Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Baptist Student Ministry at UH

Today, WBC provided lunch for the BSM at the University of Houston. Baptist Student Ministry is very important to me. It was in that very same BSM building that I met my wife, and many other people who helped me learn what it was to live as a fully devoted follower of Christ in a diverse city like ours. So I am always excited about any opportunity to visit the building and see what's going on.

I have to tell you, BSM work has come a long way since my day. When I was a student in the late 80s and early 90s, weekly free lunches were a small affair. 50 students or so would eat the lasagna or taco salad provided by a local church and listen semi-patiently to the church's pastor. The crowd would mostly be made up of kids for whom BSM was a place to hangout between classes, playing cards or ping pong... a sort of "youth group away from home." There would be a newcomer or two sprinkled in from time to time, as we invited our lost friends. We'd talk quite a bit about mission work or evangelism, but rarely see any conversions.

Free Tuesday lunch at UH is now a three hour, come-and-go event that attracts between 200 and 300 people. There is no speaker. Instead, the BSM director (BJ Ramon), his two campus missionaries, and other student leaders sit at the tables building relationships with students, many of which are leading in some wonderful directions. BJ told me that this semester, they've seen six students accept Christ. One was a girl he met at student orientation before the semester began. At that time, she said, "I'm an atheist. You'll never see me again." A few weeks ago, she showed up at their Tuesday night worship service, saying, "I'm still an atheist, but I thought I'd check this out." A couple of days later, BJ noticed that she had signed up for their summer mission trip. He asked her if she was sure she wanted to go, since they plan to spend most of their time telling people about Jesus. She said, "That's cool. I can do that." Apparently, she had become a believer after attending that first worship service.

Another young man came into the BSM one day asking BJ what sorts of Bible studies they offered. BJ explained what they had, then asked what he was looking for. The young man said, "Well, in my dorm room the other night, I gave my life to God. Now I need to know what that means." He also asked if it would be okay if he brought some friends who need to give their lives to God as well. BJ said it was remarkable...this young man had experienced conversion, and was already doing discipleship and evangelism, without even knowing those terms! Since that time, they've seen that young man grow by leaps and bounds.

They have some great plans for the future. One of their campus missionaries and her husband want to move some on-campus apartments and establish Bible studies in all of the frat houses. They are hoping God will provide the funding. Of course, there have also been discouraging events. Recently, a student leader at the BSM confessed to BJ that he is involved in a homosexual relationship. This young man knows what the Bible says about that, and BJ gently explained that he is still welcome at any event, but he cannot be a leader in the BSM if he's engaged in behavior that is unbiblical. Recently, the young man told BJ that he was filing a discrimination complaint with the University. Please pray for this young man, and for this entire situation. Texas Baptists own the building, so the ministry will continue no matter what, but an unfavorable ruling could affect the BSM's ability to schedule events on campus.

God is doing great things. It's important--and refreshing--for us to be able to hear some of the great things He's up to in other parts of our city.


Joel said...

You know I was closeted back then and this strikes me very deep. Even during my term as president it was a struggle reconciling my family of faith and my sexual orientation.

I pray for the ministry. I pray for guidance. I pray for the other gays out there who think they are going to change the SBC by fighting them in litigious ways. I pray for gay Christians that they find the answer that we are looking for. I just think it is so dumb to think that a student can sue the SBC into agreeing with him.

I still love my Baptist friends, family and church, but I know what they think of my being gay so I pray that God gives us all clear understanding on how we should live our lives. Had I come out in college even serving on a term on executive council, I know I would have been asked to step down and would have because I know that does not agree with the values of the organization. That is like having a t-Rex on a vegetarian support group.

Instead I chose to associate myself with faith organizations that help me reconcile who I am and God Himself. I even still give to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong because I am a product of that mission work, that student ministry, and my home church.

I wish I could talk to that student.

Jeff Berger said...

It's great to hear from you, Joel. Thanks for your insightful comments.

Joel said...

it got me all rilled up. Look for the Rant on FB. :)

G-Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G-Man said...

Very interesting read. I spent a lot of time in that building during the late 80s.

--Gary Cowart