Biological Systems Engineering,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[March 14, 2010] —
My graduate student came to find me. “You play guitar??” he asked. “I do too! Do you ever play in public?”
Well, my “secret” was out. I normally didn’t talk openly about one of my ministries at church – playing electric guitar on the worship team. I wasn’t really trying to hide anything; it just didn’t mesh well (in my mind) with the picture of the serious professor trying to engage his students intellectually.
However, I had been praying for an opening to share the gospel with this student, and as a matter of fact I was playing at church the next weekend. I sensed God had brought the situation about, and I invited the student to come to the service.
I was excited but a bit wary – he was Chinese, and I wasn’t sure he would understand the service. Clearly what motivated him was a chance to see his normally laid-back advisor strap on a guitar and plug into an amplifier. To make matters more interesting, he was coming to the Saturday night service, which happened to be Halloween. In my pessimistic mind I saw a perfect mix of misunderstanding and who-knows-what-might-happen.
My fears weren’t eased by an email I received from him a day later – “My favorite song is ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne. I was wondering if you could play that on Saturday?” He pictured it as some sort of concert with open requests!
Saturday night, the worship team walked out a few minutes before service began to set up. I noticed him immediately in the audience – he had brought four additional Chinese students, and they were all waving at me enthusiastically. I smiled but inside I felt nervous. What would they do?
I found out as soon as the service started. As soon as we began to play our first song, one of the students pulled out a camcorder and began filming. I had visions of myself on YouTube or some other site. Deep sigh.
After the service, they rushed up to the stage, to see the equipment and “congratulate” me. Indeed, I thought, they pictured this as a performance. They showed me the Halloween masks they had brought, just in case the congregation was wearing costumes (they weren’t sure what to expect). To make matters worse, one of the students mentioned among the chatter that he had no idea what the pastor was talking about. As I drove home, I wondered how God would ever use this, but I prayed that He would.
I Just Wanted You To Know
The next morning, I received an email from one of my students who was a believer. He didn’t attend my church and wasn’t there the night before, but his light shone in our department, and all of the students knew of his commitment. “… I just wanted you to know that after your service, two of those students called and asked to meet. We were up half the night as they asked about the Bible and Christianity…” Something the pastor said had made them start thinking.
I rejoiced, knowing that He is good, and He works in ways I can’t imagine!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
(c) 2010 Greg Bashford
Nandika Anne D’Souza
Materials Science & Engineering
University of North Texas
These are times when I am drawn to an epiphany that came to me years ago.
As I went through a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph reaching Bethlehem and needing to seek shelter, not knowing anyone, I was drawn to the notion that each year on our campuses there are students arriving who also know no one, who find themselves in a foreign land.
It is at moments like these that I find that what they need most is a smile, a nod from me that says they are going to overcome it, a prayer in the heart and reinforcement on my face that says, “Yes you can do it, and we are sure you can.”
I Was Overwhelmed
When I arrived at Auburn, Alabama from India in 1988 I was overwhelmed by converting currency, finding an apartment to rent that I could afford, and registering for classes. I didn’t understand credit hours or GPA. A host of orientation classes left me with more things I could not understand.
Different campus offices asked for mandatory attendance at meetings at the same time. And even though my family raised me to speak only English, my accent was as puzzling to those Alabamans as theirs was to me.
My first Sunday at Auburn I got a first glimpse that 32 streets may have 30 churches. I found one for my denomination and entered. As songs of praise lifted up, my spirits lifted too. As we prayed for strength for the spirit, for the new semester, for families now without their children in their homes but off to college, it seemed like suddenly all things were possible.
The Spirit Knows No Boundaries
I saw that the spirit knows no boundaries. That the world breathed from the same air, and that faith is both a bound rock and an elevator of the spirit. It was such a joy to realize that I had a gift in having faith that I had never quite realized before. That is how I came to both realize and embrace my faith anew.
On campuses, as we identify the new to campus, there are also many who do not have that faith. They come and cling to secular metrics of the American experience—wealth and ambition. These do not fulfill the spirit and thus as they wander through their own Bethlehems, how wonderful it is to share our spirit with them. To offer the manger of a meal, a candy bar, a grin . . . and in that moment to make a statement for Christ of a faith which indeed makes all whole.
I have found that some strangers find their way to my office to share their belief, so perhaps living it is all that is needed. Giving to all, regardless of the commonality of faith, may grow it.
The innkeeper did not find out if Joseph and Mary shared with him anything in common. He saw a need and filled it. Christmas comes every day, particularly in the faces of strangers. It can even arrive at the beginning of our semesters.
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© 2009 Nandika A. D’Souza Used by permission of Faculty Commons