Category Archives: Profs in action

Christian Scientists Explode the Myth

don winget utexas
Dr. Don Winget describes himself as a former “fire-breathing atheist.” The University of Texas astronomer once adorned the family van with a Darwin-inside-a-fish image that mocked Christians.

“When I was an atheist I felt a very strong need to argue with people about God,” he told a group of 170 Cru students at the University of Texas. “I had 50 talking points that I would use.”

Dr. Winget chronicled his college-aged journey away from his childhood faith, then his family’s eventual return to Christianity. “Ours was really an intellectual journey,” he told the students. As they explored Christianity, “Each one of these 50 points was proven to be false. Every single one.”

His astronomy colleague, Dr. Sarah Salviander, told of her voyage to faith through her astronomy research. “I had an appreciation for how ordered the universe is, how logical. As a kid who had grown up with zero religion, all of a sudden I realized that I believed in a Creator. A universe that is this beautiful, makes this much sense, could not just be an accident.”

Organized by Faculty Commons’ staff Karen Ness, the event was titled “What I Can’t Say in the Classroom.” Karen and her husband Dave (who emceed the evening) drew on the relationships they have built over 20 years of ministry to faculty at UTexas to recruit the three professors who spoke to the students. Currently 90 UTexas profs are involved with Faculty Commons.

Over the course of the evening, these professors exploded the myth that it’s impossible to be a serious scientist and a Christian at the same time.

Cell biologist Dr. Martin Poenie acknowledged, “We live in a post-Christian world, and everywhere you look there’s Christian bashing. Professors will scold Christians in class, saying if you want to be a scientist, you’d better think twice about this Christianity thing.”

Referring to the multitude of books by atheists who aggressively challenge the existence of God, Dr. Poenie said, “I’ve read these books and what I see is a lot of deception; willful distortion. When you pursue and want to know the truth, these things tend to dissolve. Hold on to your faith, and don’t be easily shaken.”

After the event, students lined up to talk further with these three Christian professors.
UT What I Cant Say event web photo

What a Difference a Professor Makes!

We were delighted to host our old friends Dr. Bill and Lisa Miller on our last day of ministry at the University of Bologna. We met them while Bill was finishing his PhD in political philosophy in Dallas. For the last seven years, Bill has been serving as a Christian professor in Prague, Czech Republic.
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I met Bill and Lisa’s night train from Munich and took them to meet our UNT student team. These American students had been meeting and talking with Italian students about spiritual issues all week long. They listened intently as Bill explained how difficult it is to explain the good news of God’s love and forgiveness to an agnostic or atheist European:

  • Europeans view Christianity the way Americans view communism–as a failed ideology.
  • It takes 3-5 years for a European to decide to truly follow Jesus.
  • They need to hear the gospel several times before they truly understand it.
  • It’s crucial for our UNT group to maintain their new friendships and keep the spiritual conversations going over social media.

After lunch, we settled into a coffeehouse in the university quarter, where Bill and Lisa spent the afternoon with two UNIBO students.

20130409-134906.jpgEva, a Czech student from Prague, queried Bill about Christianity and political philosophy.

20130409-141115.jpg Bill discussed the challenges of being a Christian professor with PhD student Fabricio, who will soon complete his degree and go home to teach at a Brazilian university.

After dinner with our team of Texans, the Millers enjoyed (what else?) late-night gelato with the UNT students before catching the night train to Vienna.

The Gospel Shines in Unexpected Places


“The university is a fantastic place for the gospel to shine, partly because it is so unexpected.”

Dr. Michael Atchison directs the rigorous VMD-PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania. Students spend eight years studying under his guidance. He always ends his periodic advising sessions for them with the question, “How can I be praying for you?”

Initially surprised, the students request clarification and come up with something vague. “But after multiple advising sessions,” Dr. Atchison tells us, “they begin to come with real prayer requests.  In addition, they know that faith issues are on the table if they desire to discuss them.”

“The Gospel is the answer to essentially all problems we face,” he reminds us. “An academic answer to a difficult life issue may be what the university has to offer, but followers of Christ have the entire package.

“When students crash and burn, they feel extraordinarily weak and vulnerable. Affirming that their identity is not based on their performance, but instead on the fact that they are made in the image of God is surprisingly helpful.”

Wouldn’t you love for the college students in your life to have a professor like Dr. Atchison?

Read more of his wisdom at MyMinistryMinute.com, Faculty Commons’ weekly devotional that’s written by Christian professors for other Christian professors.

Thanksgiving Mystery

A Chinese graduate student pointed to the unfamiliar foods on her plate and asked me, “Which one of these is the stuffing?” Twenty-two Chinese students from SMU were gathered in a professor’s home to sample our traditional Thanksgiving dishes and hear the story of this quintessential American holiday.

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This ministry to Chinese graduate students, launched by a professor in her living room over ten years ago, was christened Guanxi (which means “connection” in Chinese) when it was adopted by our church in Dallas.

A team of volunteers provides weekly “English Corner” classes to help the students master this new language and learn American customs. I match the students with American friendship partners recruited from our church.

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Because they are raised in an officially atheist country, most Chinese students are curious to learn more about Christianity during their time in the U.S. At our Thanksgiving and Easter group parties, we teach them about the God to Whom we are thankful, and the Savior whose sacrifice paid for the sins of the whole world–including theirs.

We already have cause for thanksgiving this season. One of the students who arrived in the U.S. just a few months ago is now a believer in Jesus!

Rejoice with us, and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Fall Fun with Chinese Student Friends

Carving pumpkins is a novel activity for Chinese students. But they plunged into the fray with relish and produced some remarkably detailed creations that put most American efforts to shame.

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Our Guanxi Ministry to Chinese grad students at Southern Methodist University hosted a fall picnic for our new Chinese friends this past Saturday. In addition to carving pumpkins, we introduced them to caramel apples and football. Nearly 30 students attended, taking a welcome break from their rigorous study schedules on a beautiful fall day.

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Most of the students have only been in the US since August. Guanxi hosts a weekly gathering called “English Corner” in which we teach American customs, a story from the Bible, and help the students practice their conversational English. They took turns describing their pumpkin creations to the group.

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Please pray for our next gathering on November 18th. We will meet at an SMU professor’s home near campus for a Thanksgiving feast. The students always enjoy trying our traditional American Thanksgiving foods. And we will have an opportunity to tell them about the origins of the holiday, including the God to whom we are thankful.

Water of Life in Haiti

Can you imagine having to walk two miles every day just to retrieve five gallons of clean water for your family to use? That is what the 50,000-100,000 residents of Onaville, a tent city northeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti had to do.
But not anymore.
It’s been more than two years since an earthquake leveled large swaths of Haiti. Tens of thousands of people still live in tent cities like Onaville, waiting for safe, permanent housing. Dr. Marc Compere, mechanical engineering professor at Embry-Riddle University in Florida, has led teams of ME students to Haiti for the last three summers to install solar-powered water purification systems for people who live in Haiti’s tent cities.
We wrote about Marc’s first trip to Haiti in 2010. This year Marc and his international team of ten students installed a sustainable, long-term clean water solution in Onaville.
Dr. Marc Compere (in gold shirt) and his team of mechanical engineering students
Onaville’s system is powered by six solar panels which charge eight deep-cycle batteries. The batteries run an ultraviolet disinfection system that purifies the well water pumped out of the ground by a diesel-powered generator.
“We were glad to hear the clean water system will start a micro business,” Marc told us. “It is common to pay a small amount for water in Haiti; perhaps 5¢ for a 5 gallon bucket. This is how to give a ‘hand up’ and not a ‘hand out’. The micro business will offset generator diesel costs and provide income for two trained purifier operators.”
After four days of hard work in the hot sun, Marc’s team produced their first gallons of purified water. “People started showing up out of nowhere with buckets,” he remembers. “We filled probably 80 five gallon buckets after 9:30pm. They carried water away like it was gold.”
Undergrad student Kyle Fennesy points out that “clean water = life. Life expectancy, quality of life, health, education, and work are so closely held upon the foundation of clean drinking water.”
The next step was to train Haitians to maintain and operate the system themselves. “One assignment in the summer school class at Embry-Riddle was a quick-start and users manual for the system,” Marc explains. “Kyle got an A in the course and is shown here using that assignment to train the Haitians who will maintain and operate the system once we leave.”
Although Marc’s commitment to humanitarian work is motivated and empowered by his faith in Christ, most of the students on this trip are not believers in Jesus. Yet the spiritual aspects of providing life-giving clean water for this community were not lost on them.
Grad student Yung Wong wrote:
“I learned that there are much deeper positive consequences of providing clean water than just better health. A term that was used several times during the trip was empowerment. Our ability to provide clean water empowers, or enables, the people in Onaville to not only feel better by drinking clean water but also allows them to get additional job opportunities, focus on domestic duties, or get an education. These lead to better futures and will hopefully lead the people in Onaville out of poverty.
Pastor Massillon, in charge of the system we brought, gave a speech before turning on the faucet to provide the people with clean water. His comparison of what our team did to what Moses did for the Israelites was very impactful on me even though I am not religious. He sees our system as giving new life to the people who are living in desert-like conditions that were not of their choosing. They no longer need to walk two miles to get clean water and can spend more time building towards a better future for themselves, their families, and their community.”

The Problem of God–What Happened?

Corey Miller peers at the long lines snaking behind the open microphones. He sighs, takes a deep breath and reluctantly steps forward.
As Faculty Commons staff and event emcee, he knows what he has to do. He has to bring the Q&A time to a close–It’s already been an hour since Dr. Paul Copan ended his lecture.
Dr. Copan, professor and current president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, spoke to a Purdue University crowd of 1,000 on the subject: Is God a Moral Monster? Good, Evil, and the Old Testament.
Almost all the questions came from people who were not believers in Jesus: members of the Society of Non-Theists, international students, leaders of Muslim groups and the Pagan Academic Network.
Everyone there heard a clear and concise presentation of the gospel from Corey Miller. And what a treat to hear testimonies of faith from a number of Purdue professors! Take a look yourself at these Professors who are Confessors.
Can you imagine the impact on students who were there?
The conversation continued the following day thanks to a number of smaller meetings that addressed controversial topics related to Christianity.
While we cannot yet know the full extent of the event’s impact, we can say that it made God a topic of discussion on campus, and will promote spiritual conversations for the year to come. “I’ve begun follow up and have already had some good discussions with some non-believers,” Corey told us. “This was really a legacy building event. We saw fruit all year long in follow-up [from last year’s similar event], and I suspect this year will be even better.”

The Problem of God (at Purdue)

  • Is God a Moral Monster?
  • Does God know about the Big Bang?
  • If a loving God exists, then why isn’t He more obvious?
  • Why does God seem judgmental and intolerant?
  • Can Christianity contribute to the rebuilding of business morality in China today?
Ten Christian academics will address these topics and many more in a campus-wide outreach at Purdue University this weekend. Sponsored by fourteen campus Christian organizations and churches, the symposium addresses head-on the issues that keep many seekers from knowing Christ.
Please pray with us that God will be at work this weekend, revealing His love and offer of forgiveness to Purdue students and faculty who don’t yet know Him.

A World Safe for Diversity

How do you reconcile respect for diverse points of view with religious freedoms?
Christian speaker and Oxford scholar Dr. Os Guinness will address the role of Christians in a pluralistic society at Texas A&M University’s Rudder Theater on February 20th at 7 p.m.
Dr. Guinness is an eloquent defender of a biblical point of view. This would be a terrific event for the not-yet-Christians you know.
You can visit the event’s facebook page by clicking this link or by scanning the QR code below with a smart phone.
Scan this QR code with a smart phone to open the event's facebook page.

Chinese Students Explore Bible

“Since we have the freedom while we are in America to explore the Bible, we should learn all we can about it so that we can tell others when we go back to China.”
— Chinese graduate student
Twenty Chinese graduate students were encouraged to use their time in the U.S. to explore the Bible during an evening gathering at a Christian professor’s home in Dallas last fall. Dr. Smith (not her real name) invited grad students at her university to view the China Bible Ministry Exhibition at Northwest Bible Church.
Gospel of John in Mandarin and English
A delegation from the registered protestant church of China took this exhibit of ancient Chinese Bibles and artifacts to four U.S. cities. For most of the grad students, this was the first time they had seen a Bible translated into their native language.
After sharing a dinner of authentic (not Americanized!) Chinese food at Dr. Smith’s home, an expert on Chinese cultural issues spoke to the students about the difference that the Bible and Jesus can make in their lives. Each student had been given a Chinese/English Bible at the exhibit, and he challenged them to read it and seek to discover if its words are truth.
The students, though unfamiliar with the Bible, were very curious. One asked her American friend if they could study the Bible together. Another later wrote to Dr. Smith, “The Exhibit and family salon opened a new window for me. It’s amazing experience. I really appreciate your invitation.”
It has been our privilege to assist Dr. Smith with this ministry to Chinese grad students for a number of years now. Please be praying for these students as they encounter the very words of God and get to know the character of Jesus through His story!