I went to Guyana expecting to partner with Guyanese InterVarsity students in doing outreach on their campus. I didn't expect to be humbled as I witnessed their sincere passion and zeal for the cause of Christ.
This spring, Tony Gatewood and I led a group of seven InterVarsity/USA students and one intern to South America to experience "God in Guyana," the Central Region's first Black Campus Ministries spring break missions trip.
Guyanese students, who have no staff at the moment, were empowered and emboldened in evangelism. Kadeem, a Guyanese student leader said, "I thought I was bold, but now I see that I can be bolder in my witness!"
American students learned about boldness as well. Some commented that they had never spent so many hours at a proxé station (an evangelistic art display designed to initiate spiritual conversations). As the Americans saw Guyanese InterVarsity students coming out to the proxé often, even when preparing for an exam, they realized they could be bolder on their campuses back home. One American student said, "Being a part of this experience allowed me to see that I should pour my all into ministry."
Most students had the opportunity to share the gospel with a student of another faith.
Eight students committed to following Jesus for the first time, 25 students recommitted their lives to God, and 10 students are seeking to learn more about God and Christianity! Several others asked for prayer and how to get involved in InterVarsity in Guyana.
All students experienced creating a proxé station. Most had never done this before. One American student said, "I want to do this same proxé on our campus."
Through group discussions and observations of cultural practices in Guyana, American students were able to better understand both their culture as well as Guyanese culture. Students on the team noted how Guyanese students fostered a deeper sense of community by taking time to be fully present with each other instead of rushing off to the next thing or escaping into their own world through technology. A student from St. Louis University said, "I am leaving more equipped and ready for God to work in the Black American community."
The InterVarsity student president at University of Guyana commented that they had been discouraged, and our coming was "at just the right time." They were strengthened and now carry on with greater zeal.
The Guyana IFES General Secretary, Fazal Ali, and Caribbean IFES Regional Secretary, Desmond Rogers, both came and participated in the proxé station. They thought this was a great idea and plan to continue doing proxé outreach at the University of Guyana as well as on other campuses.
InterVarsity Guyana has already invited us back and shared some thoughts for other ways to reach out together on campus, including helping to foster dialogue on racial reconciliation between Black and Indian students.
I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience. Partnering with students and staff in the Guyanese IFES movement to contextualize the gospel on campus helped open our eyes to the various ways God is at work around the world. And I believe as more Black students and staff get a glimpse of God’s heart, we’ll lead our chapters into bolder and more intentional evangelism on our own campuses.
Ashley June Smith has served on staff with InterVarsity/USA in St. Louis, MO, for the last five years working to advance ministry among Black students at Washington University in St. Louis and Harris-Stowe State University.