Sophia Nibungco, an ethnic Filipina and campus staff at California State University–East Bay, came into the world with a partner. Her twin sister Felicia is also on InterVarsity staff at the University of California–Berkeley. Later in life, God used her mother to introduce Sophia to Jesus. Her mother continues to pray for Sophia and encourage her.
When Sophia went away to college at UC–Berkeley, she was not interested in seeking Christian fellowship; she wanted to do her own thing. She sought out the Filipino community and became actively involved in their concerns, such as benefits for World War II Filipino veterans. But God brought her sister alongside to encourage Sophia to be a part of the Christian community. With that encouragement, she joined InterVarsity’s Filipino fellowship at Berkeley.
During time in Manila (a semester of study at the University of the Philippines and a summer participating in an InterVarsity Global Trek) Sophia learned to appreciate her heritage as she studied at her parents’ alma mater and became more open to God’s working in her life as she saw him working in the lives of the urban poor. After graduation from UC–Berkeley, Sophia applied for a year long internship with InterVarsity. During that year, she continued to learn about her ethnic identity and God’s love for those in the inner city. She helped organize InterVarsity’s first Filipino student conference and direct the Global Trek to Manila. At the end of the year, she accepted a position as full-time staff at Cal State–East Bay.
When Sophia began her first campus assignment as a new staff, she was faced with two major difficulties: her staff supervisor resigned due to family problems, so she had no close partner in the ministry; and she was confronted with the culture shock of working on a commuter campus, rather than a prestigious residential university.
When she first arrived on campus at Cal State–East Bay, Sophia was afraid she would not fit in. Her own undergraduate experience at UC–Berkeley had been almost like living in a bubble. Most of the students were in their early twenty’s, overly interested in getting good grades, and often thought spiritual matters were beneath them.
At Cal State–East Bay the students were older, they often had a job and family responsibilities in addition to their studies, and they were usually on campus only for their classes. As she prayed, Sophia began to see these students in a new light. When she passed out flyers, they often thanked her for them rather than ignoring her in their rush to class. When the InterVarsity chapter served lunch as a New Student Outreach activity, one of the new students thanked them and said, “This makes it feel like a real campus.” Sophia found that the East Bay students, being older and living outside the bubble of a residential college, took more leadership initiative, organizing many activities as a way to share the gospel. One college administrator in the Student Life Center encouraged new students to participate in InterVarsity because of the community he saw in the chapter.
And God provided a partner for Sophia in all this. One of the first times that she set up an InterVarsity information table on campus, Mary, an alumna of the chapter when it had been active in the 1970s, stopped by. Mary now worked on campus. She and Sophia soon became prayer and ministry partners. While Sophia was raising support, Mary was able to pray for her and shared with her what was happening on campus. Sophia also prayed for Mary and encouraged her in the small prayer group she had organized for faculty and fellow administrators.
God says in Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one because they have a good return on their work.” (NIV) As Sophia thought about all that God had done for her as she worked with the young chapter at Cal State–East Bay, she would encourage all staff to believe God: the gospel is served better with a partner and to believe that God will provide the partner he would choose to produce a good return on the work that you both are called to.
You can partner with Sophia and make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at California State University–East Bay by following this link.