Why I’m going back to school
If you’ve been following what I’ve been doing for a few years now, you may have found that the updates I’ve been sharing lately have a bit different of a flavor than they did even just a year ago.
You may have been wondering, “What’s the deal?!? This guy used to be working so closely with refugees… But now he’s talking about going into university! Is he still helping refugees? Has he left that behind? And what is with all this talk of going to university? I thought he was going to the Middle East to share Jesus with people. How’s he supposed to do that while he’s a student?”
I haven’t been the best at sharing my heart with you all in what I feel like the Lord is leading me to in this season, partly because I’ve been learning to put it into words myself. Because of that, I wanted to give you all a bit of a run-down of why I’m doing what I’m doing in this season. And what better way to do that than in the internet’s favorite form of written media, the list-article. (Thanks, BuzzFeed)
So, here is 10 Reasons I’m going to University in the Middle East:
I’m joining university…
1. Because it’s the best and most natural way to meet people and share Jesus with them in my context…
If you know me, you know I’ve been involved in evangelism in one way or another for YEARS now. (Actually, my first experience with street evangelism was 10 years ago this summer, during Street Invaders 2008! So this summer is a cool milestone for me 🙂 (Let me repeat this for the 100th time: Every teenager should go to this program! If you know a teenager that isn’t going to Street Invaders, do what you need to do to help them get to it next year!) Link: www.streetinvaders.ca )
Evangelism, as in sharing Jesus with people, is something that’s very close to my heart, and core to my life and my lifestyle. The truth is, though, that street evangelism isn’t always the most fruitful way to see people encounter and meet Jesus. It’s an amazing way, don’t get me wrong. I’ve witnessed hundreds, of awe inspiring stories, healings, and encounters with Jesus while ministering the gospel on streets all over the world, and I don’t plan to stop that form of ministry anytime soon.
The thing is, though, for every amazing encounter I’ve had with someone that I just randomly met during purposeful “street evangelism” times, I have 2-3 stories of God touching people in “normal” every-day life… whether it’s at work, at restaurants, while hanging out with friends, or at school.
Anywhere that you as a follower of Jesus have interaction with people, you have an amazing opportunity for Jesus to move in their lives… Because He LOVES those people.
Ever since I and my friends moved out here, one of our biggest questions as simply been, “How can we get in contact and relationship with as many people who want to talk about Jesus as possible.” If we can meet people and get into relationship with them, we’ll be bold and Jesus shows up.
Now, we’ve done lots of researching, and have tried various things over the last couple years to work towards that end. As a team, we have some exciting things coming down the pipe collectively in that realm, which I’ll hopefully write about in the future.
But in all our searching, the lifestyle option that came up that we agreed would provide the most natural opportunities to build relationships with people in our country was that of enrolling in university and become a student.
Every year hundreds of thousands of young people become university students in this country. In my university alone, their are over 80,000 enrolled students. Becoming a student, for my context, gives me the best and most natural way to meet these students, build relationship with them, and show them who Jesus is.
2. Because it’s the fastest way for me to get to an advanced level in language…
In learning to engage this people, culture, and country, the biggest barrier that we face is in that of language. If you can’t use a language well, you can’t communicate well. If you can’t communicate well, sharing effectively about Jesus, the Word of God, is difficult, if not impossible. As I write this, I’m actually on my day off from my advanced language classes. Every day this week I’ve had between 4-6 hours of classes on grammar, slang, literature, as well as other language topics, with tons and tons of homework on top of that. It’s really, really hard… but really needed for what God’s is calling me to. Every week I find myself better able to explain Kingdom topics than I did the week before. However, even after I finish classes I’ll still need to continue learning. I didn’t become good at English because of English classes. I became good at English by using it A LOT… All day, every day. Growing up, I studied things in English A LOT. I wrote, A LOT. And I lived life in English.
To be able to represent Jesus well in a language and culture, you need to live life in that culture. You need to become like Jesus to that culture.
Becoming a university student gives me a natural and fast way to do that.
3. Because it opens dozens of doors…
When I told an older friend of mine who lived in this country 30 years ago about how I felt like God was leading me to become a university student, he was SUPER excited. He explained to me that when he first moved to this country, he became a university student as well, and it opened SO MANY doors for him. He went on to tell stories about how, on reading breaks, other students that he met in class would invite him to go to their villages, and he would get to share the gospel in villages all around the country… and some of those villages that had never in their history had a Christian set foot in them.
The fact is, to be able to become a student here opens up tons of opportunities to build relationships with people all around the country and all around the region.
Having a local education also opens doors in the future to be able to more easily start new local projects, to teach, or to do many other Kingdom things.
Taking university in the Middle East opens dozens of super exciting doors.
4. Because it tears down barriers…
I don’t know why, but our world is increasingly fearful of foreigners and other races. In the West, it often looks like fear of Muslims. Here, a lot of times it looks like fear of Westerners. If a Westerner like myself is here without a job or a easily understood reason for being here, a lot of locals become suspicious and it becomes difficult to build trust.
In contrast, one of the most common reasons for foreigners to come to this country is for studying in university. Thousands and thousands come every year from all over the region, and all over the world. Because of that, to be a student here makes it a lot easier to build friendships and trust with people I meet.
It tears down barriers to meeting people, and in the process, makes it so much easier to share Jesus with them.
5. Because I want to help refugees…
Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about this, or left it behind.
University in this country isn’t actually a new thought for me. The idea was actually something a friend brought up to me back in 2013, long before I had really given any major thought to moving here, and even longer before I started working with refugees.
Then, in 2015, while running the refugee ministry that I’ve talked about here before, I realized something that stuck with me in a big way since.
I realized that there are 65 million refugees and displaced people all over the world right now. Globally speaking, that means that roughly 1 out of every 100 people in the world have been displaced from their homes because of war, famine, violence, etc. That’s twice the population of Canada. That’s a lot of people. And that number is growing. Statistically speaking, every 2 seconds another person becomes displaced somewhere in the world. And the vast, VAST majority of those people don’t have any path towards rebuilding their lives anytime in the foreseeable future. Less than 1% of refugees ever get resettled. Most of them are stuck in the countries they fled to, or in camps, not legally allow to work, and basically in an unending limbo waiting for some change to their situation that is unlikely to ever come.
All that to say, this is a global issue that doesn’t go away when our news feeds and TV channels stop reporting on it. This is something our generation is going to be dealing with for decades, and is just going to continue to get worse, unless something is done about it.
It’s my firm conviction that the Church, the Body of Christ, is responsible to do something about it. This situation needs big, God-sized answers. And God is waiting and ready to work with His kids to see His answers implemented.
Part of that, for me, means getting trained and equipped with the skills and tools to see that happen, which for me in this season, means going to university.
All that to say, I’m enrolling in university because the “refugee crisis” is far from over, and I want to partner with Jesus’ to see His answers for this crisis become reality.
6. Because it will help me get into other countries in the future…
I’ve felt for years that this country and this season is just a launching ground for me and for others into the rest of this region. I believe Jesus is wanting to show Himself to people all over the Middle East, and all over the 10-40 window. Because universities here are respected all over the region, to have a degree from here will make it a lot easier in the future to get into other countries, and start new things in those places.
7. Because it’s ridiculously inexpensive…
One of the reasons I never went to university in Canada (besides a couple years of Bible School), is that I could never justify the costs associated with it. A year of tuition, on the low end, is around $10,000-$15,000. By the end of a 4 year program, you’re looking at a tuition cost of between $40,000 to $60,000 (not to mention books, living expenses, and everything else; and that’s JUST for a bachelor’s degree. Masters and Doctors get added onto that.). And that’s on the low-end. I recently had a roommate that was interning here, who is studying in a Bachelor’s program with a tuition of $68,000 USD per year! (or $272,000 for a full 4 year program)
For most students, the only option to pay those kinds of fees (assuming they can’t find scholarships) is to take out massive student loans, which usually end up taking decades to pay back.
It never made sense to me to do that.
Here, however, the story is quite different. If you as a foreigner become a student of a government school (some of the most sought after schools), the tuition costs are massively subsidized, to the point where a year of tuition ends up being roughly $1,000 – $1,200. That works out to less than a 10th of the cost of tuition in Canada.
So, a full 4-year degree ends up being around $4,000 – $5000, while still being a well respected, accepted, and quality education. That’s a deal that’s hard to pass up.
8. Because God is sending out more young people like me…
Continuing off of #8, my friends and I have been praying for years the prayer of Matthew 9:37-38: Lord of the harvest, launch out workers into your harvest field!
It’s been amazing, because we’ve genuinely seen the start of that. Four years ago there was no one from our circles living in the Middle East. When I moved here, there were only 3 of us. Since then, God has called over 20 people from our circles to give up their lives in Canada and follow Jesus to work in His Harvest here. But I fully believe we’re just seeing the start of the fulfillment of that prayer. There are dozens, and hundreds of young people who will be sent into the unreached world as an answer to that prayer in the coming years.
When I felt God leading me to apply to university, one of the things I felt Him put on my heart is that university here provides a massive, beautiful, rare opportunity for young followers of Jesus to come out out to the mission field, serve Jesus in the unreached world, get to know and share Jesus with hundreds and thousands of young Muslims, and in the process, get a world-class education that will serve them anywhere they end up going in the world.
I’m going to university because I’m just the one of many God is calling to this harvest, and I want to help plow the way for those coming after me.
9. Because it’ll help me stay in this country…
In the last week, 3 of my closest friends here have been hit with crazy residence visa issues, such that it’s looking like there is a high likelihood that they’ll need to leave the country for a season. It’s always super unfortunate when this kind of thing happens, because it means valuable time getting diverted away from language learning, sharing the gospel, discipleship, and everything else we’re doing here.
While it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to be here under a standard residence permit (like 99% of missionaries here use), the government is making it easier and easier to stay here as a student. While many people are concerned they might not be able to stay in the country another year because of all the visa issues that are happening, it’s looking very likely that I’ll be able to be here at least another 4 years without any issues.
10. Because it’s what God is leading me to…
When I was doing my 6 week fast last year, one of my big questions was, “Jesus, what do you want me to do here? What’s your next step for me. How do you want me to bring your Kingdom to this country?”
That question was something I kept coming back to in prayer during that time. Then, in the final week of the fast, I felt like Jesus made it very clear that the next step – the thing I’m to be going after in this season – is becoming a university student, getting educated here, and to shine Jesus in the education realm of this country. So my primary efforts over the course of the last year and a half have been to become a university student here.
Obedience is important.
He said go, so I’m going.
You might be thinking, “Ok, that’s cool. If that’s the case, where are you at in the process of getting into university? If if was last summer you felt God calling you to do this, where are you at now?”
The application process to get into a government university in this country has been long, tedious, and difficult. Like I said, thousands of people apply for these programs every year, so there’s a lot of demand and competition to get in.
I finished a grueling exam in April that took several months to prep for, and have been working long hours every week to get my language up to the point where I’d be able to take academic classes in the fall.
This week, all of that finally paid off. I finally got my acceptance letter into university, and got a passing grade on my language test that should give me what I need to be able to start in the fall.
What’s especially exciting is that I got accepted into a unique program that opens the doors for me to go onto campus for classes and to meet and work with students on campus, while not being required to show up for classes. That is to say, all my requirements for the program are online, so if I need to leave the city for any reason (ministry trips to unreached villages, for example), I can still keep up with classes from my laptop. But I still get the full benefits and open doors that come with being a student. That prospect is super exciting to me.
Please continue to pray with us for Muslims to encounter Jesus, and for fruitful interactions as we share Jesus with those around us.
If while reading this you felt this might be something you or someone you know might be interested in too, feel free to contact me. I’d love to chat through opportunity with you, or whoever is interested in serving Jesus in this way.