Dear God, I don’t know where I am heading right now. I feel that all of my problems have burdened me so that I cannot feel Your presence in my life. All I can say is that I am alive and well because of You, Jesus. You know that I tried to love You, but my sins are greater and deeper than my love for You. Help me to love others in Your way. Come into my life and be the God of my life, please Father. In Your name Jesus I pray. Amen.”
This prayer, written recently by a Pacific Adventist University (PAU) student, highlights a theme that is common among our youth. There is a genuine desire for a close relationship with God, despite the struggles.
Over the past two years, more than 80 students have been baptised. Many of these students did not come from Adventist homes, but made a decision at PAU to commit their lives to God.
As vice-chancellor of PAU, my biggest challenge is to ensure that the spiritual environment is such that our students, staff and their families develop a strong enough relationship with God that will last for eternity.
The primary role of an Adventist university is not to provide academic qualifications but to holistically prepare students for life—eternal life to be precise. That requires an environment where our students want to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a tough challenge. Temptations for our youth are increasing every year. The Pacific region is no exception. With the arrival of mobile phones, pornography is readily available; shopping malls present the idolatry of materialism; and the diversification of entertainment directly challenges their time spent in spiritual activities.
In September last year, we asked our students to answer an anonymous survey. Amongst the questions were two responses I had a particular interest in: “I strongly recommend Pacific Adventist University as a good place to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ” and “My subjects at Pacific Adventist University are taught from a biblical-Christian perspective and convey Christian values”. The response was that 98.5 per cent of the students who completed the survey agreed or strongly agreed with both of these statements. I believe that this response is a direct result of the emphasis that the administration as a whole has placed on spiritual development over many years.
While the evidence shows that PAU is on the right track, I know that there is still much more we can do. I am personally concerned about regular worship attendance, ensuring we integrate true Adventist values into each of our subjects, reaching our day students in a more effective manner—the list goes on. The administration is prayerfully working to implement programs that will encourage the students in their walk with God—and God is richly blessing our endeavours. Over the past two years, more than 80 students have been baptised. Many of these students did not come from Adventist homes, but made a decision at PAU to commit their lives to God.
PAU has more than doubled its enrolment since 2009 and will continue to grow. The reason for this rapid growth is not to build a monument for the Church in the Pacific, but for one specific reason: to develop young people who are passionate about the Gospel will greatly assist in fulfilling the gospel commission. The population in the Pacific is growing at double the rate of Australia and is in desperate need of more skilled workers, particularly pastors, nurses and teachers.
In order to improve our ministry to students, we have recently doubled the size of the ministry team. With four full-time pastors, the university is able to fulfil its mission far more effectively than before.
Next week’s offering goes to PAU, specifically to upgrade our kitchen facilities and expand the cafeteria in line with our increasing enrolment. While I am very grateful for your generous donation, there is one thing that I personally request from you that is even more important. Please pray for us! Pray for our students, that they will truly develop a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for the staff, that we may fully reflect God in all our actions. Pray for the administration, that we will make decisions that are completely in line with God’s will. Through our combined prayers, PAU will be able to fulfil its mission of preparing the youth of the Pacific for service and eternal life.
Professor Ben Thomas is vice-chancellor of Pacific Adventist University.