My roommate looked over at me, concerned.
“I’m leaving the country tomorrow,” I explained.
“Oh,” she exhaled, loosening her grip on the steering wheel, “I thought it was my driving!”
Yep, it’s been an exciting past couple of days. And as I write this now, I’m on a plane somewhere over the Pacific at midnight, Canadian time, staving off sleep until evening in Australian time. So, what better way to stay awake than to write about this past week’s adventures investigating Christianity on another secular Canadian campus?
When I stepped onto the moderate-sized university, the first thing I did was to explore the campus corridors, snapping footage and photos of what I found posted on the walls. Beyond posters promoting pub crawls, socialism, and at least one fairly blasphemous-sounding cultural event, one of the most central themes I noticed—both in terms of content on bulletin boards and “hardware” available in the hallways—was sexuality. (Naturally, it was a highly secular take on the issue; not a Song of Solomon kind of message.) Additionally, I spotted a couple of cartoons on faculty doors implicating religion as a chief source of earthly wars and troubles.
After wandering hallways long enough to suspect that I should have been collecting sponsorships for a 5km walkathon, my next task was to track down students to interview. Campus ministry events seemed like an obvious place to start, so I went to a scavenger hunt hosted by one of the university’s Christian clubs. After a highly memorable evening of sprinting through the dark, petitioning strangers for group hugs in the library, and can-canning with campus security guards, I didn’t end up doing any interviews—although my team definitely won the scavenger hunt! So, pocketing the night’s great memories (and hilarious photos), I continued scoping out Bible studies and ministry events to attend. And I’m happy to say that, thanks to the highly-active ministries there, I managed to attend at least one event with other Christian young people every day of the week!
On one occasion, I even had to turn down an opportunity to attend a campus Bible study because the timing conflicted with a Skype meeting I’d committed to earlier. Trouble was, I couldn’t find a quiet enough place on campus for the Skype session. Wait—the chapel! Running to the small brown building, I asked a receptionist whether I could set up in the sanctuary. No, the sanctuary would be used for yoga soon, but I could use the meditation room if I wanted. So, to the meditation room I went.
The Skype meeting ended much earlier than expected, but before I left, who should walk in but the Bible study group I’d turned down! Normally they didn’t use the meditation room, but today was the exception! Having thus landed in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, I knew this would be one Bible study I didn’t want to miss.
That story marked only one of the cool Divine Appointments which ended up happening as God connected me with various Christian students willing to share their stories, advice for other students, and suggestions for how the broader church can support Christians on secular campuses. AND THEIR STORIES WERE SO POWERFUL!! Hearing their encouragement to other students and their appeals to the broader church firsthand blessed me nearly to tears.
Only about four of the nine or so students I interviewed reported encountering negative messages about Christianity in their classes, although more students expressed sensing a more general sense of negativity towards Christianity stemming from misconceptions about Christians. A Baptist chaplain I spoke with also explained that she had counseled various students who had been ridiculed for their faith in classes.
Whether or not students had faced hostility, however, the same themes emerged over and over in conversation with different students:
- The importance of connecting with Christian community both on and off campus, as a student.
- The importance of praying for campuses, students and campus ministries.
- The cruciality of having older Christian mentors available for students.
This last point, in fact, was the most striking theme emerging from these student interviews. That’s right—students want to be around seniors! Whether working through tough questions with an older person experienced in a relevant field, or just debriefing with Christian community members who are willing to offer encouragement, prayer and moral support (the occasional meal or hug wouldn’t hurt either!), students love connecting with Godly adults. What a simple, practical way for the Church of Christ to make a huge difference in individual students’ lives!