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.
by Erika Hernandez, Missionary Intern 2020-2021, East Lansing Program
We live in a world where we see the consequences of sin every day. Where suffering, violence, hardships are normal; still, this was never God’s intention. It was not His purpose for us to experience these situations nor the baggage that results. The Journey class taught by Pastor and Mrs. Conway described how people’s upbringing and baggage can affect the sharing of the gospel.
Each person’s background is important because it influences their identity, as well as how this self-concept frames how they see others. We often perceive infancy as the beginning of exposure, understanding, and influence in the world around. However, I learned all of this actually begins even before we are in the womb. Consider King David’s description in Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” Also, Jeremiah quoted the same “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;…”. (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, based on Jeremiah, we had a beginning before we were conceived in the womb; our beginning started with God.
Unfortunately, this scene that Jeremiah describes does not protect the defenseless creature from the consequences of sin. The baby born on this earth, defiled by evil, known by God from before the womb, has to deal with what is before him or her: sin. Sin already has an impact on them. When they experience an unloving, abusive home, or other bad experiences, it affects how that child forms his or her self-identity, increasing the previous baggage, and influencing how they relate to and accept the word of God.
As a result of the unstable life, it leads to what is called self survival. In other words, after a glimpse of what the world is, he or she tries to survive in any way possible. After the family was a danger, the individual builds distrust because the people who were supposed to provide did not, thus they walk in defensiveness. They will do anything necessary to survive; they search to survive in their means. In this world, most live with the baggage of sin every day, and switch their minds to survival mode to protect themselves from past experiences to be able to live “happily”. They are not what they were first made by God. Compassion, love, goodness turns to guard. They create a wall and become resistant to the Word of God.
As missionaries, our job is to be aware of our brothers and sisters’ responses to the Word of God, to prayerfully discern and recognize that they might be resistant because of their past, then we are to reach them. We are to share Jesus’s love that will break the cold and harden heart damaged by sin. Naturally, people do not want the love of Jesus to guide them nor the Holy Spirit to transform them. They may think the transformation will make them vulnerable and hurt again because this has been their experience from the beginning; their caregivers and others have failed them. Yet God does not fail; He is unchangeable.
The class was significant to me because it spoke to my personal experience and those around me. In other words, young adults from this generation, who are overwhelmed by their past, go into depression, anxiety, and self-harm, and cannot find help or have the resources for healing. Reflecting on the baggage we carry through life is an important topic because broken people are everywhere; it is the reality. We connect with people in our day-to-day activities, discerning life stories, loving instead of judging. The people we can reach are limitless; we must learn how to approach and interact with people everywhere: school, work, ministry, every one-to-one interaction in life, sharing the gospel. We live in an imperfect world and are all imperfect, full of baggage.
However, the Lord cannot complete His work in our broken lives and others if we are unwilling to recognize our condition and allow Him to make us whole. In so doing, we can be lights, agents used by Christ to bring healing. Only the Word of God can give real satisfaction to the soul, take the baggage, and heal the brokenness. As we experience what only God can do, we are to impart the good news of love, healing, and salvation to others
Erika Hernández heard about CAMPUS while attending Hi-C after arriving from Mexico and appreciated the spiritual atmosphere. She became more acquainted with CAMPUS after talking with her Pastor, Leeroy Hernandez, and his wife Cori, who had become an Adventist Christian as a result of the ministry at Michigan State University. Erika realized it must be a great ministry, but never thought of becoming a missionary. She was focused on finishing highschool, working, going to college, starting a career, and family.
At the final charge for the 2019 Hi-C, Pastor Jermaine made an appeal to take a year off and serve as a missionary. Erika’s heart was stirred, but the enemy was quick to remind her of the influence of her peers who were seated around her, and that of her family. Culturally, she was expected to go to college, work, and be a responsible young person. Erika’s heart was very tender to God and in that moment she stood up. She felt God calling her. She recalls, “It was overwhelming but I felt peaceful. When I stood up, all the desire to go to school went away, and God was saying that this is what He wants for me. I felt trustful that it was going to be ok.” She admits, a person can fool other people but you cannot fool God with your commitment to Him.
Even though she had stood up, she struggled filling out the application for the Missionary Training Program (MTP). She dismissed the growing feeling that she needed to apply, resolving she needed to talk to her parents first. A month passed and GYC came. CAMPUS financially helped her and some of the young people from her church to attend GYC. Pastor Israel Ramos’ final charge moved her to make Adventism great again. January came; then February, but she still had not applied. She finally sent an email to the program director, Pastor Jermaine Gayle, to know if she could still apply. The reply came that there was still time. Pastor Leeroy and Cori Hernandez were a constant godly support to Erika.
The fleece to discern God’s leading was her FAFSA application for school the following year. Though all the paperwork was filled out, nothing was showing that it was accepted. She submitted the FAFSA paperwork ten times, but the IRS would not accept it. Then COVID hit and there was no way to reach anyone at the FAFSA office. It seemed God was showing that He had a different plan. So, she decided to talk to her dad about the MTP. She decided to write a letter to her dad explaining her situation. Although she was very nervous, her dad helped her to see that she was making an adult decision that needed to be between her and God.
She concluded to pray and fill out the MTP application, then do the FAFSA one more time. She prayed that whichever application would go through that would be where God wanted her to be. As her dad saw how things were not working with FAFSA, he shared with her his experience of how God led him and that a personal experience starts with God. “It is just you and God. This is when God begins to lead you personally, and it may be different than your family.” He shared how God was involved in his life and his family wasn’t there. He encouraged her to make the decision based on how God had led her personally. Her dad’s appeal to trust God relieved her, but the next few challenges were talking to her mom in Mexico and finding the funds since she didn’t want to be a burden to her parents.
Missionaries are unfamiliar to her Mexican culture. In other words, most young people do not suspend their studies, especially in the US, to do ministry. So, the task of talking to her mom made her very nervous. Erika prayed that God would give her mom an understanding heart. Erika shared with her mom how God had led, the difficulties with FAFSA, and her conviction of taking a year to be a missionary. Then she waited for her mom’s response. Her mom began to speak in a soft voice, which was uncharacteristic under these circumstances. Her mom reasoned that even if she was not in school, she could also work and get money for school. She shared that the financial aspect of taking a year to be a missionary was overwhelming to her dad. She concluded that they cared about Erika, but from then on the decision was hers and they would support her. It is not what they wanted, but they would support her even though they could not financially assist.
Now, she was concerned with how to pay for the MTP and began to apply for jobs, but did not get one until July. By the time she got the job, she had a month to raise all the money. She was so distraught and asked God what to do. A sister from church helped Erika write a letter for financial support from the local church. Yet, she delayed in giving the letter, thinking it was a lack of faith to ask the church. God taught her that it was His will and that she was not to worry about the money. From that time on, she was not overwhelmed with concern, knowing that God would provide.
As the program neared a week away, she didn’t even have half of what was needed for program expenses. She began to get frustrated and considered writing to the program director informing him that she could not come. Erika shared her sorrow with the sister at church who helped her to understand her role and God’s. The sister stated, “By you asking for donations, working, and giving this letter to the church, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith. You are asking for the donation, but their response to give is a response to your faith.”
At this a member from church donated $500 towards the MTP expenses. She prayed that God would help her unbelief. She felt that she didn’t deserve the gift because she was so faithless. She was reading so much about faith in the book of Hebrews and in James that faith without works is dead. At church that next Sabbath, a person gave her $500, then another gave her $300 and another $100, and this continued. Her heart was full.
As a result, Erika took the next step in faith and asked her dad to bring her to the CAMPUS house for the beginning of the MTP program the following week. She packed and bought the required items for the missionary year as if all the money had already been provided. The Friday that the program was to begin, she had everything raised but $300. Erika thought about asking her dad, but did not want to put that kind of pressure knowing that was an extra expense, and it was not her parents’ first choice for her to delay her education. After talking with her mom, she learned that her dad had decided to pay the balance needed. Erika also finally sent the letter to the church, but it was very last minute. The elders held a special meeting to discuss her request. One of the elders asked what was left of the balance. The elder paid the $300 and her dad did not draw from their income. When Erika arrived on Friday, the program was paid in full.
On the day she arrived at the CAMPUS house, her mom sent her a picture of a Bible verse which said, “It makes me happy to know my children are walking in the truth.” The message from her mom meant a lot. She reflected on it, “Although it was not her own words coming from her mouth, it touched me because it meant that even though going to the program was not her choice for me, my mom felt it was better for me to be here than anywhere else. It is better for me to stay in the truth.”
God provided through so many trials; the virus had affected many families’ finances, the support of her parents, and the local church. Only God can touch the person’s heart to give such large amounts. The journey has been her leap of faith. Her part was to move forward in what God has asked her to do, and to give people opportunities to share in the blessing by helping financially. God touched people’s hearts and her MTP cost was paid. Through this experience she understood more fully how faith and works function in harmony.