The Great Commission on college campus’: are we supporting it?

‘Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

College campus ministry, what is it? It means being a staff member on a college campus who shares the gospel with students, trains them in leadership,  teaches the Bible, encourages and supports them, counsels  and guides them.  I got offered a job here in the USA to do this ministry, a ministry I had been doing for a long time back in Australia. (I am excited! I wasnt looking for a job when I came, but God had other plans and I feel so blessed that God has opened this door for me here). But, this is a ministry that desperately needs more staff. In just my area (in a radius of over an hours drive anywhere around me) I am it. In the many, many campus’ around me with the many thousands of students…there are no other staff employed to do this work, the harvest is ready…the workers are absent (you can’t really count me as a ‘few’). So, having been offered the job, the next challenge is support raising. What is support raising? I hear you ask, well it means to raise the finances to fund my wages, expenses, admin etc (and I have to raise them fully if I want to keep doing the ministry) and it also means raising a team of prayers to pray for this ministry.  So, how do you overcome cultural differences to fund a ministry in a country you don’t know? And that wasn’t a rhetorical question.

I was reading an article the other day, about this. It said that many Americans don’t like people asking for financial support…even for ministries, and though this article was written about Americans, I think it is probably true of a lot of countries (now, let me just say, at this point, that though this article may be correct, I have also met wonderful, godly people who give so much to God’s work). If this article is correct, how do you go about getting  prayer and financial support for a ministry, ie campus ministry?  If you don’t ask people, because of some bad reactions, then this robs them of the opportunity to be part of a ministry, in particular this ministry to students.  These are our potential future leaders or as someone once put it…our future.  These students, after college/university, will be reaching places we won’t be travelling to and meeting people we will never meet…all opportunities for the gospel.  If the article is right and people don’t want to be asked, then they are missing out on the opportunity to be involved in a ministry they can’t do themselves…is this what God would want? Is this why there are so few people in this field of ministry here in the USA (and in fact many other places around the world) because they can’t get support that enables them to do the ministry and pay their bills? Is it too easy to say ‘my money goes overseas or to the local church…or whatever”? If people just donated the amount they pay to take their family out (for one night a week) to dinner, it would be a huge help to get people onto campus. Campus ministry is so important, so vital. Especially nowadays when you have students struggling with student life and needing support to stay strong in their faith while on campus, or others needing to be shown what true love is, I mean REAL love, not the sugar coated version that society says is love.  Real love is sharing with someone the most important thing they will ever hear in their life…the gospel.  The one thing that if they chose to accept, will save them from Hell and give them eternal life, to share the gospel is the ultimate gift of love.  At the moment, here in the North West of America, there is a real need for staff to enter this ministry, there is a real need for staff to be on campus.

But don’t get me wrong, as I said earlier, this isn’t just Americans, this mindset towards student ministry is common in other countries too. In Australia I worked with an organisation that had many people working on campus’ around the country and, yet again, many of these workers struggled to get financial support. And for the life of me I can’t understand why. This is an amazing mission field, here in America, as well as Australia, it is one that has been challenged by secular groups on campus’.  These groups try to prevent this ministry and want the ministry staff thrown off the campus. They don’t want the Bible taught to students, or students encouraged in their faith and walk with God…and they DON’T want the gospel shared. We need an army of prayers to surround this ministry and many to financially support it. The battle is on, the devil doesn’t want to see this ministry succeed.  Ultimately, God is in control, the question is…will you step up and be part of His ministry? Will you seek out the workers in your local campus and offer to support them prayerfully and/or financially? Will you support this ministry God has created? Will you partner with the staff in His mission field?

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Expats: the exhaustion of culture shock (being an expat teaches you to laugh at yourself – maybe maniacally at times)

I grew up in the UK, lived by the social norms and yes abided by the many, many unwritten rules of our society. I was a Brit through and through (including drinking my tea lol). And then the day came, in 1990, when we emigrated to Australia. Everyone said: you won’t suffer culture shock, it is the same culture and language as the UK…HA! What little did they know. It took me a long time to get used to Australian ways ie of either shortening words or adding ‘ie’ to them (afternoon became arvo, biscuit became bikky, breakfast became brekky – you get the idea). I remember the shock I felt at church on day  (they were announcing the church trip for the following Saturday) when they reminded us to bring our ‘thongs for the beach’ I sat there stunned and shocked and whispered to my husband ‘they remind us to bring our underwear? What type of church have we joined???’ Later someone explained they meant flip flops (ie casual beach shoes). Another time, after my son was invited to a birthday party and we were asked to ‘bring a plate’, I rang the party boy’s mum and offered to bring more crockery if she needed. To which, after she had finished her hysterical laughter, she explained that in Australia ‘bring a plate’ meant to bring a plate of food to share. These are just two of the MANY cultural mistakes I have made, yep being an expat teaches you to laugh at yourself.

And here I am in the USA, another new country…rinse and repeat all over again.

I have been living in the USA, in a rural area, for about a year now. It happened  unexpectedly and wasn’t something that I had been planning. I came here to write a book…then stayed. You would think that I would be prepared for the culture shock, but I wasn’t. I had naively thought America was as portrayed in the media…yes I had watched American TV like ‘Friends’ etc and no, here isn’t like you see on TV or read about in the media. Life is very different to TV programs and media descriptions.  I had been wondering if the city (and city people) would be the America I had read about or seen on TV, because rural life and people were not.  But, my conclusion is that the media never portrays a country, and it’s people, like they really are (Australia wasn’t like ‘Neighbours’ either, the only show I had seen about Australia before I emigrated). One big difference is the place Christianity has in the American society. As I have mentioned before…it doesn’t, not to the extent we all imagined and were told by the media it would have here.

I have gone through the typical cultural shock merry-go-round: You arrive and are in the ‘honeymoon’ period where it is all glossy and new, then the ‘shock’ stage when you stand there and think ‘say what!?!?!? You do what???? Why??’ To things people say, do or you witness. The stage where you can’t believe people do things that way and didn’t they know that isn’t done in other countries…? You feel like an alien plonked on a new planet where they go about their lives in a way that looks the same as your old planet and yet is radically different, words are the same but have different meanings: Trousers (UK term) are not trousers here, they are pants (which is underwear to me 😳). A barbie is a doll here, but a bbq in Australia, ‘bush’ means rural in Australia but it is just a plant here.  Imagine the confusion if I suggested to wear your trousers for a barbie in the bush 😬.  On another note, they love your accent here (what accent? I don’t have one…you all do) but don’t understand your words (see previous comments).  They drive (well kind of) the same but on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.  And you keep questioning ‘why’ and people look at you with that ‘because’ answer, which really isn’t an answer (sorry mum and dad, it never was an answer).  You find yourself thinking ‘this is crazy’, yet to the nationals…it isn’t! And it IS tiring, be prepared for the mental exhaustion of trying to get use to it all. I have found it is easier to just go with the flow of the culture at this stage, and try to push out the negative thoughts that come to mind about them.

Then the peaceful time starts…you go through the ‘settling in’ stage, when you start to accept the differences of your new country. You find yourself relaxing more, not fighting the cultural differences so much and you think you have finally settled in…nope, get that idea out of your head, foolish girl.  Just when you think life is ‘normal’ (whatever that is) when you think you are settling down in the new culture and the worst  of the cultural shock is over, you start back at the ‘shock’ stage, and off we go again on the merry-go-round (milder each time but still tiring). I know this will settle down (it did in Australia), and I keep reminding myself that…it does get better, hang in there.