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By Melissa McCutchan
CIU Student Writer
Columbia International University students gathered at the end of the semester to celebrate God’s faithfulness in their various off-campus ministries. Student Mission Connection (SMC) hosted a Christmas cookie social for the students to fellowship and share testimonies of what God had done through them.
“We’re here to celebrate,” SMC member and junior Matthew Dunavant announced. “God has done great things this semester, and that’s exciting.”
SMC is a student organization that connects CIU students with ministry opportunities in Columbia. Students form ministry teams to reach out to various segments of the community, including the homeless, internationals, victims of sex trafficking, and many others.
“I joined the international ministry this semester,” junior Whitney Spradley said. “There’s an international Bible study every Friday. It’s so exciting to eat a meal and open the Word of God with these people.”
Students also shared testimonies of how God is moving in the Muslim ministry. In the fall of 2012, some SMC members prayed for opportunities to befriend Muslims in Columbia. A year later, the ministry is thriving.
“I didn’t realize how much God had moved until I sat down and thought about it,” Muslim ministry leader and sophomore Amy Hollinger said. “God has opened so many doors, and we’re excited to see what He’s going to do.”
Students also befriended the homeless, planted churches in downtown Columbia, and shared the gospel with international students at Ben Lippen School — a Pre-K to 12 grade ministry of CIU, that includes a boarding program for 81 international students.
“One of my girls [at Ben Lippen School] grew up in China,” sophomore Rianna Vinzani said. “It was cool to see how shy she was in the beginning, and then little by little getting to know her. I saw her break out of that shell and become the creation God made her to be.”
CIU’s educational philosophy centers around a triad that focuses on the head (academic excellence), the heart (growth in Christian maturity), and the hands of each student, as they practice skills related to personal and vocational goals that are put to use outside of the classroom. That leads to students who are excited to go into Columbia and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We try not to limit God by what we can imagine,” Dunavant explained. “He wants to bless us beyond that.”