International (MNN) — InterVarsity Christian Fellowship wants to help college students find their place in the global Body of Christ. That means meeting them where they are on college campuses, but according to InterVarsity’s Scott Bessenecker, it also means taking them out of their comfort zones.
Intervarsity is mostly famous for helping students discover what it means to be part of the Church “in the context of campus and education,” but that’s not where students’ journeys end. To live out the Gospel, Bessenecker says, you have to enter into other communities. Understanding another person’s context can help you have a better appreciation of how God might fit into it.
Take immigration issues, for example. In the U.S., ongoing debates about the southern border have the potential to make the discussion purely political, but InterVarsity wants to humanize the problem. To do that, they take students to the border to meet communities in the area face to face. They’ll live in a migrant shelter, speak with people from both sides of the border, and wrestle with how God and faith fit into the issue.
It’s not just about immigration; InterVarsity seeks the humanity aspect of several other conversations, too. They expose them to non-Western thinkers in Manila and Nairobi, urban life in Tampa and Los Angeles, and rural poverty in West Virginia. All summer long, hundreds of students will be experiencing contexts far from their own.
Wherever they are, Bessenecker wants students to learn how to actively listen for God’s voice, love people it may be difficult to love, and die to some of their own desires in favor of God’s. “When students are out of place, when they feel the discomfort of displacement or the dissonance of not having the things that are normally around them, there’s opportunity to grow there,” he says.
Their model of displacement stems from Jesus’ own approach of sending out the 12 disciples. “He intentionally removed some things, some familiarities, from them, and sent them out to teach them dependence on God, to teach them to depend on the people that they were going to,” Bessenecker explains.
“Those are the things that I believe cause real growth, and so we’re pretty thoughtful about wanting students to experience some form of dissonance in order to stretch them, in order to help them to hear well, love well, and die well.”
Pray for the hundreds of students learning how to find their place in a global Church this summer. Want to learn how to minister to students? Are you a student yourself interested in what InterVarsity has to offer? Interested in hearing stories from these summer trips? Check out InterVarsity’s website right here.
Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.