Jerry Johnson, left, and Tommy Fountain address UGA students via livestream. YOUTUBE SCREEN CAPTURE
DULUTH — While Georgia colleges and universities are moving to an online format for either the foreseeable future or the rest of the semester, campus ministry is following suit – continuing, but most of it will be through technology.
And in the midst of all the chaos, students are still reaching out to their community. The BCM students at Georgia Southern put together goodie bags and notes of appreciation for the Statesboro Police Department.
“A huge thank you goes out to Georgia Southern BCM for all of the gifts that we just received,” the police department posted on Facebook on March 17. “They will definitely go a long way in helping the officers while they’re working to keep our community safe!”
The University of Georgia BCM has moved their weekly gathering online, via a livestream led by campus ministers Jerry Johnson and Tommy Fountain.
“How do you trust God during these times of uncertainty?” That was the question addressed in the first two videos. The ministers pointed to Proverbs 3:5-6 and Romans 8:28 to encourage their students, whose lives and semester, certainly, aren’t going as planned.
Teresa Royall, campus minister at Georgia State University, said their campus is staying connected through emails, video calls, and online discussion, and they’re in “the process now of seeing how that will best work.”
Georgia Southern is also seeking to stay connected through technology, including online videos, podcasts, and small group interactions through platforms such as Google Hangouts and Skype. In addition, they’re continuing to utilize GroupMe for separate men’s and women’s group chats for encouraging Bible study, praying for each other, etc.
Other campus ministries are following suit.
Ministry to international students
The transitions from focusing on campus life to social distancing has made ministering to international students all the more important.
“I checked on several internationals earlier this week and so far all are good with supplies. But I will keep checking, especially if the school stays closed,” Royall shared. “I also checked on their families at home since many of their countries are also dealing with the coronavirus. So far all their families are okay.
“I am thankful that a few churches have reached out to me about needs,” Royall added. “At this point students are okay, but in time more needs may arise.”
The sudden vacating of campuses isn’t without its obvious sadness and setbacks. At Shorter University, most of even the international students have left the campus. Earlier this week, campus ministry intern Liz Barnes took one of the women’s soccer team students, Fonni, to the airport to travel to her home in Sweden.
“This student had accepted Christ earlier this school year. This was very hard for Liz yesterday because Fonni will not be coming back to Shorter. She is going to be moving to France later this summer,” David Roland, Shorter’s campus minister said.
Words of encouragement for collegiate ministry
In this new and challenging situation, Roland had some words of encouragement for his team that he shared with The Christian Index.
“We can rejoice in the Lord always. Our Lord and God is near to all of us,” he said. “For those of us who often get anxious, it is good to remind ourselves of Jesus’ nearness and his love for us!
“Our God is not an absentee God. He is near. He became flesh and pitched his tent among us (John 1:14). God wants to know what is bothering us and what is on our minds. So, lift up each other in prayer during these days.”
Roland continued, “Indeed it is God’s peace who will guard our hearts and minds in this time of need!”