By Gordon Govier

Working for Shalom on Campus

InterVarsity staff and students were among those swept into the maelstrom at the University of Missouri-Columbia this week as the pain of unresolved racial tensions boiled over on campus, resulting in the resignations of the school’s president and chancellor, followed by threats of violence against the Black student community.

Matthias Chan, one of four volunteer staff re-planting an Asian American chapter at Mizzou, found the students he talked with unsurprised at what happened. As members of an ethnic minority they see frequent examples of systemic injustice. They were disappointed at how people were responding to the events but not quite sure how to respond themselves. Asian Americans often feel like outsiders looking in at the issue.

But rather than sit out the dispute, a group of Asian American and international students felt called to engage and support the Black students out of their conviction that God wanted to see his shalom recognized on campus, and an end to racism and marginalization.  

Late in the evening on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, InterVarsity team leader Adam Leong reported on their efforts to provide healing and hope on campus:

  • We put out a prayer box in case folk needed prayer. No one took us up on it, but it was there.
  • We bought 30 pizzas for the students at the Black Culture Center (BCC). The pizzas were greatly appreciated and quickly consumed.
  • There was a march scheduled for 5:00 p.m. with students from Kansas City, St. Louis, and Jefferson City, but it was called off due to a tornado watch.
  • Once the tornado watch passed, students walked the short distance from the BCC to the Student Center and held a rally. The rally consisted of solidarity chants followed by students getting into groups and sharing about their experiences as Black students in college. Non-Black students who were at the rally formed their own group to workshop how to be allies and advocates.
  • We bought a whole bunch of Chinese food and a few more pizzas for dinner. Again, it was greatly appreciated and quickly consumed.

Our staff team worked tirelessly in a number of essential ways:

  • Megan Leong coordinated food and logistics. She also baked cookies that were delicious and helped InterVarsity students think through racial justice in their own contexts.
  • Charis Chan coordinated dinner and used her bilingual skills to get us a great deal.
  • Matthias continued to engage with our Asian American students.
  • Omolara Josephine Lawal connected with Black students at the BCC, let me use her car to pick up food, and did an interview for the student newspaper.
  • Willin Weng made copies of our prayer sheets for us to give to students at the BCC.

InterVarsity’s vision is to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed. Our hope is that renewed campuses will be places where students are appreciated for their innate human dignity and not marginalized because of their ethnicity.


Adam's blog: How My Hat Cost InterVarsity $650

Jazzy Johnson, InterVarsity staff member in the Chicago area, posts a report from Northwestern University

Greg Jao, InterVarsity's Vice President and Director of Campus Engagement, is interviewed by CBN News in a story about the University of Missouri

InterVarsity's Asian American Ministries joined with other similar ministries in a Joint Statement on Recent Racial Tensions on College Campuses

University of Missouri photo by Jay Buffington via WikiMedia Commons