And then there were two
Much of campus ministry starts one-on-one—but can often lead to more.
Glenn L. Schwanke
It’s quiet as I write this. Yet, maybe I’m just noticing it more, because I just returned from our district convention. There I joined hundreds of fellow WELS members in worship, in work, and in fellowship. The singing reminded me that Garrison Keillor is right. Lutherans love to sing, and if given the chance we’ll do it in rousing four-part harmony, even when the music isn’t printed in the bulletin. The rafters shook from our singing.
But then I came back to Houghton, Michigan. We don’t have hundreds in worship on a Sunday. Most Sundays it’s not even one hundred. The rafters don’t shake quite so much.
On top of that, it’s now summer break. A few students stick around for classes, but it’s only a trickle compared to the flood of students come fall.
Even in fall, the lion’s share of my campus ministry will be quiet. By that I mean it’s not flashy. It doesn’t generate a lot of media buzz. Most of my ministry is not done in front of hundreds or even dozens. Most of my campus ministry is one-on-one. It’s talking to a student over a cup of coffee in a cafeteria on campus or in a restaurant downtown. It’s counseling a student in my office. It’s sharing a Bible and a brief witness with an Islamic student who has heard a bit about Christianity and has some questions.
Or it’s meeting Zhiquiang Zhao for the first time, just days after he arrived in the United States from his homeland of China. On his first Sunday here in the States, Zhao walked down the street from student housing and wandered into our church building to look around. I noticed him visiting with a member. I introduced myself and invited him to stay for Bible study. He did, and then he stayed for worship. But it wasn’t enough. Like so many other students, Zhao was hungry to learn more. A Bible information class was what he needed.
So I invited him to start classes—that very week. But others who were already in class were at an advanced level, so Zhao would get lost. Then, too, it was a challenge to fit everyone’s schedules together. So we began, just the two of us. One-on-one.
Is that good stewardship of my time? Philip the evangelist didn’t argue with the angel who instructed him to “go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And when God’s Spirit pointed Philip to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip didn’t blurt out, “What, all this trouble just for one?” He shared the good news of Jesus, and the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized (Acts 8:26-39). Today, there’s an Ethiopian Orthodox church that boasts some 45 million members, and that church body claims the Ethiopian eunuch as its founder. So maybe one-on-one campus ministry can lead to something more!
It’s still quiet in Houghton right now. I’m getting ready for my next class with Zhao. Here he comes. He is excited. He says, “My friend Zhen would like to join us. Is that okay?” A few moments later, in she comes. Introductions are shared. Zhen tells me a little bit about herself and how much she loves Bible stories. She’s already heard a few, but there are so many more to be shared, including the most important story of all—the story of God’s love in Christ.
And then there were two.
Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.
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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 101, Number 9
Issue: September 2014
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