Campus Minister and Key Volunteer make room for displaced student
It seems like every day, both in ministry and life, opportunities come unexpectedly.
Some of them benefit us immediately; most take time to reveal the rewards. Nonetheless, the opportunity will never show its worth, unless we decide to seize it, and stick with it. Take it from one of IFI’s Campus Ministers and a Key Volunteer who worked together to help a student who contracted COVID-19 and was in crucial need of friends:
Open the Door
Carter: James & I got to go to the Vision Conference together, where we got to connect and hear a little bit of each other's stories. Truthfully, I didn't get to spend the most time with James. But obviously, we had some good conversations while we were at the conference.
Jay: After we got back from the Vision conference, a bunch of students tested positive for COVID-19. So I was just texting all the students who had it and checking in, seeing how they were doing. I texted James and he said, “My roommates want me to move out.” That seemed concerning. So I asked what he was doing about it and he said that he had contacted OSU to see if they had any quarantine housing available that he can move into. At the time I didn’t know how bad it was. His roommates were super scared about him having COVID-19 and wanted him to move out as soon as possible. One of his roommates even told him that if she got it from him, she would drop out of school and he would be responsible for paying her tuition for that semester…she saw him as being responsible for his getting COVID-19, and made him responsible for any consequences that resulted.
Carter: He was essentially kicked out of his apartment to start the year. I think going to a conference and hearing about the love of God, the acceptance and purpose that we have in Him, and then coming home and being told by the people that you live with that you can't live there…it had to be really difficult.
Jay: And then after I had that conversation with James, Carter just happened to call me. He was saying, since he had had COVID-19 recently, he wanted to get together with all the students who had it and have some sort of Bible study fellowship with them because he just felt like it was a good time to capitalize on the momentum that we'd had spiritually. He also mentioned having room to host somebody…It occurred to me to mention James’ situation to him and to ask “would you be willing to host him?”
Carter: I realized I had already gotten COVID-19. My roommates: one currently had COVID-19, and the other we believe already had it. And we made an agreement as a house to say, “Yeah, we can do this if the alternative is James being forced to find a crappy Airbnb, or a hotel room or something. This just makes sense.” So it wasn't a hard decision on our end. It was just a matter of talking to James and figuring out a situation, then just saying that you're welcome to come and stay with us. I think the decision was made in a couple days. It wasn't something where there was a lot of time to really go back and forth on it. I was grateful to be in a place to respond.
Face the Challenges
Jay: So that was, I think, the week that school started this semester. But at that point, it's still a pretty light workload...James had to stay at home and do all of his classes online. So he didn't have a ton to do and Chris didn't feel he could always be available to entertain him or to host him. He was feeling a little maxed out.
Carter: I just started a new job. It was the beginning of the year. It wasn't a slow week for me. So a lot of it was realizing where we're just jumping into the deep end. I think it was a lot at once for James also: having to take your whole life somewhere else for a week and a half. But initially, we're just not connecting. It just seemed like conversation wasn't there. After a few days I was personally getting a little frustrated, like, “Oh, man, I just want my house back.” But we sat down at this Chinese restaurant, bought some food and ended up talking for the better part of three hours. Walls just started coming down. We shared stories about family, past relationships, hurts, challenges, and dreams.
Jay: That week, a bunch of different people went over to Carter’s place and hung out. We brought food and we showed our support. James was engaged in spiritual conversations by so many different people. We got to hear more about the backstory with his roommates and that's how we found out that they had reacted quite negatively and that he had been really hurt by that. He considered these roommates his friends before, but the way they responded was not loving at all. We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and share with him - really model Christ's love for him and the church in action. This is what it looks like to be the family of Christ: right here for each other. We support each other. Then Carter would periodically let me know updates of what they had talked about.
Find the Common Ground
Carter: He's in the world of technology, and I'm in the world with technology. So he was showing me some of these coding projects he's working on. And we were enjoying that and just bonding over the fun work stuff. And then also getting to hear the ins and outs of family life growing up in China was really, really good. Then our conversation just started taking a more spiritual turn. We really got to have a good dialogue about who he thinks God is; which some people say is the most important thing about you. We got to talk a lot about who Jesus is in the Bible, and what he came to do, and the kind of relationship a follower of Jesus can expect to have.
Jay: I think Carter was really encouraged and spurred on by the conversations that they were having. He mentioned that he got to, I think over video, meet James’ parents, and they were just glad to hear that their son had somewhere to stay. He was making the most of every opportunity to speak truth into James’ life. I think James also got to see Carter and his roommates resolve conflict and basically got to see a faith lived out among this household.
Carter: It wasn't like I'm this doctor diagnosing everything. It was really just James and I both opening up about our lives. It's cool how God uses our stories of the challenges in our lives, and the brokenness we've experienced to draw others to Him. James also got to hear the gospel from A-Z: this is the way to know the God that made you, and this is what it takes to respond to what He's done. Any time the gospel gets shared it’s a great thing.
Jay: We had a conversation with James about the existence of God. We both saw him staying with Carter as an opportunity provided by God. I just happened to find out that his roommates wanted him to move out, and then Carter just happened to call me. Right? We saw that as something so clearly orchestrated by divine power and not by human power. This is God clearly working and providing for you. So it kind of became a testimony in that way.
Cherish the Rewards
Carter: I think God's in the business of showing his people who He actually is. So even stuff like this… I was just very reminded of God's sovereignty to act in all situations. This was a funny thing to be thrown into, but no part of it was above God. He was in control the whole time.
Jay: I was just praying that this week would be transformational. That it would really set James further on this journey of seeking the lord and understanding how the love of Christ and how the gospel transforms people; it makes them willing to sacrifice, to love, and to serve others. This was a really neat story about an IFI volunteer having the vision of hospitality and how that really impacted a student's life. I was very encouraged by that and grateful for the role that I got to play.
Carter: I was really encouraged by how even early on, I actually had trouble even understanding James language wise…I'm only hearing every other word. And then as time went on, I began to understand everything that was being said. There was this cool movement of the Spirit, where we're not just understanding what's being said with words, but having real discernment and connection with what the heart is saying, enabling us to have next level, engaging conversation. That was something that God really did in me. Yeah, that was a big thing. God's powerful and able to do stuff. It's not hard for Him at all.
Jay: Carter’s household had a little party to send him off when he could move back into his apartment with his roommates. I talked with James and it sounds like it's still a pretty tense situation: he and his roommates just don't talk to each other anymore. He said, “I miss Chris.” I definitely believe that a really sweet friendship developed from that time.
Carter: Yeah. It's a relationship that has continued. We've continued getting time together, just to follow up as soon as we can. When God moves like that, who are we to just stow it away and never touch it again, right? God's doing some exciting stuff.
Ministry is just as much about being ready and willing to serve, as it is about actual service. The Bible teaches us to be ready in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) and that God is looking for people to send (Isaiah 6:8). And just like Jay and Carter were able to see the growth in James in response to their willingness to serve, there’s an opportunity for reward in any interaction, service, and prayer you provide to an international that God blesses you to meet. The question is: will you jump in?