At many college campuses across the state, students can easily get lost in the daily shuffle of exams and assignments.
Adventist students at secular campuses have an added burden; they need to find a like-minded community that will support their spiritual growth and not hinder it. During my time as an undergraduate at Central Michigan University (CMU), I was blessed to experience a community like this.
On any given Friday evening during my college years, a collection of students, some Adventist and some not, nestled into a cozy basement at Dr. Dawn Nelson’s home. Many nights, the smell of home cooked meals donated from various members of Mt. Pleasant Seventh-day Adventist church permeated the room, as students read, learned, and debated key passages from the Bible. Beyond the confines of academics, students yearned for a space to ask profound questions about God, delve into individual spiritual journeys, and grow collectively.
This group had an incredible impact on all of us in many ways. The studies presented each week gave us a great understanding of the Bible. As college students, we were being trained to question everything, so through collective discussion we could delve deeply into God’s word on a vast variety of relevant topics. Also, the meetings presented a safe, relaxing, and welcoming place to be at the end of a taxing week. This reality created a great evangelistic tool. It was easy to invite a friend to Bible study in a non-threatening environment. That helped us invite people to church because we were all going the next morning. And since we spent so much time together, we forged friendships that carried us through difficult times.
The bonds formed within this group were not limited to the confines of our Friday evening gatherings. Outside of Friday nights, we supported one another through the highs and lows of college life. We celebrated achievements, offered a listening ear during tough moments, and prayed together when life became overwhelming. These genuine friendships were rooted in a shared faith and a common desire to grow spiritually, but they blossomed into lifelong connections that extended far beyond our time at CMU. The camaraderie we cultivated created a network of support that endured even as we ventured into different careers and stages of life.
Ultimately, the results were a beautiful example of how contributions from different stakeholders can support a growing ministry. Some students were willing to take leadership roles, lead Bible studies, and invite their friends. The local church was incredible at providing time and resources to ensure student’s needs were met whenever possible. I remember Pr. Daryl Bentley picking up his phone to answer Bible questions in the middle of the night for members of the group. CAMPUS, the Michigan Conference’s public campus ministry program, was also instrumental in providing resources to the group. They set us up with contacts from other public universities around the state. They offered us training and helped us become a registered student organization through the university. Pr. Steven Conway, who was leading the University of Michigan’s campus ministry program at the time, made multiple trips from Ann Arbor to Mt. Pleasant to spend time and help us to organize.
The group started with just four to five students invited over to Dr. Nelson’s home to bring in the Sabbath. At its peak, there were around 20-25 people packed into that basement every week. It was an incredible blessing to me. I saw multiple friends get baptized from the group. I developed spiritually, as a leader, and as a young adult because of the support I got from this group.
The impact of a community like this can go far beyond college years. It can equip students with the tools and confidence to connect with people wherever life leads them. I encourage anyone near a public university to lend support to students who want an experience like this. We should continue to foster environments where students can find the Bible, guidance, and encouragement amidst the chaos of young adulthood and academia. By investing in programs that prioritize the spiritual well-being of both Adventist and non-Adventist students, we can help them navigate the challenges they face and empower them to live out their faith. I’ve seen how God can move into multiple lives because church members cared enough to support a program like this.
There are students all over the state who are seeking something different than the evil influences that pervade life at a secular university. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…” I pray that His message continues to shine throughout every campus!