A Golden Opportunity

If we pay close attention and listen, we may find a golden opportunity to share our faith. Today’s post is another great example of the importance of Campus Ministry.

 

October Slippery Rock

By August R. Mennell

If we pay close attention and listen, we may find a golden opportunity to share our faith. Today’s post is another great example of the importance of Campus Ministry.

This summer presented a golden opportunity for campus ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center. Three international students: Wendy and Paula (not their real names), who are Muslims, and Jane, an Orthodox Christian, were on Slippery Rock University’s (SRU) campus a week before most of the students had arrived. Because these students were not yet taking classes they had little to do. They were eager to talk and to visit places in the area. They were glad to share just about everything, including their religious beliefs. The Lord had given campus ministry a golden opportunity.

In today’s politically-correct world, many secular people and some Christians believe that although sharing friendship is fine, they believe it is an imposition to bring up, even just to mention, religious beliefs. In short, personal religious beliefs must never be brought up in public. Campus ministry, however, believes that sharing the Christian faith is not an imposition, but is a God-given opportunity.

Wendy is a practicing Muslim. She came to All Saints because an Ethiopian student had told her that All Saints would help her. She was lonely and missed her family in Pakistan. She had no way to get around town. She needed transportation to buy an international telephone card so she could call her parents.

Wendy was easy to talk with. She described how excited she is to be studying in Slippery Rock; how she wants to travel to New York and California before her exchange program ends in December; and how she has signed up for the most challenging classes she can enroll in at SRU. She explained that she has chosen to wear a head covering, to pray five times a day, and to observe Muslim religious festivals because she is serious about her faith.

In the days that followed she came in regularly when she realized that we were kind and would help her. As we talked during the days before classes began, we became friends and we made time to visit a quilt shop in an Amish community near Volant; got the phone card in Butler; and ate ice cream cones at several shops in the area. A special day arrived when Wendy came to Sunday worship and we sat together. We helped her understand the service. She felt very welcome at All Saints and says she will try to come again as her studies permit.

Wendy did not stop coming in to visit when classes began. She feels so appreciative for the kindness shown to her that she rushed back from a trip to Chicago just to be here on time for All Saints’ Labor Day student meal. Wendy is a warm, friendly student who smiles a lot. She is interested in everything including talking about her faith and listens to what Christians believe. The sharing of faith is an awesome opportunity.

Jane, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, enjoys the friendship that she got when she came to All Saints before classes began. She showed her appreciation by preparing a delicious, very spicy dish to share. She came several times to converse. She said she is an Orthodox Christian; that she would come to our Lutheran worship service, which she did. She enjoyed the worship which she said is not so different than her own.

Jane told us about her religious beliefs. She said she does sometimes fast, but she added that she does not really understand the Lord’s Supper. We invited her to come in so we could share more about the Bible and faith issues. Her first reaction was to decline the offer for a Bible study. She said no to the invitation, commenting that Christianity does not seem to be part of the real world. The real world, she believes, is so filled with corruption that faith does not seem to make a difference. Jane added one more comment regarding our invitation to study the Bible. She said she believes she needs to “feel” like doing this before she would do so. She implied that until she is “good enough” and has right feelings she should not come to worship or Bible study. I asked if she always “felt” like going to classes. She said no. And then she amazed me. Almost out of the blue she asked if we could meet on Saturday or Sunday to talk about faith. Wow! We will find a way! What an opportunity, one too good to pass up.

Paula from the Middle East also came in to ask for help learning to drive. She had attended a Christian high school but did not learn who Jesus really is. She still finds more comfort in the Koran than in the Bible. Even so, she is quite comfortable at All Saints. She talked about her research, her attempts to deal with the stress of studies, and her joy in learning to drive. She has let us know she is willing to describe her faith and to listen to who Jesus is according to the Bible. We could not ask for a better opportunity. It is golden.

This semester is bright with the chance to share the Gospel with international and American students at Slippery Rock University. We would appreciate your prayers for what we are doing.

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 lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

 

Serving the Lord while parallel parking

Parallel parking

What does parallel parking have to do with campus ministry? Today’s guest blogger shares a story about teaching and sharing life skills – as well as the Gospel. 

By Augusta R. Mennell

We must have looked crazy as we tried over and over again to parallel park our car. We did this many times on many afternoons. Isuri from Sri Lanka was practicing her parking so that she could pass her driver’s test.

Campus Ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center wants to be available to help international and American college students who attend Slippery Rock University. We’re here to take students to the Giant Eagle for groceries. We are here to listen to their problems. Some face the clash of two cultures; so they want to know how to convince their parents to let them marry the person they love, rather than going along with tradition and allowing their parents to make the choice of a mate. Others want help dealing with a boyfriend or girlfriend who has been unfaithful. And some, like Isuri, ask for help learning how to drive a car.

Isuri has been part of All Saints for some time. She has helped with the student meals, and she has kept us in touch with the international students (she has been the president of the international students group). She went from being an occasional visitor at our congregation to attending rather regularly. We have often taken her to lunch after church at the Red Rock Restaurant at the edge of Slippery Rock.

Those lunches turned into a friendship outreach event when she met Donna Jean Heintz (Bethel Evangelical-Glenshaw). We had all gone out to lunch after church when Isuri mentioned that she was looking for an internship this summer or in the fall semester. Donna was able to tell her about Concordia Lutheran Ministries in Cabot as a possible internship location. She urged Isuri to apply, which she did. She was accepted by Concordia and will be an intern there in the fall. She cannot wait to begin.

When Isuri asked us to help her learn to prepare for the driving test, it was a great opportunity for us. It gave us extra time to talk as we practiced driving. Isuri described her warm, loving, flexible and supportive family at home. She shared that the reason she is familiar with and comfortable with our liturgy is because she attended a Christian church occasionally at home in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I asked her what she thought of the teachings at the church there, as well as Buddhist teachings at the temple she also attended. She replied that she did not, and does not, see any difference.

Isuri took the driver’s test but failed the first time. Even though she had sailed through parallel parking and driving on the road in Mercer, she let the car’s tires touch the curb at the end of the test and that meant she had failed! We were crushed. However, we returned a week later and she passed, with a great deal of relief and joy.

Two Sundays later she came to All Saints’ worship late. This was unusual for her, and it happened because Pittsburgh friends – who were helping her find a car to buy – shocked her by bringing the car to her apartment. She beamed as she showed her new car keys to everyone at All Saints. The congregation broke into applause for her.

Immediately after worship she approached Rev. Larry K. Loree, Jr., and asked if he would give her car a blessing. He was thrilled to do so. He gave the blessing in Jesus’ name, asking God to keep Isuri safe and happy in her car.

Helping Isuri learn to drive was a great opportunity to grow a friendship and to talk about God. Campus ministry will continue to teach driving skills as a way to connect with college students. We’re already doing this with another student who is from Iran. Such help does not obligate the students to become Christians. It does not mean that they will come to Bible class, worship, or student meals. But it is a great opportunity anyway!

I recently read something that applies to campus ministry. An article by Chad Fox in the July-August 2017 issue of the Lutheran Layman titled ,“Increasing Persecution of Christians Opens Doors for Gospel Proclamation,” says, “While you would think that persecution would have a negative effect on Christianity, we see quite the opposite,” says Rev. Peter Kirby, LCMS regional director for Europe. “It actually opens doors for the Gospel.”

The very same phenomenon can be said to work concerning campus ministry outreach at our nation’s universities. Although Christianity is often treated with hostility and the secular view that “Putting me first” is treated as profound truth, nevertheless, campus ministry grows anyway. Therefore, it is a blessing to have had this crucial opportunity to influence students for the past 40 years at All Saints. It is a blessing to help a student learn to parallel park. Who knows where parallel parking will lead? Please pray that we will have 40 more years of parallel parking instruction for students.

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 lcobb@englishdistrict.org.