By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Eduction/Customization and WMU SBC Missions Innovator Specialist
Can and do students really make a difference in the world? It is easy for students to be absorbed in homework, papers and tests. The demands of school leave very little time for anything else. But in the heart of believing students, God can stir the emotions and courage to make a difference in the world. All He needs is a willing heart.
In 1806, a group of students from Williams College with a willing heart gathered together to pray for the lost people of Asia. Among those meeting were Samuel Mills, James Richards, Francis Robbins, Harvey Loomis and Byram Green. They became so engrossed in praying for and discussing the lost in Asia, they did not notice an approaching storm.
Soon it began to thunder followed by downpours of rain and lightening flashing across the sky. The men ran to the first shelter, a haystack and continued their meeting. Samuel Mills continued speaking pouring out his heart; trying to convince his friends the gospel must be taken to the lost of Asia. According to Claude Hickman, Mills ended that plea with this statement, “We can do this if we will!”
The idea of spreading the gospel began to grow, especially among students. In 1808, Mills began a group called the Society of Brethren whose purpose was to spread the gospel in Asia. Mission groups were born all across America on college campuses.
Today, we see the results of those early prayers. The Christian movement in China is equal to none other; a movement that only God could orchestrate. In India, there are missionaries spreading the gospel across the country. Calvin Fox, a former missionary with the International Mission Board, saw his first pictures of India as a student. He knew immediately God was calling him to India even though missionaries were not allowed. Calvin never lost sight of his call. Because of circumstance, Calvin chose another country trusting God would one day open the door to India and indeed He did. After serving 20 years in Asia, Calvin and his wife, Margaret, went to serve in India. Hearts were ready to hear the message Calvin had to share. On his final furlough, Calvin died of a massive heart attack but not before seeing God transform lives in India. Lives that had been prayed for in 1806!
Today’s students are still impacting the world through prayer groups and volunteer programs. The Jeremiah project led by Jess Jennings on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines is made up totally of volunteer students; students with willing hearts to spend a summer backpacking through the mountains sharing the message of Christ in each village encountered.
In Baltimore on March 28 of this year, 1,086 students with willing hearts spent a Saturday afternoon serving the churches and people of Baltimore in the rain. The sound of students singing as they cleaned up city parks touched city officials. Seven homeless people prayed to receive Christ because of willing students who came to hand out bag lunches. Neighborhoods were left in awe as students worked tirelessly picking up trash and praying over every house. Because of these students and their willing hearts and desire to make a difference in Baltimore lives were changed forever.
Have you noticed the connection? God is still working through students making a difference around the world, a movement started hundreds of years ago behind a haystack.
Did God hear the prayers of those five young men that day? You bet He did! Not only did He hear, He is still answering those prayers using students with willing hearts. But much remains to be done.
According to statistics there are 5.5 billion lost people in the world that need to hear the message of Christ. If one person said the name of Jesus over and over again without stopping it would 175 years for each of these people to hear the name, ‘Jesus.’ But what if there were thousands of us saying the name of Jesus? The time frame would be drastically shortened.
The “Haystack Prayer Meeting” still continues today. The prayer is still the same, that every people group, tribe, tongue and nation will hear the name of Jesus. “We can do this, if we will!”