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September 16, 2020

Caritas Is Engaged in Summer Bible Study

by catherine elvy, staff writer

Young adults involved in Caritas, Christian Union’s ministry to Stanford University students, are discovering new insights into the foundational truths of Genesis.

In late June, Ministry Fellow Justin Woyak began leading a virtual summer study devoted to unpacking the themes and wonders of the Bible’s first book. “There’s a lot to dig into,” said Woyak, Princeton ’09. “There are so many threads of the Bible’s storyline that begin here.” 

A dozen students are participating in the online studies, which are held on Tuesday evenings and will continue into early September. Stanford students from varying collegiate stages are taking part in the calls, including two incoming freshmen. 

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian Union’s ministry team at Stanford moved the gatherings to an electronic format for summer 2020. 


Students involved in Christian Union’s ministry to Stanford University participated in a virtual summer study devoted to unpacking the amazing lessons of Genesis. Pictured, left to right: Ministry Director Garrett Brown, Ministry Fellow Justin Woyak, Rachel Stutz ’22, Robert Mungai ’21, Helena Everley Zhang ’22, Ministry Fellow Abigail Carreon, Ryan Han ’23, Christina Kwak ’23, and Faith Koh ’21

While most Christian Union fall or spring courses are devoted to topical studies or books of the New Testament, the ministry team at Stanford focuses upon Old Testament texts during summer gatherings. Though sometimes overlooked by college students and youthful believers, the Old Testament narratives provide an essential backdrop for the teachings of the New Testament.

“Reading an extended portion of the Scriptures in a group seems much easier if you are reading a narrative,” said Woyak.

Ryan Han ’23 appreciates the “dive into the Old Testament in the depth and manner” that students explore the Bible. 

Given the complexities and breadth of Genesis, Woyak said he is “trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead us as a group.” 

“I am always excited to hear more about the insight that the Christian Union faculty and the rest of the students have. I have learned a lot so far,” said Jira Smith ’21, a co-president of Caritas.

“I have enjoyed our discussions on original sin, the mysterious Nephilim race, dynamics between husbands and wives, and the flood. This study has really enriched my fundamental understanding of Genesis and how that sets the foundation for the entirety of Scripture.”

Robert Mungai ’20 agreed. “One of my favorite lessons was when we delved deeper into the historical context of the story of creation,” he said. “I’ve learned the value of digging beneath the surface, even in my own pursuit of the knowledge of God.”

Indeed, Genesis covers wide-ranging topics including creation, sin, Sabbath, marriage, family, work, civilization, language, and redemption. After presenting pivotal ancient events including the flood and the Tower of Babel, the narratives of Genesis turn to central patriarchal personalities. Still, the string of epic stories is not a stand-alone book. It is the first installment of the Torah, which tells the story of Israel being chosen as God’s covenant people and their journey to the land that God promised them.

Presenting the first covenants that God makes with humans, Genesis 17:6-7 tells the story of the Abrahamic covenant, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

Woyak notes that the “theme of offspring carries throughout the Bible,” culminating in the final book of Revelation. Through Abraham and his family, God promises to bless all nations and restore the earth to its full and perfect glory.

Given the theologically complex, rich nature of Genesis, Woyak has been pleased with the results of summer study.

“Some of the students have given some really phenomenal responses,” said Woyak. “It’s been great.”

“We really want this to be a time where we honor God for His word. We’re eager to have the great discussions that follow, but the best part of the evening is just reading Scripture together.”