“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
1 John 4:20 unfolds the radical logic of God that reveals at least three unpleasant, but critical facts that are applicable to our context today:
Some Christians would be better identified as liars.
It is harder to love God than it is to love a fellow human being.
Blindness, not sight, is a prerequisite to loving God.
It is important to note the language that John uses: anyone who declares a love for God and hates his brother “is a liar.” The power of this statement may be better exposed by what John does not say.John does not say that such people tell lies—he instead calls them liars.Here’s a key difference: cooking many meals does not make one a chef.Administering medicine to a sick child does not turn a parent into a doctor.Working on a car does not make someone a mechanic.Occasionally telling a lie does not make anyone a liar. One becomes a chef, doctor, or mechanic when they dedicate so much of their time, energy, and effort into those things that they form a part of their identity.Similarly, a liar is a person whose life has been overshadowed by the lies he tells or lives, to the point where these become his very identity.
A Christian who hates their brother is as beautiful as new clothes on the naked emperor.They bring no warmth, provide no answer for the shame of nakedness, and serve only to confuse the sincere and invite mockery from bystanders.
There is an implied question that John asks.This query does not emerge from a lack of knowledge on the topic of love or God (John 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20).Instead it arises from incredulity that reasonable Christians would even consider a probable coexistence between love for God and hatred towards another human being.He then expounds on how impossible it is to love God by uncovering its nature.Love contains a two-step progression.Loving an invisible God is the second part of this sequence.The first step is “visible love.”To love in an invisible capacity, one must first master loving in a visible one. John is making a factual declaration, as opposed to an opinionated statement: if you can’t master loving everyone you see, you can never love someone you can’t see.Full stop.
We have been programmed to identify by sight instead of identifying despite it.But this is the dilemma we’ll encounter every time we function under this paradigm: what we see is not so much a picture of reality as much as it is an indication of our personal view of it.What I see tells me more about myself than about what I’m seeing.Better stated, who I see tells me more about me than about the person I am seeing.The color I see in others shows how much I’m bound by color, the disability I see in others shows how obsessed I am with my own weaknesses, the differences I identify in other people exposes the envy of my heart.
God designs that every person I hate be a portrait of Himself.
The answer is not to learn to stop hating, it is to learn to start loving.How is this accomplished?By learning to love blindly, invisibly.The reality is that my sight is not a reliable basis for love, for it will always have a stronger bend towards hate.I must learn to be blind—to bypass my sight.I must learn to not acknowledge what I see, except to appreciate the image of God in others.
It is often said, we love God as much as we love the person that we like the least.Perhaps this is a more accurate statement: we hate God as much as we hate the person we hate the most.
It is only after I have learned to love all that I can truly say that I love God.
When people meet Andrew Park, his dedication is obvious, especially when it is related to God. Andrew grew up attending the Detroit Korean SDA church, but never made a decision to be baptized. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Michigan State University as a major in Packaging Science, and it was there that God brought him to the point of surrender. It was after finishing his sophomore year at MSU when God interrupted his typical college life with a calling to follow Christ. The work of God in his life is something to be celebrated, but he also recalls the continued journey after he made the decision to follow Christ. See his testimony here
After canvassing the summer after his sophomore year for the summer, he decided to take a year off of school and attend Ouachita Hills College – this provided a more concentrated time to deepen his experience with God. He later served as the president of “Adventist Student Fellowship (ASF) at MSU, and student ministry took place every day. Andrew explained, “Things were getting difficult because there was so much ministry. It came to the point where we were doing a lot of ministry but we were not connecting as a team.” There were multiple small groups during the week, Friday evening CRAVE, sundown vespers on Sabbath with games nights following, and meetings on Sunday. He admits that although he never stopped doing ministry, in his heart he became tired.
God provided a reprieve the next two semesters as he moved to Maryland and Tennessee for major-related internships. During this time, God taught him how to be a Christian without the support of a student ministry. Separation from the Adventist community at MSU created new challenges in his walk with God. He learned the importance of finding accountability. More practically, he suggests, “Find someone that you can talk to about your struggles and your difficulties. People always talk about ministry, yet we struggle with self every day and we need support.” Andrew recounts the faithfulness of God to keep him in the faith.
His advice to student leaders is to invest time in relationship building, and create a safe community to help one another. He concludes,
“We cannot neglect each other; we need to take measures for things to be sustainable. Embrace the fact that we are going to struggle; it will be hard, but this is part of the process. Just because we are a Christian now does not mean that we no longer have difficulties. There are more testimonies to be made and God will constantly work on the areas in our life that need to be renewed. We all have brokenness that God wants to heal, and it is a continual process throughout life. When we have crises or obstacles in our faith, view it as a call from the Great Physician to heal us. Consider Isaiah chapter 61. He came to heal the broken hearted. He wants to set us free, and God will engage in this work as we engage in ministry.”
Andrew Park is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Packaging Science from Michigan State University this summer. He currently serves as the president of GYC and will serve with CAMPUS as a Fellow for the 2020-2021 school year.
As Decontee began her math class at Lansing Community College, she knew it was going to be a difficult class. Along with the growing difficulty was also a desire to be closer to God. Little did she know that God has been preparing for a few years a divine appointment to not only help her with Math but introduce her to a saving relationship with Jesus.
Halee Boughton, CAMPUS Missionary Alumnae ‘17, continued in East Lansing after the MTP program and was instrumental in starting a small group Bible Study at Lansing Community College. She happened to be enrolled in the same math class as Decontee and signed up for the same group study at the beginning of the semester. The two soon became friends and became study partners for their difficult math class. One time when they met, Halee had a book she was reading about a man who went to prison because of his faith. Afterward they continued to talk and Halee invited her to study the Bible together in October of 2019. Decontee enjoyed the studies and Halee invited her to their weekly Bible study on campus, and Decontee began to attend occasionally.
She began to attend regularly and met Pastor Jermaine Gayle in December at one of the last Bible Studies of the semester. He invited her to attend GYC. She opened her schedule and attended. On Sabbath evening, the speaker made a call for those who wanted to give their life to Christ and make a public profession through baptism to come forward. She was thinking about what the speaker said. Two pastors from Michigan were sitting near her when one of them nudged her and said it was okay to go. She stood up and went forward. Pastor Jermaine and his wife Allie joined her at the front to pray.
The time at GYC was life changing, and she began to study with Halee. Every Sabbath Decontee would faithfully attend church bringing her nephews and nieces. She continued the studies twice a week and was eager to be baptized. God was transforming her life. One day she looked at her wardrobe, and decided to get rid of everything and find clothes that were more modest. No one said anything to her about her clothes, but the Holy Spirit had touched her heart. She desired for her love for God to also be revealed in how she lived and even what she wore.
A date was set for her baptism, and Decontee expectantly waiting for the day she could share publicly her love for Jesus. Then the Covid-19 crisis broke out, and the baptism had to be rescheduled. Those disappointed she knew it was just a week away. But then there were restrictions and her baptism had to be postponed. Her heart sank and her grief overflowed in tears.
Decontee expectantly waiting for the day she could share publicly her love for Jesus.
Then on April 11, 2020, she was able to publicly declare her commitment to Christ and be baptized at the University SDA Church in East Lansing. You can watch her testimony below.
Abigail Almeida began her college experience as a bio-chem major at Michigan State University, introducing her to a culture and world vastly different than home. Family had always been the closest people in her life; her siblings were her best friends, and when she moved to MSU, it introduced her to all that a secular university had to offer. Abi’s brother previously attended MSU and had connected with the local campus ministry, Adventist Student Fellowship (ASF). She arrived two weeks before school started. Since many of the ASF students were not there yet, she had two weeks to enjoy this new-found freedom. As her new friends invited her to events, she began to feel out of place and question her inherited identity. Everything began to feel very strange and unfamiliar. Then one of her brother’s friends from ASF called her and invited her to stay Friday night and go to church together. Though she wanted to say no, she knew her brother would find out.
Once at church with the other ASF students, Abi felt the familiar peace that comes from being around people who love God. Abi stated, “I remembered who I was again.” The ACF students and the University Church in East Lansing became her home away from home. She continued to attend ACF events, but struggled academically that first semester. She admitted to failing her first semester due to using her freedom to not attend class since it was not required. By the second semester, she transferred to Western Michigan University (WMU) and began commuting with her brother to classes.
Since her brother was a leader in the ACF group at WMU, Abi was able to connect with the student group there, and that became her friend group. They would study together on campus even though we were different majors. As with many students, she struggled with her major and changed to bio-med. Every year of her college experience Pastor Jermaine Gayle from CAMPUS would ask if she was interested in being part of the Missionary Training Program. She always said no because she knew her dad would not approve of her taking a year off of school. She signed up to canvass one summer, knowing that she could only canvass for part of the summer due to summer classes. Her dad was unhappy about her decision to canvass for fear it would negatively affect her studies. She completed half the summer canvassing, but was convicted she should stay the entire summer. The canvassing summer helped her grow in her faith and relationship with God. The fellowship with like-minded young people from CAMPUS inspired her. Many of her fellow canvassers had completed the CAMPUS program and encouraged her to join, but God still had to work on her and her parents another year.
The following summer, Abi canvassed again and met Miranda, who had recently been baptized as a result of the Missionary ministry at MSU. They became fast friends and Miranda encouraged Abi to apply to the Missionary Training Program. Interestingly, that was the only summer she did not receive a phone call from Pastor Jermaine about the MTP. Instead, God sent Miranda to give her the invitation while on a canvassing satellite. After dropping students off at their stops, Abi quickly filled out the application for fear she would forget to do it later. Peace came as she hit send, assuming that due to the lateness in the summer, she assumed she would not be accepted. But Pastor Jermaine called extending the invitation to join the MTP in just a few weeks.
Now she would have to tell her dad about her decision. As she reflected, all her decisions had previously been made based on another persons’ recommendation and request. From choosing her major to the university she attended, from attending church to becoming a leader in the ACF student group, each was either prompted through her parents or siblings. Attending the Missionary Training Program was a personal conviction that she believed God had given to her. She feared his disappointment in her for not attending school in the fall, especially since it would be her junior year. As she talked to her dad, her desire to follow God was apparent. She postponed her junior year to dedicate one to God.
Abi will finish her senior year the summer of 2020. Her hope is to get a job working in a lab in North Carolina. However, her long-term plan is to pursue music more seriously. She has a passion for music and especially leading God’s people in singing. During the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, she has used her gift of music to lead music via virtual worship services.
Abi’s word of advice to incoming freshmen is to take your time. She states, “I think a big fallacy in higher education is that you have to get done in four year, or that you have to go to college right after highschool.” In hindsight she believes that if she would have taken a year off before school, she would have a deeper understanding of her faith, identity and purpose. She followed up by sharing, “What matters is not necessarily the education, but it is what we are doing with our classmates and professors? Have we used every opportunity to share Christ with them?”
As the end of the residency program begins to slow down, Grady Yonas never planned to end his year with such a dramatic change. Due to Covid-19 the campus of MSU is now closed and most students have gone home. However, Grady is still very active in ministry.
One of our former missionaries, Alex Delaola introduced his brother, Austin to Grady at the beginning of the school year. Early on Austin felt the Holy Spirit calling him to be baptized and made a decision on the connect cards after CRAVE. However, many ‘thorns’ got in the way like a busy schedule and life, preventing Ausin from starting Bible studies. Through the prompting of his brother, Austin made the trip to GYC.
Austin attended an evangelism workshop by Sam Walters during GYC and was deeply convicted he needed to be a missionary. He not only made a stand for baptism, he committed to living a life of service to Christ. Once Austin returned from GYC, Grady began to study with him, twice a week. He developed index cards for Revelation 12, made illustrations to explain the 2300 day prophecy, and created a storyboard of salvation through John 8.
Although Grady recommends studying with people once a week to allow them time to search God’s Word, the timing Austin was perfect due to the outbreak of covid-19 and he was a diligent student, applying what God was showing him. In order to prevent the spread, the UChurch opted to baptize people on different weeks and limit the number of people present. Though there were others scheduled to be baptized with Austin, he was the only one baptized on March 21, 2020.
Through the process, Grady shared “it very important to see the topic from the person’s background. For example when I study another friend, he shared that his ADD prevents him from processing large amounts of information. So I have had to restructure the Bible studies so he can remember.” This young man is currently telling his homeless friend who needs the hope found in the Bible studies, seeking to connect his friend with Grady to start studying.
When asked what he has learned so far, Grady stated “Our mighty God can work through a sinner. I am humbled to see that God can use me, as a sinner, as a tool to reach others. This needs to be my mentality when I work for God!”
The best part of the Residency program is working with the local church, having an opportunity to preach, use the gifts God has given him in media, music and teaching .He has been able to work with the local UChurch media team to share messages of hope during this crisis.
After he completes his residency requirements and graduates from Hartland college, he plans to serve as a CAMPUS Fellow. He feels being a Fellow is a unique opportunity to grow, and to work in a family atmosphere, a family who have the same purpose, reaching the secular campuses for Christ’s soon return. He recommends the CAMPUS Residency program as the best opportunity for training in soul winning, preaching, managing time and money.
Grady Yonas is currently serving as a Pastoral Resident in the CAMPUS Missionary Training Program. So his residency completes the requirements of Hartland College for his degree in Pastoral Evangelism. He also will be graduating with an associate degree in Christian Media Ministry.
The President’s Council had been planning diligently for the Spring Collegiate Sabbath to be held at Wayne State University (WSU). The day was to be monumental since WSU has not had a campus ministry in about ten years. A young man by the name of Dickson Mogaka answered the call and began to initiate the paperwork process. The paperwork was given to the university just before Christmas break, but by the retreat he still had not heard anything. He follow-up by visiting the office, making phone calls, and sending emails. But he never received a response. The secretary responded in a phone call that it usually takes two weeks, but it had been almost two months since the paperwork was submitted. The President’s Council began to pray for God to open the door.
In a conversation with one of our staff, he shared all his efforts in starting the ministry. He planned to go to the office again that day, so they prayed for God to open the door. When he arrived at the office, the director was there and explained there was a typo in the constitution. Once this was fixed, the Adventist student organization application would be approved. Dickson shared the good news later with the President’s Council, and they ended their meeting with a prayer of thanksgiving.
Due to the spread of the covid-19 the campus of WSU was closed the first week in March. The President’s Council had an emergency conference call with the CAMPUS Director, Israel Ramos, to discuss our options. At the time of the call, the virus had not spread significantly in Michigan. The students desired to move forward and considered holding it at a local church instead. However, their care for the elderly members moved them to postpone the collegiate Sabbath. As staff, we were encouraged to hear their desire to be faithful, but not at the expense of being a carrier and getting someone sick.
Our ministry on the physical campuses have been suspended, but we continue to study the Bible with the student leaders via an online platform and plan to launch a new series “Why am I a Seventh-day Adventist? Prayers are needed for these projects and for our students. Many of our student leaders are uncertain of their future. Some lost needed employment to pay for summer classes. Pray specifically for God’s leading in these faith-building moments for our students.