You may have experienced a similar life-changing event like this.
Last fall, my wife and I drove our first born, with all his earthly goods, to college. In the blink of an eye, all our lives had changed forever. Where did the years go? The memories raced through my mind – the many father-son moments we had been blessed to have over the years – his questions about life, and the discussions we had about what it means to be a forgiven and redeemed child of God in this sin-filled world. It struck me that his mother and I had always been there guiding, teaching, correcting and comforting as he grew and matured.
Driving away, I realized that we had just handed our son off to others whom we really didn’t know all that well. And they would now be the ones to daily influence him in ways great and small.
If you’ve been there too, you probably hoped and prayed as we did that your son or daughter would find good friends, would stand up for what is right and true and would remain faithful as a child of God through their college years.
Each fall, thousands of Lutheran parents and young adults make this same journey to college and university campuses across the country. On nearly all of these campuses our Lutheran sons and daughters will face extreme challenges to every truth their parents and pastors have taught them. They will daily face great temptations of body and soul. Their faith in Christ Jesus as the Savior from sin, death and devil will mock and scorn inside and out of the classroom. And the false gods of false religions, sinful lifestyles and foolish fads will be held up as the latest truth and way to enlightenment.
(Above right: A student follows along at January's Unwrapped 2013 Conference, where students gathered to discuss campus ministry.)
Who will guard their faith amidst these challenges to it? I’ve talked to too many parents who have shared their sorrow as they watched their child bow to the gods of this world, unaware of the danger to their souls. It is frightening.
This world is an absolute mess. But I am confident. Jesus grabbed our children at the font and He won't let them go. “No one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28)!
The Church has a profound responsibility to pay attention to young people for it is the primary means whereby God holds onto His children. Thankfully, for a good many of these young people there are Lutheran parishes reaching out to them through a variety of campus ministry efforts.
Lutheran Campus Ministry can be found on or near campuses large and small across the country. Aimed at Lutheran college students, they provide a regular feast of God’s Word and Sacraments and a familiar life together with meals, Bible study, spiritual counsel, community activities and service.
One of our Lutheran college students, Daniel Fickenscher, a student at Indiana University and attends University Lutheran in Bloomington, Indiana, shared that “with all the changes that came with college, some good and some not so good, it is nice to have a stable church foundation just like at home, a wonderful reflection of God's unchanging love. It is also a great bonus to have the same people I spend Friday nights with be the same people I spend Sunday mornings with.”
I cannot think of a more important place for the church to be today than on the college and university campuses across our country. We are increasing our efforts and working with districts and parishes to strengthen existing campus ministries and establish new ones. This is being done through our Office of National Mission, of which Campus Ministry is just one of the 17 ministries of that office.
You can help enable our church to carry out the Lord's through our ministries here in the U.S. and around the world. Your gift of $50, $100, $500 – or as God has blessed you will help. Through your prayers and financial gifts to the Global Mission Fund you can support and extend distinctively Lutheran campus ministry so that every Lutheran college student has a church home away from home, a place where their faith is fortified with God’s Word and Sacraments, that they might remain “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10).
May God grant it.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
PS: I am grateful for your gifts to the Global Mission Fund. This fund not only provides for our Office of International Mission, but also the 17 different emphasis areas of the Office of National Mission, including campus ministry.