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.
Joi McClellan always had an interest in missions, but not necessarily the type of missions you might think of when that word comes to mind. Joi just completed her undergraduate studies this past spring at Southern Adventist University, majoring in music and working hard to get into dental school. During her junior year, she considered taking a gap year upon graduating and prior to dental school. She considered the options for her the gap year: primarily research in different parts of the country, but possibly overseas missions too. However, as she moved through her senior year, and nothing had panned out for the research programs, she began to ponder other options, i.e. something non-academic.
At Southern, there is a large emphasis on overseas missions. Although she never felt compelled that God was leading her to overseas missions, she considered it. Joi contacted friends, MC and Abby Shin, who have a music school and Center of Influence in Cambodia, and began exploring the possibility of helping with the school. Though there was an opening, she was still unsure that was exactly where God was leading for this year and still kept her eyes open for other opportunities– something that would really make her grow spiritually and individually.
Considering her pre-dental track, Joi believed it was unlikely that she would be on an Adventist campus again for dental school, and thought it would be ideal to gain experience and training that would prepare her for attending a secular university. She had observed throughout her undergrad years many students who, after spending a year in overseas missions, would return to pursue the same goals and live the same lives as before. She wanted something different.
She heard about CAMPUS as a child when the director came to speak in Atlanta. When GYC came around last December, she decided to stop by the CAMPUS booth to get information. Upon returning to school, in a random conversation with a friend, David Glenn, she shared her lack of direction in trying to discover where God was leading for her gap year. She mentioned different possibilities that had come to mind, which included her potential interest in CAMPUS. David was from Michigan and had worked with a CAMPUS Missionary Alumni at summer camp. He was eager to connect her with Miranda Lentz (17-18) and Pastor Jermaine Gayle.
Joi’s connection with them was extremely beneficial in understanding the program and opportunities for training and mentorship. She saw the Missionary Training Program as an opportunity to prepare her to be a missionary in her next steps of dental school, and also to practice living with purpose in the day-to-day culture of Western society. She wanted to be in an environment where she could live out the everlasting gospel and grow from the mentorship by like-minded people. Joi answered God’s call this year to join the MTP. Looking back, she realized that research for the gap year would not have worked as many physical campuses are closed this semester.
Joi has applied to multiple dental schools around the nation and has been accepted in to each of the schools. One of her top choices is the the University of Michigan. Please continue to keep her in prayer as she seeks to know God’s will in where she should attend for dental school.