Written by Erika Hernandez, CAMPUS Missionary 2020-2021
Amid the great nation of Israel, a small group of sons of the prophets stayed faithful when idolatry was taking over the nation. Amid the Philistine ready attack, Jonathan and his servant proclaimed the words of faith “… for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few. (King James Version 1 Sam. 14:6). So, amid the secular parties of the universities, a small group was found gathered on the Sabbath to worship.
Collegiate Sabbath is a special event that happens twice a school year: once each semester. A different university public campus ministry hosts it every semester, and the other Adventist Student Fellowships (ACF) organizations come together to support them.
On Sabbath March 20th, 2021 a group of committed university students decided to safely come together to worship the Lord amid the still seen effects of COVID-19. This year, Campus H.O.P.E., the student-led church at the University of Michigan, hosted the collegiate Sabbath. Students came from Michigan State University, Wayne State University and community colleges.
The program began with Sabbath School at 10:30 AM led by Gabrielle Umana, UMich, discussing the powerful chapter of Romans 5. We learned about faith and most importantly the beautiful role of sacrifice Christ played on our behalf: how great sinners we are, but how merciful our heavenly Father is, giving His Son, giving us peace and reconciling us to Him.
Many students were impacted by a special feature by Sebastien Braxton, former MTP program director, recounting of the history of the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (C.A.M.P.U.S.), the missionary training program (MTP) in East Lansing, which started in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. The missionary program started with young people who loved God and desired to hasten His coming. After it was in Ann Arbor for over ten years, it moved to East Lansing with Michigan State University as its focus university campus.
The most pivotal part of this divine service was the sermon by S. Braxton. We listened as he shared from James chapter 1, expounding on temptation and trials, leading us to see the importance of how much we love Jesus will impact when we decide to give into temptation or not. “At the temptation, our love for Jesus is weighted”, declared Sebastien Braxton. “Do we love Jesus so much that we won’t dare to sin against Him, or not love Him enough to be drawn away [by our] own lust and sin.” Yet, we also learned the beautiful lesson that amid trials and temptations there is a a blessing, “blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (James 1:12).
When the service ended, the day was not over. A delicious lunch and fellowship time was prepared for the students in the gym of the Ann Arbor Church. Students sat together, meeting each other, and sharing how God has led their public campus ministry during this unprecedented year.
After the delicious meal and fellowship together, a few of the faithful remnant went out to the University of Michigan for outreach. We gathered at Central campus to survey students about their interest in joining the Christian organization and joining Bible studies. After we prayed, we partnered together and began to engage with the University of Michigan students. The students were open to share their prayer requests and many were interested in God and the Bible. It was inspiring to see Gos awaken the interests in students and have spiritual conversations.
Once we finished the surveys, we came back together at a park, to enjoy God’s beautiful nature, and to pray for the requests and for those students who filled the survey. Each of us prayed for the people we met. The Holy Spirit seemed especially present as we interceded for each name; the blessing truly was ours in praying for others.
This collegiate sabbath was a blessing, through the witness of the Holy Spirit working in us moving and changing our hearts. I was moved by God’s hand at work: to see a group of young adults willing to work for God, not just one but many, to see there is a deep earnestness in them to seek God and out of love towards Him, they seek those around them who may not know Him, to overcome fear, depend on the Lord, and see the miracles of answered prayers. However, God’s work is not finished yet. Students are still listening to the Holy Spirit’s call. The Lord is working on their behalf, and God fulfills His promises. ” Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…”(Phil. 1:6)
Written by Grady Yonas, C.A.M.P.U.S. Fellow, East Lansing
On April 24th, 2021, the collaborative program between the General Conference, Lake Union, and Public Campus Ministry Department of the Michigan Conference, One Year in Mission (OYiM+), officially came to an end. The graduation ceremony was held at the University Church, East Lansing, Michigan. Approximately 100 people attended the service, including Eld. Justin Ringstaff, Michigan Conference Executive Secretary and Pr. Jermaine Gayle, University Church Senior Pastor. Both Program Directors of East Lansing and Detroit, Pr. Leeroy Hernandez and Pr. Steven Conway welcomed the attendees and gave a brief overview of the program, then followed by the Fellows and Missionaries sharing their experience.
The keynote speaker was Pr. Israel Ramos, Public Campus Ministry Director of Michigan Conference and Lake Union. In the message he emphasized that the focus of the CAMPUS and OYiM+ is to help young people to be 21st century missionaries by overcoming their fear and indifference.
The program was then followed by handing certificates to the Missionaries, Joi McClellan, Erika Hernandez, and Upuia Fineaso, and the Fellows, Andrew Park, Grady Yonas, and Bamiji Ibironke. Pr. Steven Conway closed the program with benediction upon them.
Despite the unprecedented situation, God tremendously blessed the program. The determination of the three ladies to join and finish the program has inspired many around them.
We want to thank all of you who have faithfully supported this program. Only eternity can tell the impact it’s made. We need missionaries today more than ever. Maranatha.
On the morning of March 1910 in Dayton Ohio, The Wright brothers along with their father, Bishop Wright gathered to fly their newly invented aircraft. Though they had flown many times before, this day was different. The Wright brothers had pledged to never fly together in fears that if there was an accident and their lives were lost, the work of completing the aircraft would cease. However, now unhindered, having completed the project they were free to fly together. After the brothers finished their round, Wilbur and his aged father boarded the plane next and began to soar over the Ohio landscape. As they soared through the sky his father leaned over to say one word, “Higher Wilbur, Higher.”
What if we too, as believers realized our freedom in Christ. What if we found our chains to be broken, our fears dispelled, and the world before us as an open arena to serve God and our fellow men. What if we too aimed higher.
Last year a small group of Adventist youth sought to do just that. Gathering together early Sunday morning in the basement of a local church, though we all were from diverse backgrounds, shared one thing in common; a desire to experience God on a deeper level and share His love with others. Thus marked the conception of S.O.A.R.
Who: S.O.A.R. (School of the Adventist Remnant) is a group of Adventist youth who seek to do their best in fulfilling their God given mission and purpose to the world in earth’s final days. Driven by God’s grace we seek to learn how we can prepare ourselves and others for Christ second coming.
What: Meetings are held Sunday mornings and consist of exploring essential Bible topics; Righteousness by Faith, Hermeneutics, and Personal Spirituality to name a few. Service projects are conducted and allow members to grow together and live out their faith. Assignments are also incorporated into the curriculum to challenge members to practice and apply gained knowledge.
Why: “If God so loved us we also ought to love one another” 1 Jn 4:11
By God’s grace what started as a small group of several members has steadily grown into a broader community. As we look to continue growing this summer, prayers for our ministry would be greatly appreciated.
“Since I have attended SOAR it has completely changed they way that I view my status in the eyes of GOD. Being raised Adventist I have found that it’s really easy to become legalistic . During a study of the book of Romans I have begun to truly realize and accept that my Salvation comes by faith in Christ alone by the grace of Christ alone so that no wo(man) may boast. I have truly grown to love our early Sunday morning sessions”. Jasmine Simmons, U of M Dearborn
“I like S.O.A.R a lot because of the diversity of people. Learning a lot from different people helped me grow and see things differently from the Bible study. Sam Smith, student.
“SOAR has been a revival for me when it comes to bible study. It has pushed me to understand scripture on a deeper and more practical level. The tools I have acquired can be used throughout my life”. Daniel Barnes, Mechanical Engineer
You might be tossing around that ‘term’ in your head and thinking “Hm, I haven’t heard of that in a while.” In fact, you may not have seen a young adult in your church before the Divine Service since the last time the sweet ladies at church served breakfast. We are known for skipping. You don’t have to rub it in, we’re guilty. And yes, I have lived up to your low expectation. I was a delinquent Sabbath Schooler.
Since entering young adulthood, Sabbath School has never held much intrigue. I felt that most churches did not see its purpose and invested little to nothing in it, and frankly, neither did I. Going away to college, I quickly fell into the habit of being a regular Sabbath School absentee.
As the pandemic broke last spring and everyone was booted out of normalcy, like most other extroverted people in the world, I realized what a great loss this was to community and started searching for long-lost means for creating it. God came through in a most unexpected way. A well-meaning but annoying friend (annoying, that is, because she knew I was not a Sabbath School fan) was convinced that she and I must start a Zoom Sabbath School class. I was not in the least interested.
After reluctantly and barely participating for a couple of weeks, I was dragged further into what I meant to be a theoretical discussion on how to advance the potential of this Zoom class. That discussion quickly changed into a practical and joint execution. My friend and I started brainstorming about the fundamental elements and goals for a Sabbath School, considering resources that could actively plug the growing number of participants into the Word, and ways to build a space for Christ-centered friendship. If we were going to invest in this class, make people wake up and be present early on a Sabbath morning, it must be worthwhile. We wanted a Bible study that could keep us all on the same page, yet something with ample space to dive directly and actively into the Word. The topics needed to be straightforwardly relevant to our currently off-kilter lives. The newly minted General Conference InVerse Bible lessons were the perfect fit.
From March through the entire summer, there was a consistent, large, and geographically diverse Sabbath School group made of Adventist and non-Adventist students and young professionals alike. Being a part of this class I began to see the potential of what a young adult Sabbath School community, digging into the Word could produce. Organically, a vibrant Bible-centered community was birthed and each person was fully engaged and practically challenged.
Fast forward to August. The first weekend I arrived at CAMPUS in East Lansing, I attended my final Zoom young adult class. I had not realized how much my heart had been changed to love and value Sabbath School, and now found myself eager to engage in the Sabbath School in this new community. To my surprise, however, I found that the University Church did not currently have a young adult class. It did not take long for one of the CAMPUS fellows, Grady Yonas, and I to put our heads together, pray, and seek the steps necessary to start a safe, in-person young adult class.
Throughout the last eight months, the young adult class has been running, mostly in-person, but for phases of time on Zoom during holidays and lockdowns. There have been lulls and highs, but overall the class has experienced more consistency than I could have expected. There are non-Adventist young adults who come and participate— some who only come to church for Sabbath School and have only stepped into the Divine Service twice. In fact, the commitment has been the highest among those without an Adventist background.
The fundamental goals for this class have been similar to but further built upon what was done over Zoom. Our goals have been to maintain a discussion-based Bible study in which each person is engaged. Engagement is not based on whether a person has previously studied the Sabbath School lesson or not, but a study in which we together learn practical hermeneutical approaches to the Bible and walk away with not only theoretical but applicable lessons. In addition to Bible study, it has been our goal to see those who study together grow closer as a spiritual community that goes outside of the Sabbath School hour. Though every goal has not been reached perfectly, as leaders, we constantly and prayerfully reevaluate to further grow.
Personally, being a facilitator for this Sabbath School class has challenged my spiritual commitment and deepened my passion for studying the Word within community— not relying on someone’s pre-chewed exposition of the Word but digging into it, learning directly from the text and discovering together. By the kindness of God, He has taken me from being a dispassionate Sabbath schooler and has made me useful in a most unlikely area of His work.
by Bamiji Ibronke, Missionary Fellow 2020-21, Detroit Program
Of all the human senses, sight is arguably the most valued. Take any poll and one would probably find individuals who are willing to part with their ability to hear before losing their eyesight. In many ways, I too share the same sentiment. However, during a recent experience in ministry, I found sight to be less useful than usual, instead, it was the things that I heard, the sincere questions raised, and the resolute answers to appeals that I found to be most promising. As I spent time studying the Bible with Daniel, watching God prepare him for baptism, it was not seeing but hearing that fostered belief.
About halfway through preaching a sermon on Sabbath, I noticed a new face slip through the rear chapel doors and silently take a seat in the midst of the congregation. Daniel was easy to notice however, he was young, casual, and male, a unique guest amidst our predominantly formal and senior parish. As I neared the end of the sermon, I felt impressed to make an appeal for baptism to which Daniel responded. After the benediction, Daniel and I acquainted ourselves with each other and arranged for Bible studies in preparation for his baptism.
The following Monday we met at the church for our first study. Though grateful for the opportunity, I determined to keep the study short fearing that the longer the study goes the more likely Daniel would be to lose interest. As we neared forty-five minutes, we discussed closing points and prayed. There was a strange and almost awkward silence. Daniel did not gather his belongings and leave as I imagined. Instead, he remained seated. I too waited completely clueless as to what this meant. The short silence was broken when Daniel asked a question which I was a bit unprepared for. “Is there anything else you want to say”?. Though I felt a bit caught off guard I did a decent job in not letting him notice. Daniel wanted to hear more of the love of Christ for man. More than my forty-five-minute time constraint allotted. After saying a quick prayer in my mind, I proceeded to elaborate on the love of God and his mission to save fallen humanity. Our conversation went well into the night and must have gone for a couple of hours since it was very dark when we left.
After bidding Daniel farewell and starting up my car I took a moment and reflected more on his question. “Is there anything else you have to say”? This apparently simple inquiry to me was indicative of a profound reality. The Holy Spirit was working on Daniel’s heart, creating in him a thirst for the Christ that I had not noticed. Through what I saw I assumed that he would be satisfied with merely an ordinary study on Salvation. However, from hearing his sincere question I realized that unbeknownst to me lied in Daniel’s heart an immense craving for the gospel. A craving imperceptible to the carnal eye but only discernible through the sense of faith. God was teaching me that rather than going off of what is seen, to instead listen for indications of the working of His Spirit.
Over the next few studies, Daniel’s questions continued to impress and reveal to me that God was working on his heart. “Can you send me the notes”, “when is the next time we can meet”, “can we discuss how we know the Bible is true”? The Friday evening before his baptism scheduled date we found ourselves studying Community. Since we were unable to get through all the material we agreed that Daniel would look over the fundamental beliefs at home and then contact me if he had any questions. Admittedly I was nervous about not being able to go over all the material with him but planned to talk with him early on the following day.
Saturday came and I texted Daniel in the morning. I got no response. I hadn’t heard back from him since the prior night. Trying not to think too much of it I went to church to help prepare for the service. At church, I texted him again for the correct spelling of his name for the baptism certificate. I still got no response. It was approximately thirty minutes to the start of service and I hadn’t heard from him at all. A bit disappointed I pondered how I would explain to the church leadership that there would be no baptism that day while figuring out where things went wrong.
Christ once explained to Nicodemus that those who are born of the Spirit are like the rushing winds which can only be heard but not seen. He stated that as we hear the sound of the wind but cannot tell where it comes or where it goes so is every one that is born by the Spirit. During our Bible studies with Daniel, I had learned to not draw conclusions based on what I had seen. Multiple times God was showing me that the work of the Spirit is unpredictable and mysterious. It defies our logic and remains elusive to human reasoning. Further, as we cannot predict its coming neither can we predict its going. We do not know where it may take a man or the decisions it would lead one to make.
Daniel’s faith had been especially admirable. His sincere desire to know Christ had surprised me at each step. He had wanted to study longer, in more depth, and more often than I had assumed. His single question of “Is there anything more” stood as a constant reminder of the fallacy of my reasoning. Trying to predict Daniel’s spiritual state seemed to me as hopeless as trying to predict which way the wind blows. Christ was right. Here vision didn’t avail much. The most valuable conclusions came instead from those things which I heard. Watching God’s work baffled me at every step. It would seem that God was leading me to abandon any efforts to substantiate evidence merely through human reasoning. A greater method lied in drawing conclusions through faith.
Later that Sabbath Daniel and I eventually found ourselves in the Pathfinders room picking out his baptismal gown. He had explained to me that his phone was off and therefore didn’t see my text immediately. I was quite embarrassed about how easily I took his delayed response to mean “no longer interested” or “ I changed my mind”. There was the folly of trying to predict the work of the Spirit again. That day Daniel was baptized with his family supporting from the front stage. I eventually gave up trying to predict Daniel’s state based on what I was seeing and learned to listen more for the working of the Holy Spirit. After his baptism and voting him into the church body, I asked Daniel one final question. Turning to him and placing my hand on his shoulder I asked. Daniel “Do you love Jesus”? Daniel replied, “Yes”. His answer was more than convincing.