JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention’s collegiate ministries – called MBCollegiate – have a threefold goal: make disciples, pursue missions, and develop leaders. With the COVID-19 crisis, many of their mission opportunities have been cancelled, but that hasn’t stopped their ministries from continuing to make disciples and develop leaders. Across the state, students are stepping up and taking initiative in their faith and on their campuses – even if from a distance.
Levi Springfield, an MBCollegiate apprentice serving alongside Chris Wilson at the Missouri State University BSU, has been leading a group discipleship study consisting of ten students. Instead of doing all the talking and teaching himself, he requires the participants to come ready with a question and with something they observed in the passage. One week in May, their study of Zaccheus was particularly fruitful. “The conversations were really good,” says Springfield. “Afterwards, I talked to one of the guys I have been discipling and told him I was encouraged by his growth and willingness to share what the Lord is teaching him.”
Timothy and Teresa Toolen at Maryville University have used this challenging time to encourage their students weekly via Zoom, especially with regards to sharing their faith. “We have talked a lot about encouragement with others around us and how to spread the gospel during this hard time,” Teresa says.
Recently, a student from the BSU at North Central Missouri College stepped out in faith to share the gospel. Campus Missionary Christina Boatright writes, “One of my students called randomly last week literally laughing and crying at the same time because she was able to share the gospel with someone in person for the first time since school closed. She had been praying about what and how God would have her do this with everything going on. She was at a team roping competition (she is a team roper) and a young lady came up to her and started asking questions about Jesus! She said that it was a great conversation she hopes will happen again!”
Before the end of the semester, Campus Missionary Paul Damery at Missouri Western talked with a graduating senior about what it looks like to live out his faith as he moves into the next season of life. “It’s fun to watch students grow up and live out their faith independently of our ministry,” says Damery.
The crisis may have been the push some students needed to move from participants to disciple-makers. Chris Wilson is excited to see a student step up to lead one of the MSU BSU’s girls’ discipleship groups. Two young men at Southeast Missouri State University have grown under the leadership of Reese Hammond and have applied to be leaders in the Fall. Greg Xander at Truman State is seeing students wanting to continue serving over the summer when “in the past that is not usually the case,” he says. “I am encouraged by that and love the opportunities they are taking to keep trying to live for Him through serving.”
The COVID-19 crisis has certainly created new challenges for those leading out on their campuses, but campus missionaries have seen their students rise to that challenge. “I’m so encouraged by the ways they adapted to the challenges of the crisis and continued to lead small groups over zoom meetings,” says Damery. “Most of the 8 life groups that began the semester still continued to meet after campus closed to in-person meetings! They continued to study the book of Acts together and to pray for one another.”
Though mission opportunities requiring travel have been suspended or cancelled, the goal of pursuing missions isn’t all for naught. Damery considers it a win to “encourage and equip student leaders to live on mission right where they are during the COVID crisis.” They are learning skills of creativity, adaptability, and intentionality that they can bring to other mission opportunities in the future.
With the spring semester done and the summer stretching before an uncertain fall semester, the work of making disciples, pursuing missions, and developing leaders on Missouri campuses continues. Some students will serve as summer missionaries around the state. Others are beginning their one-to-two year long commitment as MBCollegiate interns or apprentices with on-campus ministries. Others are participating in or leading summer Bible studies, small groups, leadership training, and prayer and worship gatherings with their campus ministry. Whether in-person or online, the harvest is plentiful and the mission continues!