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.
Gabrielle Umana shares how touched her life through a small group study while attending the University of Michigan. Her candid and sincere testimony will inspire you to trust God and wait on him to give you deliverance in times of trouble.
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)