Every Thursday night at the University of Delaware (UD), more than 70 students from across the globe gather to share a meal with Reformed University Fellowship International (RUF-I) Campus Minister Rick Gray.
After everyone has eaten, an optional discussion about Christianity follows in basic English. A few leave. Most stay. And so every week students from East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe — Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists — come together and break bread with believers and hear the Gospel.
With more than 4,000 international students hailing from some 95 countries, UD is full of opportunities for the body of Christ to practice hospitality with people who might have never before heard the Gospel.
MTW and RUF: A Long-Standing Gospel Proclamation Alliance
Before his current work, Gray served as an MTW missionary in East Africa for 21 years — work that prepared him well for cross-cultural student ministry.
All these pieces fit into the bigger picture of MTW’s vision for campus ministry around the globe.
Gray is one of numerous former or current MTW missionaries serving with RUF on campuses both stateside and abroad. The two organizations have enjoyed a long-standing partnership that benefits both organizations, playing to the strengths of each and advancing the cause of Christ on campuses around the world.
Thanks to a 2012 agreement between RUF and MTW, experienced MTW missionaries can serve in cross-cultural student ministry on American university campuses through RUF-I. Missionaries receive RUF training and plug into an RUF-I campus ministry, putting their cross-cultural expertise to work in the U.S. while remaining MTW employees.
In 2018 MTW and RUF expanded this agreement. Now RUF-I will receive MTW missionary candidates as campus workers, and the candidates test their calling and abilities in cross-cultural ministry while still in the U.S., learning and discerning before diving into the significant time and financial commitment needed to serve overseas.
“I think it makes a world of sense for people who are interested in possibly going overseas and doing cross-cultural ministry to get their feet wet right here in their own backyard,” Gray said. “[It’s smart] from a stewardship standpoint.”
Colombian Campus Connections
The partnership also allows new or existing MTW missionaries to minister on overseas university campuses through RUF-Global (RUF-G). One of those RUF-G missionaries is Peter Dishman, who serves with his wife, Lauren, at the National University of Colombia in Bogota.
With some 53,000 students, La Nacional is the biggest educational institution in Colombia, and though the Dishmans have been in the country less than three years, the ministry is humming with three Bible studies and about 30 students attending large-group meetings.
“It looks very similar to an RUF campus ministry in the States,” Peter said, “except it’s all in Spanish, it’s very Colombian, and it’s situated in the seedbed of leftist thought.”
The Dishmans build relationships with the universitarios, or students — walking alongside them and discipling them. For many of these young people, these years at university mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, the time when they will decide who they are and what defines them.
“Professors are called professors for a reason,” Peter said. “They profess faith, and the faith that is professed here is a sort of Marxist, left-leaning secularism. … We want our students to see that they are living by faith and to consider following Jesus instead of just joining the slow slide into some form of altruistic secularism.”
Looking to the Future
All these pieces fit into the bigger picture of MTW’s vision for campus ministry around the globe. The new agreement further integrates MTW’s work into what former RUF-I Coordinator Al LaCour calls a “biblical rather than a geographical” perspective on missions. In terms of campus ministry, that means going to minister to students at their campuses across the globe, but it also means reaching the huge international mission field right on our doorstep.
This story was adapted from a longer version published at mtw.org.