The history of student involvement in missions is interesting, inspiring and challenging. Brilliant and talented students, with sound academic background, and prosperous future were used of God as mission catalysts. Some were used to cast vision, and some were used as foot soldiers to mobilize human, financial resources, and volunteers to serve overseas. They counted it all joy for the surpassing glory of the Lord and the growth of His kingdom.
This article examines why some Baptist Conventions and Unions in Africa are not reaching out to students or embracing the ministry enthusiastically in spite of its success stories in Germany, England, and America. Using Nigerian Baptist Convention student ministry experience, the article suggests what Baptist Conventions and Unions in Africa can do to “own” the ministry in the 21st Century.
The Beginning of Students Involvement in Missions
The earliest known student involvement in world outreach was in Germany, in the early seventeenth century.
“Seven young law students from Lubeck, Germany, while studying together in Paris, committed themselves to carry the gospel overseas. At least three of them finally sailed to Africa. All trace has been lost of two of these but the name of Peter Heiling has survived. After a two-year stay in Egypt, he proceeded to Abyssinia in 1634. He spent some twenty years in that land, where he translated the Bible into Amharic and finally died a martyr” (Perspective B-78).
In England, Charles Simeon was a student at Cambridge University in 1779. Upon his graduation in 1782, he was appointed Fellow of King’s College. Simeon used his teaching opportunity to reach out to students. His house became a Bible study and prayer meeting center. Through this relationship, many students were converted and later became great leaders in Great Britain and some became missionaries around the world.
Furthermore, in the year 1806, there was a student at Williams College, Massachusetts; his name is Samuel Mills Jr. Mills had been encouraged by the writings of William Carey, a British Missionary to India. He challenged his fellow students to act on Carey’s famous quote, “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God.” In 1792, Carey published a pamphlet titled, “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Little did Carey know the effect of his writings and his missionary zeal on his generation and the succeeding ones.
It was Mills’ practice for him and his friends to spend Wednesdays and Saturdays afternoon to pray. In August 1806, while Mills and his four friends were returning from their prayer meeting, they became caught up in a thunderstorm. They took refuge under a haystack and while there, Mills directed their discussion and prayer around their missionary obligation and they committed themselves to serve God wherever He needed them. With this act of surrendering to the will of God, the first student missionary society in America was born. Below are some of the benefits that came out of their commitment to world missions.
Indeed, this is the incredible power of student volunteers in missions.