By Justin Casiano-Sebastian

Why Filipino American Students Are Essential To Reaching Every Corner of Every Campus

What happens when you plan a party but don’t send out invitations?

A party is not a party without the people who come, and people won’t come to the party unless they are invited! In InterVarsity’s 2030 Calling, we seek to catalyze movements that call every corner of every campus to follow Jesus by 2030. To do this, we need people who God has gifted with missional invitation and sacrificial hospitality. Filipino American students bring these gifts to our movement.

Out of deep love, humility, and conviction, I firmly believe that God has uniquely positioned Filipino Americans on our campuses as both seed recipients and seed scatterers of revival. Here is what I’ve learned as a Filipino American campus staff from doing ministry with Filipino American students over the years and how it applies to pursuing God’s call to witness on campus.

1. Filipino American students are cross-cultural partners in the mission.

As we celebrate Filipino American History Month, we commemorate important facets of our diasporic history. Students of the Filipino diaspora are impacted by Spanish, American, and Japanese colonialism along with many transnational and socio-economic factors which have contributed to their migration and Christianization. While much of these parts of our history are a result of evil, God has turned what was meant for evil into good (Genesis 50:20).

As a result of God’s redemptive work, Filipino Americans are well connected to people of different cultures, both in the broader society and on campus. Each Filipino student on campus holds a rich network of people that represent many corners of campus. It’s been very common on the campuses that I’ve served at to see the Filipino cultural organizations having both Filipinos and non-Filipinos on their executive boards, and conversely, other cultural organizations have Filipinos on their executive boards! In fact, one of our student leaders of one of our Filipino bible studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago is a Black student! 

Moreso, God has fashioned Filipino American students to be both reconcilers and healers. Because of Filipino Americans’ rich legacy of faith-filled activism all over the world such as the Delano Grape Strike and the EDSA Revolution, God has used and will use Filipino American students of faith as agents of revival and justice. Our unique position between people groups and between the margins and privilege will be a blessing to everyone on campus. The legacy of our ancestors who faithfully resisted oppressive powers lives on through this generation through Filipino American students on campus. When revival comes on our campus, this will not only include students giving their lives to Jesus. It will also include entire corners of campus having a foretaste of the kingdom of God, experiencing the just and righteous norm of heaven on campus.

Lastly, we will see healing on campus through Filipino American students. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, Filipino American students have embodied God’s healing through planting small group bible studies for students looking to be healed by painful religious experiences as well as another small group for Filipinos in pre-health, looking to integrate their ethnic identity and faith as they pursue the healing professions. Our hope is that students that we have never seen in InterVarsity chapters will both come and be healed in Jesus’s name. I wonder if God will use Filipino students to bring them, heal them, and send them! May it be so, Lord. 

2. Filipino American students bring joy and hospitality to the campus!

Have you ever been to a Filipino party? I might be biased, but they’re the best. Whether you’re Filipino or not, you can expect a few things: you will feel welcomed from the moment you step through the door until the moment you leave, you will be loved by the amount of food that you will be offered to eat, and you will experience extreme joy through laughter, deepening of relationships, and probably belting it out through singing karaoke with everyone. You will likely leave having the time of your life and with plenty of leftovers to bring home!

Filipino Americans are not only gifted by God in inviting others to the party, but they are gifted by God in hosting the party through our hospitality and joy. When the Lord starts bringing students from different corners of campus to your fellowship or when the Lord leads you to go out to different corners of campus to catalyze a Jesus-following movement, we have much to learn from Filipino Americans about how to create spaces of community where people feel welcomed, fed, and leave having experienced the joy of the Lord. 

One unique aspect of Filipino American student hospitality is that among the roughly 90% who identify as Christian, we represent different streams of the Christian faith, both Protestant and Catholic. Some strongly identify with the Christian tradition of their upbringing while others have had experiences in multiple traditions. 

As God brings students who have little to no church experience and students who have various church experiences into our communities, Filipino American students are well positioned to welcome them in, relate with the diversity of experiences represented by these students, and help them feel at home. Filipino American students can help foster ecumenical faith spaces. Who wouldn’t want that?

3. Filipino American students reflect God’s welcoming heart for all people.

In Chicago, where my wife Melissa and I are serving Filipino American students on multiple campuses, God has given our movement the parable of the feast of the Kingdom of God in Luke 14 as our anchoring story, vision, and hope. In the parable, we see God’s heart for people to come and eat the feast that he prepared. While the initial invitees rejected his invitation, the host, representing God, expanded the guest list and sent his servants to those on the margins of the community, compelling them to come to the party.

Our hope in Chicago and beyond is that as we pursue the 2030 Calling together, Filipino Americans would come and eat the feast of the kingdom of God. As they eat, we hope that they would deepen their love for God, themselves, their people, and others. On top of this, we desire these students to participate in the feast by preparing, inviting, and serving this meal to others on campus, both our own people and to the corners that we are called to.

Do you have Filipino American students that you are already connected to you and your InterVarsity chapter? If so, love them, disciple them, and participate on God’s mission with them on your campus. Some might be called by God to fellow Filipino Americans on campus while others are called to reach different corners. Sometimes, they’re called to both! Wherever and whoever they are called to, they have a lot to teach us about God’s heart for every corner of every campus. 

On top of this, invite them to attend the 2023 InterVarsity Kapwa Leadership Institute (KALI), where they will be developed in their Filipino American Christian leadership with Filipino American InterVarsity student leaders from across the country. Find out more about KALI 2023 here.

Are you not yet connected to Filipino American students on campus? Ask God how he is already at work among Filipino American students on your campus or in your area and ask how you might be led to catalyze a Jesus-following movement with them, even if it starts through one student. May the Lord bring revival on our campuses, both in and through my people.

Justin is an InterVarsity ministry team leader at the University of Illinois at Chicago, working primarily with Filipino American students. He is also an MDiv student at Fuller Seminary. Justin loves cheering on the Bulls and Cubs, drinking boba, and trolling his son. You can donate to his ministry at