Joi McClellan is a first-year dental student at the University of Michigan. You may remember her as a missionary last year when she was praying for God to lead in her decision of dental school.
Joi’s first reflection is that being a student is harder than being a missionary, “I knew to expect this, school is a lot. It is easy for it to be my number one and only focus. This year has been a journey of asking God, ‘what I am here for?’ I know I am here to get a DDS degree, but I know that God has me here for something more. To share the gospel.”
The journey began in the first semester relating to God in a transactional way. Joi explains, “I had this warped idea of that if I put God first in my studies that He would help me to do well. If I spend extra time doing work for God, like ministry activities that God would in turn give me what I need for my studies.”
However, mid-fall, all that thought process was challenged because she realized she was thinking of God as a machine. She reflected, “I give God time and He will in return He will give me good grades. I realized that even if I take the time to study the Bible with a friend that it does not mean God will give me a good grade on my test, but He is with me in my academics.”
God began to change Joi’s heart to see a bigger picture of ministry and how He desired to work in and through her life. Her prayer turned from “What should I do, God?” to “God, You put me here today, show me what serving You looks like.”
Joi’s perspective continues to grow this semester and God has moved her to ask that He be glorified no matter the grade. Now she prays, “Whatever way You think that You can be glorified, whether higher grades or lower grades, please make it happen, all I want is to bring people to You.”
While reading the Scriptures one morning, she realized that by spending time with God, He is the source of all wisdom, and He will grant her wisdom like Daniel, thus making her wiser than her teachers. As she began to pray that prayer, one particularly difficult exam came back with a solid A.
The temptation to study at the expense of her health was something she prayed about before entering the university campus. Suicide rates are very high among dental students. Students often meet the rigorous demand of academics and clinics at the expense of their health. Joi began to see the demands, but she had purposed in her heart while a missionary to not abuse her body for the sake of academics.
In March of last year, she prayed for God to wake her up each morning to have time with Him, and He has done so ever sense. She shares “It is just a confirmation that God doesn’t intend for me to abuse my body to accomplish His work and succeed in my studies.” She tries to be in bed between nine and ten o’clock at night. This has opened the way for her to minister to her classmates who often stay up very late to study.
One day she was talking with a classmate, and his seatmate said, “I am so tired.” She agreed, but he responded, “No I am tired tired.” She talked with him a bit more and realized he was very discouraged. They finished their conversation, and both went back to work. Joi prayed for him that night but was convicted to do something more. She found his email address and sent him a message that she was praying for him. He responded that her email was such an encouragement.
CAMPUS is piloting a mentorship program, where Joi is a mentee. In one of her sessions, she was trying to process how to do ministry, knowing what to say yes and no to. Her mentor pointed out that her goal is not to reach all 108 students in her class but rather to take five minutes. In other words, to be present in the five minutes she has with whomever God has placed with her at that moment. Changing her focus has allowed her to meet more of her classmates, minster to them, and pray more specifically for their needs.
The missionary training program for her was unique because it was during a time when everything was still shut down. However, the greatest work was the heart work that God did while in the program. Joi says, “So much of my experience last year was God working in my heart personally. What God was doing in my heart was the biggest benefit to help me this year.”
When Daniel was taken captive and enrolled in the educational programs of Babylon, he purposed in his heart to not defile himself with the wine and meat from the king’s table. So, what does his example have to do with students? The academic life of pursuing a degree often eats away at students’ health. Joi McClellan frames the demands of dental school in context of God’s higher call for her to be a missionary and purposed in her heart that she would not abuse her body for academic achievement.
I interviewed Joi asking about her experience as an Adventist student attending the Dental School in the nation. She explained that suicide rates are high among dental schools, which speaks to the rigorous schedule and expectations of dental students.
Joi knew taking care of her body could only happen with God’s help and choosing to make it a priority. While a missionary, she had asked God to wake her up in the morning to have time with Him, and she would not set an alarm and would make sure to sleep at a healthy time. She knew acting by faith during the missionary training program was easier when there were not the deadlines and appointments of dental school. However, she trusted God and has not set an alarm to this date.
During the fall, she had a transactional view of how to relate to God in terms of her academic success. She knew having good grades would be a witness to her professors and classmates. However, through a series of events and conversations God reveled to her that He can use her to be a witness with higher grades or lower grades.
In the second semester, Joi’s prayers began change to “God, show me what ministry looks like here. I just want you to be glorified, I simply desire to be a vessel for people to see and know You.”
God is answering this prayer in simple ways. Although Joi does not have the time as she did in her undergrad, God is teaching her to be present to whomever happens to be in her path at that moment.
Joi went to ask a friend a question, and his seatmate said, ‘I am so tired.” She responded with ‘yea I understand.’ Yet, he pressed the message further giving Joi the impression that he was not doing well. She listened for a while, and they went back to their work. However, in the evening she was really impressed to pray for him, and in the morning, she found his email address and sent him a message telling him she was praying for him. He responded that it was the encouragement he needed.
Joi has been able share with a classmate about her decision to take care of her health and with another about the rest of the Sabbath. As a result of her focus to be being present and prayerful about the peers she encounters at school, Joi has been a testament to God’s faithfulness. God has blessed her grades, and her classmates, who are not religious, have asked her to pray for them and their studies.
If you are a student and find yourself tired and overwhelmed, consider stepping out in faith and asking God to help you to be faithful in taking care of your health and giving God the best part of your day. He desires to use you to be a blessing and to connect with you personally each day.
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.
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 Joi McClellan, Missionary Intern 2020-21 East Lansing Program
I grew up knowing the importance of Bible study but was consistently overwhelmed when I approached it. I would open my Bible and start reading but would hardly get through a phrase before doubting my understanding of the English language and feeling a pressing demand to uncover something most profound. I would then haul my family’s gargantuan Strong’s Exhaustive (rather, exhausting) Concordance, and look up every word of the text in Greek. Not finding any great spiritual insight from that endeavor, I would then attempt to read every single cross reference possible connected to the verse. For bonus points, I would look at all available English Bible translations. This is what I felt constrained to do every time I opened my Bible. A tad exhausting? You bet.
My tiresome yet earnest efforts reflected my value of and desire for Bible study. I saw others gaining deep and meaningful insights yet wondered why my experience rarely paralleled theirs. On the contrary, Bible study was stressing me out, and I was growing to resent it. Realizing that something was wrong with my approach, and desperately wanting to experience enriching time with Jesus, I laid aside my defective deep-sea diving gear and headed back up to the proverbial surface to take in some vital breaths. I turned my attention to gaining a love for God’s Word through simple reading, mediating, and memorization. This decision allowed me to exponentially grow in my devotion for God and love for His Word, but I nonetheless desired to one day know how to dive into the treasures of the Word without the stress and pressure that my former methods had imposed.
At the beginning of 2020, I knew it was time for me to start studying again. God was restoring my love for the Word of God and slowly taking me into Bible study, but I had a long way to go. His purposes unbeknownst to me included, God brought me to CAMPUS, a fancy-sounding class called Hermeneutics. In this class, which taught practical steps for contextual and thorough Bible study, I was given the tools to begin chipping away bit by bit deeper into the Word of God. Ironically, we still used cross-referencing and concordances (CAMPUS is so cool that we use an app), but these helpful steps did not make me feel like every word must be read in Hebrew in order to gain insight or that I had to track down every related verse in the whole canon of scripture. I learned how to approach Bible study with a large-tooth comb and work up to a fine-tooth, meanwhile learning to look for beautifully woven threads of the love of God that give practical and devotional insights.
Not only has what I gained from Hermeneutics been personally impactful, but God immediately presented an outlet to put my learning to regular use. Following the completion of this class, I helped to start a young adult Sabbath School class in which hermeneutical Bible study is the foundation. Co-facilitating this Bible study keeps me on my toes and regularly diving into the Word with a lot less stress and pressure
By God’s sweet grace, and through the means of my CAMPUS class, Hermeneutics, Bible study is no longer as threatening and wearisome as it used to be.