What happens when Adventist kids go off to university? Many of them leave the Church. Why?
They are often far from home for the first time. They are making new friends with very different values. Professors and peers can be very impressive and very persuasive. And, if truth be told, the local church options are often not well tailored to the types of questions and the unique needs of uni students. So students find a sense of community elsewhere—and elsewhere is seldom compatible with the Christian life.
That's the power of prayer, a student and a church community with a vision.
That’s what makes the remarkable developments around a Fijian church created to serve students at the secular University of the Pacific (USP) so important.
It may seem that one church in the whole scheme of things isn’t much to worry about. But Pastor Joe Talemaitoga thinks otherwise: “Remember, the students at the University of the Pacific are some of the most gifted young people in the entire region,” he notes. “If we lose the Adventist students, we lose an enormous asset to our church.” He further observes: “If we fail to reach the non-Adventist students, we lose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as it is during university that many will be open to new ideas and searching for their identity. Our church is designed for both groups—and it’s working.”
The Pacific Tertiary Evangelistic Centre, as Pastor Talemaitoga has dubbed the uni church, has become a hub that provides community and inspiration to Adventists, and is a great vehicle for them to reach out to their peers. Check it out on Facebook and you’ll see what a lively centre it is. Not only is Adventism vibrant and growing at the centre, it’s also out in the community serving others. Groups of students have even travelled to the new Fulton campus to assist with preparing the grounds of the new college. It’s tough work in the hot sun, but when the love of God is in your heart you want to put that love into action.
But there has been a problem since the centre commenced: there has been a church, but no church. Or, to be a little clearer, there has been a church congregation, but no church building. Which may not seem like such a big problem until you start thinking about it. After all, uni students are busy. When you start moving your church around from one lecture hall to another, trying to get the word out about where you are and what you are gets complicated. And then there’s the weekly set up and tear down. If that were not enough, when you are doing special mid-week meetings or Saturday night concerts, you don’t have a place to hold them.
So just build a church, right? Easily said, but hard to do. It turns out that vacant land around USP is in great demand. The Catholic Church owns much of the prime city blocks near the campus, and they’re not selling.
End of story.
Not quite. You see, when you hit a brick wall, what do you do? Pray. And that’s exactly what the students and leadership team began to do. And that’s where the story gets really interesting.
At 10pm one evening, a group of students was walking near the campus and saw a man putting up a “for sale” sign on the perfect block of land.
Why he was posting the sign so late at night, no-one can say. But the students saw an opportunity. One of them called Pastor Talemaitoga, and the wheels kicked into high gear. By mid-morning the next day, the land was safely in the hands of the uni church, much to the dismay of the Catholic Church, which had been eyeing the property for years.
That’s the power of prayer, one student and a church community with vision.
The new uni church is now under construction, with funds provided by the 13th Sabbath mission offering (remember the one about building new churches in the Pacific—incredible, isn’t it, all of us who donated towards the cause are now building a church at this minute).
If all goes to plan, the church will be completed by the time the new Fulton College campus is opened next February.