There’s always the usual things that spark our immediate gratitude on Thanksgiving—second helpings of pumpkin pie, non-stop football on TV, outrageously great sales, and the necessary break from school before the onslaught of finals. But this month, as InterVarsity celebrates 70 years of ministry to students and faculty, we’re also reflecting on the good things God is doing on college and university campuses across the nation.
This season, we’re thanking God for:
1. Amazing donors and churches who pray for and financially support our staff. We’re blessed when churches like Faith Community Bible Church in Madison, Wisconsin, support students in creative way like offering a place for chapters to meet when they’re not allowed space on campus.
2. Hundreds of students who heard the gospel through the Red Cup Campaign. So far, we know of 98 new lives in Jesus through the campaign—and that’s just from 15 of the 145 campuses that used it! InterVarsity students are excited to share the gospel. After fall conference, one student from the University of Nevada Reno said, “Now I see that the real joy of the Christian life is in bringing others to Christ.”
3. Christian faculty members like Lendol Calder and Dr. Lowell Busenitz who invest in students and challenge them to consider how their faith informs their academic studies. These faculty members are renewing the ideas and structures of the university.
4. Students like Jamey Watkins, whose love and compassion for those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior urges them to share the gospel wherever God places them.
5. Staff and students who are passionate about reaching out in love and community to ethnic-specific students. At Joliet Jr. College in Illinois, students formed a Black Campus Ministry chapter and are seeing new members come each week. Staff Brennan Takayama moved to Hilo to plant InterVarsity chapters at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo and Hawai`i Community College, and Andrew Nguyen in California is educating others in college ministry on how to minister to Vietnamese students.
6. The growth in ministries to students in nursing, the arts, athletics, and sororities and fraternities. During InterVarsity’s Greek Conferences in February, sixteen fraternity and sorority members made first-time decisions to follow Jesus, and 254 students recommitted their lives to God. Even The New York Times paid attention with its article, “Where Raucous is the Norm, Bible Study.” As participants returned to campus, 295 students committed to reaching out to their house brothers and sisters.
7. Alumni who take what they’ve learned in their InterVarsity communities and change the world with it, people like Sarah Sumpolec, a former witch who now writes for and speaks to teenage girls on God’s calling in their lives; Jonathan Ahn, a business consultant who’s finding a deep spiritual hunger among business leaders; and Benjamin Reese who continues to say “yes” to God while working at Disney Imagineering.
8. The opportunity to host another Urbana Student Missions Conference on December 27-31, 2012. As we plan for and prepare for Urbana 12, we reflect on how God used past Urbana conferences to challenge students to seek their place in God’s global mission.
9. Neckties no longer being obligatory classroom fashion as they were 70 years ago when InterVarsity began. Some mornings after an all-nighter in the computer lab with an hour’s sleep and half a bowl of cereal in your stomach, pajama pants are really the best you can do. Yet some things haven’t changed in 70 years. Alumni Donald R. Brown reflects, “I am grateful to look back those 70 years to 1941 when Stacey Woods asked me to lead the first IVCF at the University of Michigan. It changed my life and made me a witness for Christ these past 70 years. In our retirement, my wife and I were the first staff of IVCF at Edison College here in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a wonderful experience to be back with the students and see the changes on campus and in students’ views of life after 70 years. The same Word and the same God still changes lives. My wife and I are now 90 years old and it has been a wonderful life walking with the Lord who loved us and has led us all the way.”
10. Finally, we are giving thanks for God’s great love and mercy, which he demonstrated through his son Jesus, whom we have the privilege of calling Lord.