Students leverage college years for the Gospel
The inside of *Linus Sherman’s apartment looks much like any other college student’s. Books cover the walls and coffee table. The furniture is a hodgepodge of pieces, contributions from the different families represented. Bunk beds line the three bedrooms, housing him and five other College at Southwestern students.
Outside, however, things look a little different at Ladera Palms apartment complex. Dozens of children from around the globe play in the parking lot. Women balance large bags of groceries on their heads, utilizing skills common to their homeland. Students anxious to better themselves and their families attend ESL classes.
Ladera Palms, one of the largest refugee apartment complexes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, is the place Sherman and his friends call home.
However, this has not always been Sherman’s idea of college life.
“I started college at Ole Miss,” Sherman says. “I was in the Navy ROTC program.” But after being confronted with the Gospel his freshman year, Sherman placed his faith in Christ and his views on life radically changed. Just months later, Sherman moved to Texas and enrolled in the College at Southwestern.
Southwestern was a welcome change, but Sherman knew seminary does not replace active ministry and commitment to the local church.
“I became a member at Redeemer (Church) in April (2010),” Sherman recounts. Redeemer Church, a local Southern Baptist congregation, had begun making plans to minister to the growing number of refugees in the Fort Worth area. The church asked Sherman and several other college students to consider moving into the apartment complex as a team and minister to the community.
Sherman describes many of the refugees as being from “the 10-40 window, places where if you are a Christian missionary you would probably not be able to go; so places Christians don’t have access to otherwise.”
Amazingly, Sherman notes, refugees from these people groups now live three miles from seminary in Ladera Palms.
After prayer and discussion, the church decided to focus on Burmese people groups and partnered with a recently established Burmese church in the area. Members of Redeemer Church hold ESL classes, shares resources and serve the Burmese people in a variety of other ways.
“We want to come along side that church and build them up,” Sherman says of the ministry. That often comes in the form of training Burmese deacons. Sherman and his friends spend time teaching these men the fundamental truths of Scripture, often what they recently learned at seminary or church.
“The Bible, it can do its work,” Sherman responds when asked how the team disciples the men.
Sherman and his friends see the Gospel as something meant to be lived and proclaimed. Believers are called to be salt and light to the world at all times and their stint in college is no exception.
“Our small group at church really challenged us,” Sherman says, “ on the idea that college is just a transitional phase in our life.” Heeding this advice, the team rejected the temptation to coast through school without engaging in ministry. In fact, they consider it dangerous to be taking in biblical teaching without sharing it.
“If you are not going out and trying to explain the Gospel to other peoples, by definition you don’t understand the Gospel, because it reproduces and it is something that by nature is to be proclaimed.”
The team’s passion for ministry is coupled with a commitment to the local church.
“We believe God died for his church, and He wants to empower His church.” Sherman and his friends see the church as the God-ordained funnel for ministry.
“It’s not just six college guys coming here to just do ministry on our own, we are sent by Redeemer (Church).”
These college students know the sacrifice of a plush college lifestyle pales in comparison to reaching people with the Gospel.
“Why wouldn’t you do something like this?” Sherman asks. “If God has called you to be a missionary and you are training to be a missionary and he has put people next to you, it would just make sense to minister to those people.”
*Name changed to protect mission work.