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The answer to a 20-year prayer

On Mondays during lunch, CCO staff member Spencer Golomb attends a Bible study where he can’t understand a single word. 

Spencer works with students at Penn State Abington, just outside of Philadelphia. It’s a unique community: primarily commuter, racially and ethnically diverse, and ten percent international. Spencer serves these students by drawing on every resource he can find—and then connecting the dots between them.

Monday’s Bible study is in Mandarin.

It began this way: Some of Spencer’s Chinese friends at church attend the local seminary. As undergrads in the US, they became Christians, and now they want to share their faith. Spencer invited them to the campus Chinese New Year celebration, and connections began to form. Now these seminarians lead a study for Chinese students, many of whom have never heard of the Bible. 

Spencer attends so that he can chat—in English—with the Chinese students before and after the study. He also attends to support Daniel, a Chinese-American student leader who chooses to live in the one campus dormitory so that he can befriend and serve international students.

Last spring, Spencer was interviewing student leader candidates. When it was Daniel’s turn, Spencer asked him, “Why do you want to be on the leadership team?”

Daniel responded, “Because I can speak Chinese, and none of you can. How else are you going to share the Gospel with Chinese students?”

An excellent question. 

Now Spencer sits in at the weekly Mandarin Bible study, alongside Daniel and the Chinese seminarians from his church, and he marvels at what God can do. This is just one example of “coincidences” that have resulted from the choices—and the prayers—of generations of Christian believers in Abington.

In other words, this story doesn’t begin with Spencer.

In the mid-nineties, an Abington pastor with a vision convened a group of fellow pastors to pray regularly for their community, including the nearby college campus. The late Reverend Brewster Hastings and this group of between 20 and 30 pastors from different denominiations has continued meeting monthly for nearly two decades. 

As the Spirit moved, some of the pastors felt particularly called to reach out to students at Penn State Abington. They held Bible studies and started a small fellowship group, but they needed someone on campus full-time, connecting students to the local Christians who cared about them.  

“I met Brewster, the man with this vision, face-to-face at Jubilee in 2015,” Spencer says. “The rest is history.” 

Now Spencer lives in a house near campus, rented to him by another local pastor, Rev. Wakaki Thompson, who wanted the house to be used for ministry. 

The prayers of the pastors are being answered.

Spencer’s weeks are full of Bible studies and “triads”—that is, two-on-one meetings with student leaders. They include card games in common areas on campus, dinners at his house, and quality time with local pastors and other leaders. For Spencer, it’s all about the connections. Students involved in triads and Bible studies are trained to lead their own, outreach includes meaningful service and regular involvement in campus life, and Spencer regularly invites students to attend local churches where he knows the members and pastors personally.Within this web of relationships, students are invited, included, and blessed.

Last fall, Riya* came to a Bible study for the first time. She grew up in a Hindu family, then Jesus appeared to her in a dream. Now she was hungry to know more. “I was overjoyed by not only her story, but also by how the rest of the group made her feel welcomed and loved,” Spencer says. “Riya isn’t the only student I’ve met who is new to the faith or is seeking truth. The Spirit of God has been stirring the hearts of many students at Abington.”

Spencer remembers arriving on campus three years ago, knowing only two faculty members and a handful of students. Now, as he stands alongside student leaders at the Involvement Fair each fall, they have a new problem. 

“This year we had to encourage returning students to make room at our table so that new students could approach us!” Spencer says. “It is a joy to see the community God is building among His faithful here in Abington.”

—­Jen Pelling

*Name changed to protect her privacy