“Is Guinea-Bissau 1) a country in West Africa, 2) hot, 3) politically tumultuous, or 4) all of the above?” fourth-year student, Steve Berkenpas, challenged Abbotsford, B.C.’s Columbia Bible College student body at its mission emphasis chapel. “How many vote for all of the above?” Berkenpas shared about his year living and working in one of the poorest countries in the world, followed by student Donna Mayer, who spoke about her year in Rwanda.
Berkenpas and Mayer are completing degrees in Intercultural Studies (ICS). The ICS program at Columbia requires students to live and work in an intercultural setting during their third year of study. The internship is a profound experience for many, and a draw for prospective students.
The chapel session punctuated Columbia’s mission emphasis week, Jan. 11–15. Many students began the week by visiting Missions Fest Vancouver, an event featuring workshops, speakers – including Will Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Jamie McIntosh of International Justice Mission Canada – and agency displays.
Throughout the week, students at Columbia gathered to pray and discuss international and domestic mission. The Missional Living Committee gathered for their weekly meeting, and guest missionaries joined students for Tuesday dorm meetings to share stories about serving domestically and abroad.
During mission emphasis chapel, the student body prayed for ICS participants currently completing internships. A slideshow displayed prayer requests alongside pictures of student interns: Matt and his wife Sarah Jane are in Uganda, working with orphaned children and local woodworking shops; David is in charge of a team of students serving in Thailand; Karmen, Greg, and Candice are involved with families in Guadalajara, Mexico; close to home, Jordan is working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where residents are adversely affected by the Olympic Games.
At the end of chapel, the room hummed with voices as students clustered in small groups to pray for the interns, who are living out a period of their personal story in isolation from familiar supportive frameworks. While the focus on international and domestic service was important throughout mission emphasis week, the students found the heightened focus on the immediate body was an important piece of the experience of the Kingdom of God.