Israel Ramos, director of the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (CAMPUS) and Public Campus Ministry (PCM) coordinator for the Lake Union, has overseen the One Year in Mission program and guided each site in how to set up their program. | Photo credit: Grady Yonas
When the nation of Israel was faced with an insurmountable challenge, Jonathan chose faith. He triumphantly proclaimed God’s ability to save by many or by few. The One Year in Mission+ (OYiM+) for the Lake Union is committed to the same faith. Each year in the Lake Union, over two million students enroll at a college or university, but there is only a minute fraction of Adventist ministry establish to reach these students. OYiM+ seeks to establish centers of influence near three university campuses by enlisting young professionals to take a year and serve God in these local mission fields. OYiM is an initiative by the General Conference to impact the cities around the world through young professionals that take a year to be a missionary to a city. Therefore, the Lake Union coined the program OYiM+ to establish centers of influence near the thought centers for young adults.
Israel Ramos, director of the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (CAMPUS) and Public Campus Ministry (PCM) coordinator for the Lake Union, has overseen the OYiM+ initiative and guided each site in how to set up their program. The initiative was open to all conferences, according to Gary Blanchard, World Church Youth director who presented this to the union youth directors at the Center for Youth Evangelism. Based on the presentation, leaders took the information back to their conferences. The pastors of Bloomington, Detroit, and East Lansing reached out to Ramos and began planning.
The year-long preparation began with lots of prayer. Ramos enlisted the gifts of Lydia Matiushenko, a member in Illinois Conference, to meet with program directors through the design thinking process. The process required research into needs of each target group on their campus and to develop their goals and benchmarks in how to accomplish their mission. The synergy between each of the program directors afforded an opportunity to grow and learn from one another. Each site was very unique; Indiana learned that any place near campus to study was closed at 8 p.m. making it difficult for students to find a place to study; Detroit realized the campus community was deeply interested in resources for mental and physical health; and East Lansing discovered the need to develop social media posts that were missional where students could share with their friends.
In Bloomington at the Indiana University, PCM Director John Leis and his team decided to establish a café that would stay open later to accommodate the students study needs and use the space for Bible studies as well. In East Lansing at Michigan State University, Jermaine Gayle, pastor of the University Church, continued to build upon the already established missionary training program by developing strong social media presence and training them how to use their personal platforms to reach their peers. In Detroit, Steve Conway, pastor of Detroit Northwest, and his team designed a multi-phase plan, which included an outreach to the Detroit public schools, health coaching, and the final phase being a food truck near the campus of Wayne State University.
Each OYiM+ site was responsible for their own recruiting and the launch date was set for Aug. 16, 2020 with Bible Boot Camp in the Northwoods of Camp Au Sable, Michigan. However, in March, COVID-19 closed the campuses at each site and Zoom replaced the face-to-face ministry. Each campus utilized Zoom to connect with students and provide support to their students, finding creative ways to continue ministry.
John Leis began a Friday night Bible study via Zoom using Dr. Ranko Stefanovic's book, "Plain Revelation." A Chinese student from Indiana University connected with the Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF) president and began attending the Bible study, too. Each week more Adventists and seekers alike joined the study. Leis previously tried to connect the Adventist students, but the schedule never aligned for everyone to meet. Now, he was able to connect not only the Adventist students, but they invited their friends to join the study. Also, through this online study he learned of active chapters that he had not before known were organized. "This has given us a great opportunity to find out specific needs and start to plan for next year and reaching more students on these campuses," he said.
Pastor Gayle found a way to safely follow through with a student's baptism even amid the COVID-19 crisis. The student, Decontee Dent, was the only Adventist in her family.
Conway opened his living room each evening for family worship via Facebook Live. Detroit was also able to establish a student organization at Wayne State University in preparation for ministry this semester.
As events began to be cancelled, recruiting missionaries became a little more difficult. However, there were five committed missionaries at that time; five for East Lansing and one for Detroit. Due to the uncertainty of how the COVID-19 restrictions would affect the café plans, Leis wisely chose to work with local members to develop the ministry as the changes might arise and withdrawal from the OYiM+ project.
Launch of Student Missionary Program
On August 16, Bible Boot Camp launched the OYiM+ year with worship and Bible study with speaker Alex Niculaescu, pastor of the Edwardsburg and Glenwood churches; training with Ramos on leadership and Gayle on evangelism, and lots of team building activities with OYiM+ fellows Andrew Park and Grady Yonas. The attendees were a mix of Adventist student leaders with two of the missionaries from the East Lansing site. One student shared that she always enjoys Bible Boot Camp because she learns so much and is able to use it throughout the school year.
Even though many campuses have cancelled face-to-face classes, students still have a face-to-face lease agreement. As a result, the need for ministry is even more present now than before.
The final count for OYiM+ missionaries includes one serving in Detroit, Upuia Fineaso; and two serving in East Lansing, Joi McClellan and Erika Hernandez. The OYiM+ fellows, Andrew and Grady will provide support to both programs. Though there are only a few that are officially serving, each of the firmly believe in God’s call to serve Him this year. Stay tuned for their individual stories!
Alanna Rodriguez, assistant to the Director of Public Campus Ministry, Michigan Conference