By Augusta R. Mennell
What a wonderful, inspiring, encouraging letter. It came from Robin, who lives in Massachusetts. Her son Moses is a student at Grove City College and attends worship and student meals at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center, Slippery Rock, PA. Robin wrote saying how thankful she is that this LCMS campus ministry is here in Slippery Rock for her family. She wrote, “My husband still talks about the sermon Reverend Loree preached at the August service that (he) attended,” when he brought his son Moses to Grove City College.
This letter is especially meaningful because it addresses a question campus ministry often faces: Is it worthwhile? Sometimes, ministry to young students seems to bear fruit, but other times not so much. Sometimes seeds are planted but don’t seem to bear fruit, since we don’t see baptisms. This letter from Robin, who is an active LCMS layperson, inspires campus ministry to go on planting seeds. After all, what is the option?
Robin wrote that she and her husband, Herb, are thankful that someone shared the Gospel with them. She described their lives before Christ as being in darkness with no joy. Now they are filled with the satisfaction of sharing the Gospel in rural western Massachusetts.
She wrote, “We have been very blessed in our recent contacts with college students,” and continued, “We hosted eight Iranian students on Christmas Day. We had truly wonderful conversation with them, in which I was able to share how the Lord led me to give Moses his name, and to share other ways he has guided us. One student asked her what the differences between Islam and Christianity were. Herb has studied Islam and frequently memorizes and meditates on the Bible, so he was ready, willing and able to answer.”
Robin went on to describe their Christmas party with Malaysian students and the ESL (English as a second language) class they hold for students from Yemen, Afghanistan, and the Sudan. Their joy in sharing the Gospel is inspiring. Robin and her family are not counting the number of students they see becoming Christians. They just plant seeds and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
What does this have to do with campus ministry? Why is it so inspiring? Because it reminds those of us in campus ministry that although it might seem easier to stop doing ministry to students because they don’t often asked to be baptized, it is still very worthwhile! There is joy in sharing Jesus. There is little joy in just concentrating on those who already know. This attitude is not joy-filled and is not a satisfying option. All Saints will continue to work to reach students.
One student, Isuri, came to say a final goodbye. She has become family. She has helped with student meals, attended a few church services, and often came to talk about life. Clearly she loves and admires her Buddhist parents who are her role models. They are sensitive, affectionate, and hard-working people. Isuri brought them to visit in our home. When her parents left to return to Sri Lanka, they asked us to stand with their daughter after they left. They trust us to care for her, even though they have heard us say that we believe that Jesus is the meaning of life. Isuri has been at ASLC for three years, but prefers to be Buddhist. Does this mean that campus ministry wasted its time? No! Seeds are planted. The story is not concluded yet; it is not yet the ninth inning or the last quarter of the game. For Isuri, it is still the first inning. We were not asked to grow the seeds, just to plant them. This we did, with all the love possible. As Robin’s letter reminds campus ministry, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Robin, for your letter. It is a great reminder that we should share the Gospel on campus; that we should enjoy doing it; that we should let the Holy Spirit do His work. And yes, please tell your story one day. It will inspire us, too.
Augusta R. Mennell is the Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA. If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at firstname.lastname@example.org.