.”
Yes to an invitation
Angel was not interested in Jesus. Life in a foster home had not been easy: abuse, fear, brokenness. On graduating from high school at 17, she had to leave her foster home, with nowhere to go. But her friend introduced her to a Christian community house. Her new landlady invited her week after week to go along to an InterVarsity Bible study. A reluctant Angel finally said yes, and that night everything changed. Angel heard the gospel message and gave her life over to Jesus. At Ambition 2018, Angel shared how today as a student at Honolulu Community College, she is eager to reach out to those on the corners of campus who are broken:
“I am a witness to my own transformation and I want to witness others have their own transformations. That is why I said yes to planting at my community college. Now I see people around me as ‘old me’s’, people whose lives have yet to be touched by God’s love, who have yet to come Home to the Father. My plan is to befriend those who are searching for God’s love even if they don’t know it.”
Angel has started taking risks in sharing her faith with people around her.
“One day in my math class I met a girl and God opened a door for spiritual conversation — in math class! — and I took it! This girl and I ended up becoming friends, and even studied the Bible together. Taking that risk was worth it! This semester I plan to start a small group where anyone can dive into God’s love, and let God use my transformed life to transform communities.”
Yes to the deaf community
University of Houston student Jess walked on to the stage at Ambition 2018. She introduced herself. But there was no response. The audience looked on in silence, not understanding a word. That was because Jess was using sign language. It was a powerful reminder of the often-forgotten language barrier between the deaf community and the rest of the world.
Jess’s major is American Sign Language Interpreting and she has a heart to reach out to the deaf community on the corners of her campus. “They grow up in a world that sees them as less. The lack of inclusion on my campus is what inspired me to start a small group for the deaf community, using sign language as the only means of communication. When I felt called to plant this small group, I said yes, even though I wasn’t sure it would work.”
Last semester Jess found a ministry partner and friend in Sidney, a deaf student at her university. The two of them started meeting regularly, watching Bible verses and pausing for questions and observations, learning together how to express the truth clearly.
“God knew what I needed and at the right time He provided the right person to help me, challenge me and prepare me for when more people eventually join the group.”
Her challenge rang out to the listening students: “how can you continue to say yes to God?”
Yes to dreaming big
Chasen, Katie and Julie are students at Utah University, who dream of reaching the unreached corners of their campus for Jesus. 80% of the student population there are Mormons; the rest are mainly atheists. It’s hard ground.
Chasen, a Philopsophy major, and the only Christian on his course, has been reaching out to his atheist and agnostic course-mates. He recently held a debate with an atheist to which 400 people came, and has also had opportunities to open the Bible with friends. “I’m realising more and more how much God loves atheists”, he shared. “I was arguing with one atheist and he asked me ‘Why are you talking to me about this still?’ And I looked at him and replied, ‘Because I love you!’ ‘Why do you love me?’ ‘Because God loves you!’
Reaching native students
Julie’s heart is to reach out to native students on campus. For months she prayed for her friends, and dreamed of studying the Bible with them, but they weren’t interested. Amazingly, after two years, a native student came to her one day and said: ‘I know you’re a Christian. I want to read the Bible — do you want to do that with me?’ Julie was blown away:
“She brought six students to a Bible study; she brought the food; she planned when it was going to be. All I did was bring the Bible!”
Katie grew up in Utah and has been around Mormons her whole life. Her dream is to reach Mormons on campus with the good news of Jesus. Like Julie, Katie found that opportunities to share the gospel with Mormons were few and far between. They didn’t want to know. But after some time, to Katie’s surprise, God opened the door for her to meet some Mormon missionaries, who were keen to meet up and talk more. She also found some freshmen who had a heart to reach out to Mormons as well. Katie and her Christian friends continue to pray that God would work powerfully among the Mormons on their campus. In this challenging environment, God is moving students to say yes to mission, yes to reaching out.
Staff-worker Erin has been encouraging these students to dream big. “Let’s look at this campus through the lens of what God can do.” She points to Acts 4:13:
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
“I realised that that’s all I’m looking for”, she said. “I’m not looking for people with a lot of training or high degrees, or people who’ve memorized the Bible — but for people who’ve been with Jesus. You don’t have to be elite. Everyone can be part of this.”
Where will they reach out next? Where are there still unreached corners of the campus? 700 students left Ambition 2018 emboldened to make Paul’s vision their own: “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” Romans 15:20. Join us in praying that many would say yes to Jesus as these students seek to make him known on their campuses in the coming year.
Watch some of the sessions at Ambition 2018 below, or find out more on the Intervarsity USA website.