In August of 2006, Nick Dombrowski arrived at the University of Texas–Pan American (UT-Pan Am), a largely Hispanic campus in Edinburg, Texas. InterVarsity had no chapter there at that time. Nick quickly met two students who indicated an interest in developing a chapter. By the end of the semester thirty students were attending the weekly small group Bible studies.
Nick was prepared for the role in developing this new chapter at a largely Hispanic school with many students coming from a Catholic background in two ways: the experiences that God gave him and his obedience to God’s call. In college in Michigan, Nick took Spanish and his parents fostered his interest in the Hispanic culture. While on a Global Project, Nick formed friendships with two InterVarsity staff from Texas who encouraged him to consider what God is doing in their state. InterVarsity also taught Nick both the importance and the possibility of racial reconciliation. In fact Nick says, “If you are not pursuing racial reconciliation, you are missing out on the kingdom of God.”
Nick was going to take all of these experiences and follow his brother to seminary, with the goal of pastoring a church. But through the prophetic advice of several people and the encouragement of Lindsay Brown (former General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), who urged Nick to consider InterVarsity staff, he came to the conclusion that, “If I went to seminary, I would be disobedient to the call of God.” So, after graduation, Nick followed God’s call, spending a four month internship in Texas. As he pondered his staff assignment Nick was offered a chance to start a new chapter in Texas, on the Mexican border, four hours from the nearest staff. Nick chose to go where he understood God to be calling him and where he would have the greatest influence for the kingdom.
Nick has been on campus at UT-Pan Am for a whole school year now and has a few insights to share. These thoughts can be helpful for those who are planting new InterVarsity chapters as well as those working to increase involvement in existing chapters.
- If you are called to plant a new chapter, be obedient, but realize what you are being asked to give. Nick says that staff work in general, but chapter planting in particular, is very difficult work. Be sure to count the cost before you proceed.
- Maintain your personal spiritual life. As you deepen your relationship with Jesus, he will produce fruit in you in difficult situations, “like a shoot out of dry ground.” (Is 53:2)
- When you arrive on campus, be open to learning the culture of that campus. Nick is a Midwesterner of Polish descent. UT-Pan Am is has a large percentage of Latinos students. In addition, many of the students come from a Catholic background. “I had to learn to talk about Jesus in fresh ways,” he says of his ministry.
- As you begin your relationships with people on campus, do not neglect the faculty and administration. These people can be helpful to you, and they also need to hear the gospel. One of the first people Nick met at UT Pan Am was someone from the office of the Provost for Student Services. She has helped the chapter leaders find meeting places and eased the way for their recognition as a student organization. In addition, through the relationship that Nick developed, he has been able to have spiritual discussions with her.
- Take time off. “You don’t always have to be on duty. If you don’t take time for yourself, you may lose the vision and you won’t know where to spend your time or what to do next. You may even become depressed.”
- Be faithful. Nick warns that, “starting a chapter is amazingly hard and you may see little fruit. What you are called to do is be faithful.”
Nick shares the awe and wonder of the rapid growth that God has given the ministry at UT–Pan Am. But he would also be encouraging to those who do not see result from their work. God who is in heaven will reward the labors of his followers.
You can make a direct financial donation to support Nick Dombrowski and InterVarsity’s work at the University of Texas—Pan Am by following this link.