By Gordon Govier

Creating Connections on Campus

Javier Tarango-Sho, InterVarsity’s Assistant Area Director for the East Bay area of northern California, admits that a job applicant  for campus ministry with his background would have dim prospects. “I would probably never hire me,” he said. Javier had practically no experience with InterVarsity during college. He attended University of California-Davis and got involved in campus ministry (not InterVarsity) only the final year.

Instead of campus ministry, Javier was “a bonafide student activist,” advocating for others and trying to “create access for those who have been denied access.” Yu-Shuan, who later became his wife, had a friend who worked with InterVarsity and recognized Javier’s ministry potential. She thought he would be a good fit for InterVarsity’s work on the UC-Berkeley campus and advocated for him.

Integrating Faith and Justice

Javier had a good job and was not sure he wanted to join a ministry full-time. But as God spoke to him through several unique circumstances, campus ministry began to attract him. “I didn’t find InterVarsity; InterVarsity found me,” he said.

One of the books he read while considering whether to join InterVarsity staff was Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. It was the first book he had ever read that talked about the social implications of the gospel. “This is what I want faith to be about, and the church isn’t doing it,” he said. He knew that if he had read the book as a freshman, his college career would have been different. He also knew that joining InterVarsity staff would allow him to deepen his faith and continue to explore the social implications of the gospel.

Soon after joining InterVarsity staff, Javier and Yu-Shuan created what they called the Justice Internship. It was not a real internship, but it offered a space for students to talk about how justice and faith interact. Meetings were held every other Friday at noon. The meetings only lasted for a year and didn’t seem to have much immediate impact, but Javier and Yu-Shuan have noticed a long-term impact. Many who participated in the internship now work for non-profits or work in the legal system helping disadvantaged people.

InterVarsity Alumni Reunion Weekend

Creating access to ministry for under-resourced staff was the impetus behind InterVarsity’s first Homecoming reunion for former UC-Berkeley chapter members, which was held Homecoming Weekend, October 10-12. Invitations were sent to about 1,300 UC-Berkeley alumni and almost 100 attended.

The InterVarsity alumni reunion is a creation of the Advocacy Council, which was recently formed to improve the connections between InterVarsity’s UC-Berkeley staff and the alumni from one of InterVarsity’s oldest chapters on the west coast. This was the first of what is hoped will be an annual UC-Berkeley alumni gathering.

At the Large Group meeting held Friday evening, the alumni mixed with current students who participate in the six UC-Berkeley InterVarsity chapters. “Many of the older alumni had only experienced InterVarsity as one ministry,” Javier said. Each of the different ministries were identified and explained: LaFe (Latino Ministry), BCM (Black Campus Ministry), Kapwa (Pilipino-American), ISM (International Student Ministry), CCF (Cal Christian Fellowship), and Greek InterVarsity (fraternities and sororities). 

Most alumni who attended still live in the Bay area but some drove up from Los Angeles and one even flew in from Indiana. Alumnus Chris Lema, an internet entrepreneur from San Diego, and alumna Windy Chou, an electrical engineer who became an occupational therapist, spoke at the meeting. “We were hoping our students would be encouraged by their faith experiences,” Javier said. “Students have no idea what they will encounter in the next few years after they graduate.”

 Creating Support for Staff

Javier’s supervisor, Wendy Hu-Au, says that campus ministry at UC-Berkeley has benefited from Javier’s gifts in contextualized ministries and strategic thinking. “He has a heart for the marginalized communities and longs to give people of all ethnicities access to the gospel,” she said.

Javier has been a key figure in the growth of LaFe at UC-Berkeley. He trained Sara Fong, a Chinese Japanese American staff member, to lead LaFe at UC-Berkeley. He also started the LaFe Institute for the Pacific Region to develop and equip the next generation of LaFe staff.

Javier created the Advocacy Council to help develop more partners for InterVarsity staff who, because of their backgrounds, lack the networks needed to raise the financial support for their position. “The idea is to create a structure so we can hire people that we traditionally haven't been able to hire, like me,” Javier said. “I’m grateful that InterVarsity made space for someone like me.”

InterVarsity staff work calls for a variety of talents. We thank God that he has brought Javier to InterVarsity to strengthen our ministry to all students at UC-Berkeley and in the Bay area.