This week meet: Jeff Banks
Jeff is a CTR-supported missionary who serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a chaplain to graduate and professional students at Harvard. In his spare time, he watches soccer, plays guitar, and writes biographies in the third person. He and his wife, Anna, attend Church of the Cross (ACNA) in Boston.
The mission that God has put on my heart for Harvard is to share the good news of Jesus with curious, skeptical, or seeking students; and also to develop believing students into Christian leaders who will influence society for the years to come. Thanks in part to your prayers and support, God has been faithful to let us see some of the fruit of these labors in our students this year:
– One, Yingxue, a grad student in Art History, was a seeker who came to our fall retreat in October of 2017. He spent the next six months really exploring faith until getting baptized in the spring of 2018.
– Another, Anna, a PhD student in Music, is a seeker who is very involved in my PhD fellowship group. I have walked closely with her for the last two years and she has been learning about Jesus for the first time in her life. I really do think she is on the cusp of being baptized and committing to Jesus, so you can join me in praying for her salvation!
– We saw two students become believers after our October retreat, with another five committing to join a Bible study.
– This semester a group of students from the School of Public Health at Harvard have come together to share the good news of Jesus with their classmates through hospitality. These four students—Monica, Matt, Kayla, and Tiffany—met on our fall retreat and came up with the idea to have meals in their homes and invite their non-Christian classmates to eat with them and explore some part of the Christian faith. They have had a core group of 15 students (including non-Christians) join them to eat dinner together, worship, hear a testimony, and talk about some aspect of Christianity.
– In our PhD fellowship group, which meets every Wednesday evening, the students have formed a relationship with American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) and have co-hosted two events with them so far this semester. Dr. Randy Isaac and Dr. Craig Story (from Gordon College) came to speak with our PhD students about being Christian in the scientific world, where they will experience a lot of pressure to hide or minimize their faith. One of our student leaders, Daniel Ang, a PhD student in physics, published an essay about being a believing scientist and wants his classmates to learn how to integrate their faith with work as they seek to influence the scientific world and society more broadly.
– On April 4, we hosted Jae Jin, a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, two-time cancer survivor and follower of Jesus who turned down an Ivy League doctorate opportunity in order to pursue music. (Simply put, he has an incredible story.) Jae performed and spoke at the most public forum at Harvard, the “Harvard Commons” at Smith Campus Center. Because we hosted the event in such a public space, it was cool to see students wander over from studying to listen more closely to Jae’s songs and story. A lot of great conversations were had afterward with both Christians and curious seekers who were inspired by his music and message.
– A group of students (pictured above) traveled to New Orleans over spring break to work with a local ministry, Urban Impact, conducting mental health surveys of residents in various housing communities. Perhaps more significantly, they wrestled with the history of racism in New Orleans and what it means as Christians to grapple with these issues. For Tal, one of the students on the trip, it all came back to loving sacrificially. As she heard from a local pastor in New Orleans, “Love God with all you got; love people until you drop.”
Some ways to pray…
– At the end of every year we have a send-off service for graduating students that we call “Ordination to Daily Work.” On April 28, we will “ordain” students for a life of faithfulness in their professions. Pray for God to give students a bigger vision for their work than they previously had!
– I’ve been pastoring a number of students and others who are going through loss of one kind or another: broken relationships, deaths of family members, disillusionment with former dreams. Pray for comfort and peace here.
– Anxiety levels are high on campus. Students are trying to find jobs. Some have, and some haven’t yet. Let’s rejoice with those who know what they are doing, but really lift up in prayer the ones still figuring it out.
– I’m going to be doing a support raising “sprint” in May/June, asking more friends and contacts to partner with me in the ministry God has called me to at Harvard. Pray that God leads me to invite people into partnership who are passionate about God’s mission on campus!
– And please join my student leaders and me in continually praying for our fellowship groups and Bible studies, and that God would bring new students, especially non-Christians, into our midst.
I want to thank you so much for your generosity this past year. I’m grateful for your support and am excited to share how the Lord has been working among graduate students here. It has been an incredible encouragement to partner with you all in the work that God is doing on campus at Harvard.