Sowing Seeds for Virtual Campuses. A Ministry Update.

Sowing Seeds for Virtual Campuses
Tim Tseng | September 13, 2020

Photo by Dương Trí on Unsplash

It has been a summer of discontent. It has also been a summer of possibilities. The pandemic and protests have plowed soil that had lain fallow far too long. In response to where we believe the Spirit is leading the church’s ministry to campuses, our GFM Pacific Team is transitioning to digital platforms in anticipation of virtual campus life. Moving on-line also gives us flexibility to increase outreach and jump start hybrid ministries when we return to in-person gatherings. It has been hard work for our staff, grad student leaders, and faculty. Because there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of these changes, it feels more like sowing than planting.  But it also feels like spiritual renewal.

Most of the heavy lifting has been done. But to be honest, I think we’ll be quite busy for the remainder of the academic year as we learn from these experiences and tweak our digital ministries. Anyway, have a look at what we did. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

1. We created a website for the Pacific Area GFM. The website serves as a portal to our grad student chapters, faculty/staff ministries, and student blogs.

2. We created social media accounts for communication and marketing:

3. We appointed Esmond Lee to serve as the volunteer Dean of students for the Pacific GFM Area. Esmond is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. He has brought together student leadership from our six grad student chapters (Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, U.C. San Francisco, U.C. Santa Cruz, and University of Hawaii Manoa) to plan student-led digital events.

Speaking of which, our grad students are organizing Square Inch Stories (SIS) Exchanges and other on-line events. The SIS provide opportunities for grad students and postdocs to share how they see God working in every square inch of their lives (including their academic disciplines). The name draws inspiration from the declaration of Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920):

No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’

Kuyper’s quote is not about Christian colonialism. Rather, it speaks to the conviction that God seeks to redeem every area of life – all of creation – for good. I’m delighted that our students are affirming Christian discipleship that includes the integration of faith with their professional vocation and academic disciplines.

Pacific Area GFM student zoom-inar

We anticipate more student-led zoom-based events this fall. Many of them will be open to undergrad students, faculty, and ministry partners, too! So check our Facebook pages and Instagram regularly for more information.

4. The digital platform has also enhanced our ministry with faculty and college staff. Some faculty/staff chapters have experienced an increase in participation because the zoom app makes it easier to meet. We have improved collaboration with the InterVarsity Pacific Region staff (who minister to undergrads and faculty) and with Cru’s Faculty Commons. In Hawaii, thirty faculty/staff participated in a virtual lunch gathering on April 24 and a virtual retreat on August 13-14. Thirty also joined the Northern California faculty/staff “meet and greet” on August 12. Even more participated in the GFM West Coast Virtual Faculty Conference on July 28-29 and a digital Camino spiritual pilgrimage over the summer (sponsored by IV’s National Faculty Ministries). These summer activities for faculty more than made up for the postponed Nor Cal Faculty/Staff Conference. I sensed that our faculty/staff were spiritually refreshed, enjoyed connecting with and praying for one another, and energized to bear witness to Christ on their campuses this fall.

I hope to see some of our faculty work on projects that can inform students, colleagues, and the Church about ways to live out Christian faith in the midst of change. I believe their expertise is much needed for our times. (For some examples, see the Venn diagram project of So Cal GFM, the Carver Project, the Consortium of Christian Study Centers)

5. Also, on July 13 and 17 we hosted a virtual watch party for Chinese Church ministry partners to view “Gimme a Faith,” a PBS documentary about the experiences of students from China who were met by a Chinese church in North Carolina. The after party conversation led to some substantial reflection about how to connect with and reach students from China during our very challenging political climate. We hope to offer more opportunities to share and learn from our ministry partners. Special thanks to Darren Hsiung, our campus staff at UC Berkeley (and who is now fully funded!) and Callie Chaspuri, International Student Ministries in Las Vegas, for organizing the watch party!

6. Finally, I want to officially welcome Howard Chang to our team! Pastor Howard pastored the Davis Chinese Christian Church since 2014. Prior to that he had over twenty years of pastoral ministry experience in Chinese churches in Northern and Southern California. He completed his D.Min. in Leadership Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2016.

This past year, Howard served as Staff Associate (volunteer) at the Grad and Professional Students Fellowship at U.C. Davis, along with his wife, Lori. Howard will be a Team Leader for the California Central Valley. As soon as he completes support raising, he will lead our grad and faculty ministries at U.C. Davis and explore collaborative efforts in Sacramento and U.C. Merced. His passion in ministry is equipping Kingdom-minded leaders through personal mentoring and team building.

Howard is also an active patient health advocate and blogger. He is motivated by empowering and inspiring those living with chronic illness to thrive emotionally and spiritually. He draws from his experience living with severe psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune skin disease, since childhood. His award-winning column, The Itch to Beat Psoriasis, has been hosted by Everyday Health since 2007. WEGO Health, a patient leader network, named Howard to their Top 10 List: 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his advocacy work.

Please pray for him as he raises support this fall!

Unlike planting, the sowing metaphor implies a willingness to relinquish control over the end results. Jesus used this metaphor in his well-known parable. Some seeds fell on the wayside or were choked by thorns and thistles, unable to produce fruit. Others fell on rocky soil and never grew deep roots. Yet, some fell on good soil and bore much fruit. We don’t know if our efforts this past summer will yield good fruit, but we trust God to provide the growth. I’m confident that God will bring about renewal. Thank you, ministry partners, for your prayers and financial support!

Would you consider making, renewing, or increasing your financial support for my ministry this month? Just go to http://givetoiv.org/Tim_Tseng and login or set up an account in order to make a secure on-line donation. Let me know if you prefer to contribute by other methods.

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