by Brendan Danielson - posted Monday May 15, 2017
Every university and college student wants to do well in their studies, graduate with as little debt as possible and get a good job they can build their future around.
Within these years, however, is the temptation for students to focus all their time on studying and working and spend all their time in the “campus bubble”. If this happens, they may miss out on experiencing what it can look like to put their faith into action in different and potentially uncomfortable situations.
On university campuses across the country, Navigator leaders are creating communities students can join and call home. Whether it’s discovering more about who Jesus is or volunteering to serve, Navigators want to help students grow in their spiritual journey through active discipleship. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 of his disciples, instructing them to do good as they visited the towns and villages. Today, Navigators are raising up disciples of Jesus who will go out into their communities and do good as they journey through life.
These opportunities to volunteer in local communities can often shift a student’s perspective, expand their worldview and give them the experience of positively influencing and learning from those they interact with.
Alex Choy, a Master’s student at the University of Calgary, says getting involved outside his Christian bubble helped expand his outlook on life. Two years ago, his involvement consisted of volunteering at church, leading small groups and being involved with undergraduate groups like Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and The Navigators.
But the more time he spent on campus, the more he encountered people with new and different ideas on what human existence is about. He realized “everybody is searching for the same stuff,” such as meaning, connection and purpose.
In response to this, Alex began getting involved in the academic sphere by attending workshops, seminars, mentoring younger students and essentially doing many of the same kinds of activities he does in church, but now also in school. These experiences helped him gain perspective and, he says, “a willingness to engage with people on a real level, even though they don’t believe the same things I do.”
For Robbie Sparrow, a second-year medical student at Western University, his involvement with the Christian Medical and Dental Society has provided the opportunity to volunteer at Ark Aid [link]. Once per month, the CMDS volunteer team serves free dinners to approximately 100 people in need.
“Having a regular time when I go and talk with these people [and try to] understand their challenges is good because I think the tendency for people who are in medicine, or who are going to be well off in the future, is to associate only with people who are similar to us.”
Robbie says his time at Ark Aid has helped him see social issues in a new light. “In medicine, we talk a lot about social issues around us: IV drug use, poverty, homelessness – but it’s often abstract. I think when people look at the problems of a city or community, it’s hard to know where to start if you look from the outside. Volunteering in specific areas has made me realize the problems are solvable. Giving people a meal is a big step to helping them find work or doing job training sessions.”
In British Columbia this past year, Adrian Blanco became a volunteer coach with Run and Read [link] at the encouragement of his Navigator Bible study leader, Richie Speidel [link]. Before, Adrian was primarily focused on work and completing his degree in environment and sustainability studies. When Richie first invited him to volunteer, Adrian figured he had some extra time on his hands and decided to join.
Since then he says he’s learned the importance of doing something outside the school that benefits the community and not focusing all his time on stressful studies. “You don’t have to dedicate all your time to school,” he says. “There’s a lot more you can add to your education by getting out and involved in a community.”
He says volunteering for this has given him the chance to influence the lives of the kids he coaches. “The kids become attached to you,” he says. “Everything you teach and share imprints on them. They don’t show it outright, but they’re growing with you and whether you know it or not, you’re influencing their lives.”