Harvard Students Deliver Answers to Tough Questions
by catherine elvy, staff writer
In the midst of the potent stresses of final exams, students involved with Christian Union’s ministry at Harvard College stepped forward to deliver nutrition and encouragement to their classmates.
About 30 students from the ministry helped serve 150-plus hot sandwiches as part of a Texts-4-Toasties event. The undergrads formed the backbone of an effort by The Harvard Ichthus to gather student believers to grill and distribute hot sandwiches to classmates texting spiritual queries in exchange for late-night fare.
Before final exams, the Ichthus encouraged Crimson students across campus to submit questions about Christianity in exchange for replies plus sandwiches made from cheese, Nutella, or marshmallow fluff. The campus publication offers a Christian perspective on issues, literature, and culture.
The seasonal event also served as an ideal training ground for believers to practice sharing their faith, said Christian Union intern Tyler Parker ’17. “It is a wonderful activity to get people out of their comfort zone for the sake of evangelism,” said Parker.
Students echoed those comments. “I am always excited by Texts-4-Toasties because it is an easy way to initiate meaningful and exciting discussions with our fellow classmates,” said Collin Price ’19, a team leader with Christian Union’s ministry at Harvard. “Texts-4-Toasties is really a unique event because it makes sharing the Gospel effortless.”
On December 13, Price was among the student volunteers who assembled at staging stations in dorm kitchens to grill and deliver tasty toasties along with answers to theological queries.
Many of the Christian Union participants were pleasantly surprised at the reception they received to their service as faith ambassadors. “Christians can have a way of assuming that people don’t want to hear the Gospel or are closed off to a relationship with God,” said Parker. “When we are obedient, God opens doors in ways that are really surprising.” Click to Tweet
While questions varied widely, many focused upon familiar themes of suffering, sexuality, the origins of the universe, predestination, and eternal damnation. In cases of complex theological queries, a pair of students delivered both hot food and multiple perspectives on issues.
In reflecting on his first foray into Texts-4-Toasties’ delivery service, Price recalled being nervous as a sophomore about the prospect of not having all of the answers. However, he ended up being “really encouraged by discussions we were able to have with people.”
Once a complex question on evolution prompted a meaningful dialogue and subsequent follow-up with copies of Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. “We definitely did not have all of the answers, but we ended up having a really fruitful discussion about the nature of God,” said Price.
Likewise, Douglass Bryant ’22 noted he was compelled to participate in Texts-4-Toasties in an effort to help Christian Union’s ministry expand its reach among Harvard’s diverse student body.
“It was great to see many thoughtful questions being submitted, which benefited those looking for answers, but also us who had to formulate those answers,” said Bryant. “I was pleased at how receptive all of those whom I went to visit were.”
As such, the California native, who is studying neuroscience, said he looks forward to participating in the event again.
In some cases, hungry, sleep-deprived undergrads merely requested late-night snacks. In those cases, student believers offered prayers for peace and retention along with words of encouragement. In other situations, student requests for sandwiches sparked rich conversations about common misconceptions surrounding Christianity. Some of the conversations opened doors for opportunities to point a student to a local church and other spiritual resources.
On the practical side, the sandwiches helped energize students studying for exams and working on essays, projects, and oral presentations.
“It gets really stressful around here during finals,” said Parker.
“Students, especially Harvard students, have a sense that what they accomplish simply is who they are. We get a lot of opportunities to express to them that what they accomplish is way less important to God and to understanding that He loves them. He wants a relationship that they do not have to earn.”
Some of the Text-4-Toasties encounters proved to be divine appointments.
“Many times, the Holy Spirit showed up in ways that were unexpected,” Parker said.