Responding to the Call: University Mission Weeks
There is no group quite like university students, and there is no place quite like the university campus to venture into with the gospel. In both large open forum settings and university mission weeks, we are seeing an impact for Christ on the college campus. The diversity of personalities are vast as are passionate opinions, but every time the team is on a college campus we are reminded of how much we enjoy spending time with this age group. It is such a privilege to be invited into these students’ journeys through the college years.
As our team stands with Christian students on their campus during university mission weeks to promote the events for the day, we face common experiences each time we engage. Whether at UC Berkeley or the University of Florida, we come across students who avoid eye contact like I avoid the heat on sunny day in the South, and students who are eager to spend time with us throughout the week. As common as these instances are, there is another experience that dominates our time on university campuses: God’s miraculous work in the lives of people.
Kim is one of those people. During our second university mission week at UC Berkeley, Kim decided she would attend the Monday evening event to hear Os Guinness speak. Kim and a couple of our team members talked after the event, and they all realized that Kim’s primary reason for not accepting Christianity had to do with accepting who Christians say Jesus is. As God would have it, she was invited to a lunchtime talk I was giving the next day titled “Jesus: Man, Myth, or Something More?” Following the talk, Kim spent a few hours in discussion with Michelle Tepper and a volunteer, Caleb. What God did in Kim’s life within two days was phenomenal, but when Kim showed up at our prayer meeting the next morning to personally share her story with our team, we realized that God had been working long before we set foot on the ground for this university mission week.
A university mission week is involves RZIM team and volunteers joining campus ministry leaders and students in a focused week of gospel proclamation. We are on campus from Monday through Friday engaging with students through daily events and conversations. Each day we address some of the biggest questions about Christianity in two lunchtime talks and an evening talk, which means we are able to cover at least 15 topics in a five-day period. Skeptics respond to the call to Christ in these talks, but the events are also a catalyst for conversations that carry on for hours throughout the week, which is exactly what happened with Kim.
During a Wednesday morning prayer meeting, Kim told us her story. She talked about the first UC Berkeley mission in 2017, where she initially encountered our team and recalled taking food without attending the event. She went on to explain her desire to be “spiritual, but not religious.” As she told her story that morning we could see the beautiful way God had been drawing her into relationship for some time. She said that everything Michelle and Caleb discussed with her earlier in the week made sense and that during my talk on Jesus, she knew God was talking to her and she could not deny it anymore. She says she now feels complete and whole, and ended with these words: “I no longer consider myself spiritual, but not religious. I now call myself a Christian.”
Kim’s story is just one story of many that our team could tell. If space allowed I would also tell about the massive impact that Ravi and Vince had as they spoke at the University of Florida (UF) Open Forum, or the strategic nature of the faculty lunch events where Vince spoke during the UF mission week. There are so many stories that all point to a mighty God who is able to do much more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop being surprised at the remarkable ways God brings people to Himself and the great lengths He goes to reach people. I may grow less surprised as time goes on, but I am sure that I will never lose my wonder in being a spectator and a participant in his spectacular work. As I said at the beginning, there is no group quite like university students. But ultimately, the beauty of these weeks comes from the fact that there is no one quite like our God.
This article appears in the Fall 2018 Newsmagazine. To receive the newsmagazine by mail, sign up here.