By Katie Montei

Payback time at Bowdoin College

A Woman after God’s Own Heart
Sim Gregory is a woman after God’s own heart. Not only is she humble, always giving God all the glory, but she is also passionate about her work. Officially, Sim volunteers with InterVarsity, working part-time at Bowdoin College in Maine. The zeal she has for her role as a staff worker on campus, and her enthusiasm for the things that God has done in the past year, and continues to do, is inspiring.

Three years ago, after all of Sim’s four children had left for college, Sim decided to volunteer with InterVarsity. She knew of some InterVarsity chapters in the area, and it was because of some InterVarsity students that she and her husband became Christians while they were in college. So volunteering for InterVarsity was a natural step for her.

At first, Sim volunteered with three schools, Bowdoin, Colby, and Bates. After having learned much about each campus, and being indebted to the staff workers already at work on campus for all that she learned from them, Sim was asked to take over leading the Bowdoin InterVarsity chapter this year. She gratefully took the position, and has seen God do incredible things already.

Fostering Student’s Transformation
Like many private liberal arts schools, Bowdoin is a fairly secular school; talking about Jesus is not always a popular, or a well-received topic of conversation. When Sim first stepped on campus, she noticed a reluctance among students to speak very openly about faith. The Christian students lived their faith quietly and privately.

Sim is working to change her students’ perspective about living out their faith; particularly, she wants them to understand that living a Christian life means living a transformed life. She believes that, “If you’re not allowing God to transform your life, then the alternative is that you will quickly assimilate into the culture. By the time you graduate, your life will look no different than that of an unbeliever.” She hopes that her students in InterVarsity never have to go through a prodigal experience before returning to the Lord after college.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Sim has seen the chapter become transformed from being inwardly focused to seeking out God’s will on campus. “God’s time is right, I can’t claim credit for it,” Sim said, demonstrating her humility in being God’s instrument. The chapter has grown from having five to ten students involved in any given week last year, to having 50-70 students involved this year.

Fostering Chapter Growth
Returning InterVarsity students drew more people into the chapter this year partly due to their dedication to New Student Outreach. The student leaders got a list of incoming students from the administration and hand-wrote letters to each new freshman inviting him or her to the chapter. When school began, the student leaders followed up with everyone who showed interest in joining the group.

The chapter also has been using the campus chapel to host a traditional church service on Sunday evenings, to supplement their Thursday night Large Group Meetings. The service is oriented for students who have come from a cultural Christian background, or no church background at all.

Sim’s thought in proposing the idea, was that the InterVarsity chapter needed to work on appealing to students who grew up going to church but may not be familiar or comfortable with some of the popular Christian culture that is found in evangelical Christianity.

Many of the local churches where InterVarsity students attend on Sunday mornings partner with InterVarsity by giving a short sermon on Sunday evenings. Sim’s hope is to encourage the students by fostering a high view of the local church and, most of all, to preach the gospel. Sim referred to 1 Thessolonians 2:13, saying, “We are all merely messengers. It’s our job to preach the word faithfully and set it up plainly, but to pray that the hearers would receive it not as the words of men, but that it is the Word of God being preached.”

Fostering Multi-Ethnicity
Not only has the chapter grown in number, but the chapter also has fostered ethnic diversity. Last spring, five student leaders went to a chapter retreat – each represented a different ethnicity; together they planned out what this school year would look like. And although it has not been without struggle, the chapter has experienced God using them to reach out and welcome in many different ethnicities on campus. “You would think our Bible study meetings were organized by the United Nations,” she quipped.

Sim also rejoices in the students’ growing abilities to preach to, befriend, and invite unbelieving students to a saving knowledge of Christ. So far this year the chapter has witnessed six conversions and two rededications – some of which happened within the last week of February. Several women became Christians at the women’s retreat that Sim hosted this past weekend. And on Wednesday night, two men who have been coming to the chapel service and are being mentored by Sim’s husband (who has been working alongside Sim to bring more men into the chapter) asked to be baptized.

More in Store
Sim believes that the chapter has only begun to see God do great things at Bowdoin. She is convinced that God has more in store – both to bring more students to faith, as well as to continue transforming the students who already believe in him. “If I could pick one passage of Scripture to define my ministry at Bowdoin,” Sim said, “it would be from the book of Isaiah, ‘the name and renown of the Lord are the desire of our hearts.’ That is my desire as a Christian, and the desire that I share with my students.”