The start of the semester is over. Students are starting to experience the stress of the first round of exams. Last Thursday we finished the "Study Effectively" seminar. Alejandro spoke up at the end of the seminar, "thank you for all the affection and concern you have showed us by offering the seminar." The evening before Israel, one of our new Chilean staff, and I sat down with Alejandro to talk about a variety of questions he had about spirituality. He was curious about how we experience God in our lives.
Earlier in the semester we had a stand that allowed students to come to us. Several hundred stopped by and filled out a short survey. About 1/3 expressed interest in having an objective discussion of the Bible. That was encouraging. The vast majority of students also express a high desire to know God personally. But they usually don't have any idea how they would go about it and are hesitant to get involved in the things that might help them.
We also had an orientation event for freshmen, "How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun". We faced many difficulties with this event, getting a time and place on the university campus, and being able to promote it like we had planned. We postponed it for two weeks. While I was hanging up another poster where they had been taken down two guys asked me what I was promoting. A few minutes later Rodrigo, Francisco and I were in a significant spiritual conversation.
I had to cut the conversation short to meet with my discipleship group. We scheduled a meeting, and a week later we talked at length about how we know what is good and true. Ask we talked through the typical answers (I if I feel good and it doesn't harm anyone else...etc) and examined if they were sufficient to help us deal with reality we eventually narrowed our focus. The gospel became our focus. We could agree that we are basically egocentric people and that many of the problems we face are caused by this heart problem. The law hasn't changed people. A personal relationship with a God who loves us perfectly is a unique and real solution. Rodrigo and Francisco are considering the gospel!
I am not completely sure that the strategies we used are the best ones, but as part of a process they are helping us connect with the campus as a whole and leading us into effective evangelism with students. The reality that about 1% of the students you invite will participate is a discouraging reality. My friend Pablo observed, "participation for me was to go to mass on occasion, that is what has defined participation culturally for centuries here in Chile."
I am also encouraged by how I have been able to re-connect with the many students that we got to know last year. As we invite them to things and are more direct in sharing our faith I am sure some will place their faith in Jesus. Today Christofer, a non-Christian student who went on summer project with us, had dinner with Israel and I. He got to consider the gospel one more time. While I would love to see things go more quickly (for example I believe we could see several spiritual generations before the end of the semester) I know that seeing a ministry become a movement is is about bold faith and patientce in the processes. Thanks for praying that God would start spiritual movements in Chile and for your prayer for our encouragement, perseverance as we face many barriers in the ministry here.