Harvard InterVarsity Update
by Canon Tim Clayton and Jeffrey Banks

Dear Christ the Redeemer family,
We are delighted to support Jeffrey Banks, Harvard Chaplain and Campus Minister.
Here’s an update from Jeff!

May Jesus Christ be praised,

What has the Lord been doing among Harvard grad students during the pandemic?

To get a peek at my ministry with grad students and faculty at Harvard during the pandemic, I invite you to watch this video in which one of my students, Anwulika Nkem-Onyekpe, a PhD student in history, reflects on how she has met God recently.

Spoiler: it’s all about community. In our mission to know Jesus more deeply and make him known on campus, community is the secret sauce. Students long for intimate relationships with one another in an isolating world, and those relationships often lead to Jesus. Nowhere else on campus (in my humble opinion) can someone find a community so diverse, welcoming, committed to truth, and joyful.

God has surprised us this year with the depth of our community. During the Zoom era, community is the hardest practice to cultivate–there’s simply no substitute for in-person fellowship gatherings. However, God has surprised us by bringing students into a saving relationship with him and deep friendships with one another. A PhD student in music, Anna, came to faith and was baptized. Jerry, a seeker at the School of Education, is taking steps toward following Jesus. Believers like Anwulika are growing deeper in their relationship with God and others through our virtual prayer gatherings, Bible studies, social events, and game nights.

There were many highlights from the fall semester. In September, we made care packages for first-year PhD students and dropped them off at their apartments or sent them in the mail to those attending Harvard remotely. We hosted our biggest-ever event (virtually or otherwise) when we invited Justin Giboney, president of the AND Campaign, to talk with us about how Jesus calls us beyond the left-right political divide in America. He spoke three days after the election, preaching a message of hope amid the polarization in the country.

Around Thanksgiving, we had a Friendsgiving dinner over Zoom: students ordered their favorite food and we hung out together. It was as close as we could get to eating together during the pandemic!
Part of growing in community during the pandemic has meant students are more open about their struggles. Some have lost relatives or friends to Covid. Several have had Covid themselves (and recovered). Others are exhausted by their work in the lab or on their dissertations.
Since March ‘20, we have been meeting as a fellowship multiple times a week to pray with and for one another. I’ve seen people healed, forgiven, encouraged, and strengthened during these difficult times. The Lord has sustained us through prayer this past year. 
I invite you to join me in praying for these students as well. Specifically, please join me in praying for:
  • Those who are asking questions about faith, especially Aleks, Kyungin, and Jerry. Pray for Jesus to reveal himself to them.
  • Students who feel exhausted and overwhelmed by their studies and how much time they spend on screens during the pandemic
  • Student leaders who are working with me to plan and lead Bible studies, prayer gatherings, and other events. May we hear from the Spirit and follow his leading on campus.
  • Also, please pray for my wife, Anna, who is giving birth to our second child in mid-March! We are looking forward to meeting this baby boy and pray for a healthy baby and smooth, safe delivery.

Friends at CtR, thank you so much for praying and supporting our mission on campus. We are privileged to be partnering in doing the Lord’s work alongside you! If you want to receive my monthly e-newsletter, or if there’s a way I can be praying for and supporting you, please send me an email at jeffrey.banks@intervarsity.org

Jeff +