“So how does this work?” I asked the student and campus ministry leader on the university bleachers beside me, as we sat watching the students who danced below. From all their finger snapping, foot tapping and monosyllabic harmonizing, I could only guess that they were preparing for a musical.
“We start by praying,” the leader answered, “and then we’ll go find a group of students and ask them if they’ll give us a few minutes of their time.”
“What do you usually say to them?”
“Oh, we share the four spiritual laws,” she counted on her fingers, “and tell them that God has a wonderful plan for their lives.”
And they listen?
“In Canada,” I said aloud, “you can’t usually just evangelize a stranger by starting with ‘sin separates us from God,’ It’s hard to explain sin when cultures don’t believe in absolute right and wrong, and many people think that ‘science’ takes away our need for God anyway.”
She smiled. “When people say that here, I just ask them, ‘Who created science?’”
Silently, we watched the dancers a little longer. When at last we rose in search of students who might be willing to talk, we didn’t have far to look.
“Let’s ask them,” one of my friends said, pointing to a group of girls sitting on a platform just past the first corner we’d turned. The leader called up to them in the local dialect, and they nodded for us to come join them. Up the concrete stairs we went, to greet the circle of five young women who introduced themselves as tourism students.
I’m not sure what happened next, because none of it took place in English. All I know is that the campus ministry leader spoke for 15 or 20 minutes, smiling and animated, while choir music still emanated from the stage below. As she talked, I glanced at the girls to find their faces fixed intently on the campus minister. They were listening!
“So, do any of you want to accept Christ?” I thought she asked.
All five girls seemed to nod.
That can’t be right, I thought. But five chairs circled closer together, five heads bowed, and five voices prayed as the choir music below swelled to a climatic note. Finally, the campus minister invited the girls for follow-up discipleship meetings, and they said they would come to a student ministry event scheduled for later that week.
“Is that normal?” I asked the campus minister later, as we stood outside the campus entry gate where there hung a portrait of Jesus. “I mean, do the students you talk to usually all want to follow Christ?”
“Usually,” she affirmed. “Not everyone does, but that is the normal response. You’re shocked?”
“I am, actually.”
“Students in the Philippines are very open to the gospel,” she said.
Nursing Student Outreach:
A couple of days later, I returned with the campus ministry group to the same university to run a team-building workshop for fourth-year nursing students.
“Most of the students are Christians,” said their professor, who had founded a student ministry, “but some are not.”
Still, she explained that this would be the second year that the school had invited the ministry to host this team-building event. “The psychology department did it one year,” she said, “but the school liked our version better!”
So, not knowing quite what to expect, I followed the ministry team beyond a blue curtain and into a bright classroom where about 35 students sat smiling near the front rows. We commenced with prayer and couple of worship songs (this is a government-run public university, remember!), followed by the 30-minute devotional which I’d agreed to present. That marked my first experience ever speaking to a university class without getting graded for it!
During the teaching which followed, interspersed with team-building activities, I couldn’t help but notice how relevant scripture verses appeared on different lecture slides.
“Sometimes I ask the class for permission to share scripture,” the professor confirmed, when I interviewed her later, “and they all agree.”
Open Doors for Christian Professors:
“For me as a professor,” she said, however, “it is quite challenging to know which of my students are really Christians. At the beginning of my experience, because I was so passionate to start a student ministry, I asked my students what churches they attended. From there, I knew their denominations. So, I started to share about God, my experiences, how I encountered God in my life. I didn’t want to just teach them nursing, but also cater to their gifts, impact their lives and introduce them to gospel.”
Imagine what a stir that would cause in North America! I reflected. But then again—if secular humanist professors can advance secular humanist ideas in secular humanist nations, should it really be surprising that Christian professors can advance Christian ideas in a Christian nation?
“Personally,” she continued, “I also like to help my students when they have difficulty doing research. Because I’ve established that relationship with them, I can impart the gospel. Or sometimes, I sense from the Lord that a student needs something, and I ask the student if I can pray for them. It’s so overwhelming sometimes when I ask at just the right time when that person needs prayer or encouragement.”
As the professor went on to explain, “Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit is how I lead my class to God. Sometimes in my class, God has led me to share the gospel and lead students to the Lord. The response was just awesome.”
Even on more average school days, this professor guides nursing students to approach their subject and career from a biblical worldview, reflecting New Zealand campus ministers’ emphasis on teaching students how the gospel impacts every area of life:
“I tell students that the foundation, in everything, is God. I always go back to that. So, when we talk about values like euthanasia, I tell students to ask themselves ‘what is God’s point of view on this?’ This can help students in their future decision making, when they become nurses and care for their patients. In fact, because we are a Christian nation, nurses here are known to be really caring and loving. We have the foundation that we are Christians—not just by name.”
Now this, I realized, stood in razor-sharp contrast to what a nursing student in Australia told me about being taught to never, ever bring personal beliefs into professional practice.
But then, almost everything I’d witnessed about spirituality on Filipino campuses—from portraits of Jesus, to lectures with Bible verses, to incredibly-open doors for evangelism—contrasted to what I’d seen at Western universities. But as different as our respective cultures’ religious climates can be, whether we’re Christians in the West, or in the Philippines, or anywhere else, all of us can learn to approach every situation God sets us in, be it college or careers, as a mission field. For, as the nursing professor stated,
“We are democratic. If others can share their ideals or principles which are not Godly, I think we as Christians should not be afraid to speak out what is Godly—the biblical perspective.”