Nick Bersin and the European migrant crisis

My first night at Pitt, I was worried about whether I’d find a campus ministry. The next day, I saw people from the CCO’s Cornerstone ministry handing out water bottles near Bellefield Presbyterian Church. I started coming to CCO events during orientation week, and I got to know people that I immediately knew would be my family during college. I went to freshman Bible study first semester and am one of the leaders for that this year. I go to fellowship meetings on Wednesday nights, and I go to church at Bellefield on Sunday mornings. 

My major is International and Area Studies, with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe, and I am also studying German. I have a skill for languages and a passion for learning how they function. I’m now taking German, French, Polish, and Old Church Slavic. 

I believe that learning a language is the best way to learn about a culture and its people. Coming from a mixed ethnic background myself, I am interested in issues around justice and reconciliation between different people groups. 

I want to serve people who are cast out or neglected by society. I have a long way to go in learning how to do that, but God has been pruning my heart and gently correcting me towards that end. He has been showing me the amazing hope He gives. He has shown me how He is working to reconcile all things to Himself in crazy, incredible ways. 

When I graduate, I hope to teach German as a second language in Germany or Austria or Switzerland. My plan right now is to move to Europe when I graduate; I may pursue graduate education there, and I am considering going into academia. I would love to do research to benefit people who are on the ground. Or I may go into social work or ministry.

Right now, Germany is experiencing an incredible influx of refugees. They have done better handling it than most other countries in the European Union, but it’s definitely put a strain on them. It’s been a sharp change in parts of the country that aren’t used to outsiders and are suddenly having to host people from vastly different cultural backgrounds. I feel called to speak and live out the Gospel in this context. 

I took a sociology course on immigration in Europe and realized that the way that immigration gets talked about in literary circles can be superficial and detached from reality. Looking at it from a social science perspective, I can see the laws and difficulties on both larger and smaller scales. As it helps me understand all of these things from a broader perspective, it makes me want to help people in a tangible way. 

A big part of my experience of the CCO and the Jubilee conference is seeing how many different areas there are where you can serve God. I’ve come to realize that God cares deeply about people. I’ve come into a robust theology of creation, of restoration, of healing. I view the Gospel as a beautiful invitation to love God and His creation. 

 Jubilee 2016 was a time to celebrate this. Being around so many people who love God and long for the healing of this world refreshed my soul and moved me to go out and do God’s work.

I think this is all preparation for whatever I end up doing after I graduate—whether teaching German to immigrants and refugees so they can find employment and become part of larger society, or working in a church to help bridge the gaps between ethnic Germans and people of foreign heritage, or helping the North American Church better understand the situation of their brothers and sisters across the pond, or introducing people to God who know Him only as a greeting. If I do any of these things for the glory of God and the restoration of this earth, it will be worth it. 

—Nick Bersin, University of Pittsburgh 2018, International & Area Studies and German

This story first appeared in the summer 2016 issue of On Campus magazine.