Grad students don’t convert! Do they?

Getting into the world of GFM has been a new adventure for me.  In my previous 19 years of student ministry, I can’t remember ever being a part of a graduate student or a faculty member becoming a Christ follower.  I’d been so involved in the process among loads of undergrad students.  I’d helped organize and host event after event where multiple people responding gave themselves to Christ.  But I only saw it happen in my undergraduate fellowships.  Do graduate students ever lay down their world view and take up Christian theism?  How would they ever feel free enough to that?  How would they manage the potential risk to their reputation?  Could their new beliefs integrate with their work in any significant way?

sarah irving stonebraker

In this post I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Irving Stonebraker (link here, photo above).  Sarah is an Australian professor of European History who met Jesus in an unlikely place.    Reading her story several things stand out that you’d expect:

  • Set off for the university very comfortable with no belief in God whatsoever
  • Assumed all Christians to be “anti-intellectual and self-righteous”
  • Began to encounter Christians as friends in the midst of the university system
  • Maintained honest skepticism about humanity’s ability to transcend it’s individualism and commercialism.

But also some surprising things (I’m learning not to be too surprised really):

  • Discovered theological resources crafted in an intellectually compelling way
  • Was shocked at what she discovered about Jesus
  • The Jesus of the New Testament didn’t match the Jesus she’d always heard about
  • Discovered the reality of God’s love in Jesus’ sacrificial life to be a refreshing alternative to the broken systems of the world

I hope I get to be a part of stories like this going forward with GFM.  I’m looking forward to when it’s not so out of the box for people with graduate level intellectual gifts to give their full potential to the leadership of Jesus!

By the way.  While you’re on the page reading Sarah’s story, explore a little.  Veritas Forum is a unique event catalyzing thoughtful, Gospel mission in graduate and professional schools all across the United States.

What kind of events fit Graduate Students and Faculty?

Graduate Faculty Ministry happenings are pretty different than things one might see in undergrad IV groups.  They have to be.  Undergrads have time and proximity that give them a lot of room to work with.  Grads and Faculty just don’t.  In the next few posts I’ll point you to some recent and upcoming outreach events taking place in GFM.

Here’s a list of upcoming GFM events.   Take a look at the Finding Calucutta book discussion happening at The Well in next month.  Details below.  Later in the year our group at KU (Lawrence, Kansas) is hosting a Veritas Forum with Mary Poplin.


The Well is a forum for Women in Academics – they’re the ones hosting the book group.  Since The Well deserves it’s own post let me just say for now “Stay Tuned”.  Details for the Finding Calcutta book group are here if you’re interested in signing up!

mary poplin book

Mary Poplin is a professor who met Jesus out of her background as a committed secularist.  As a researcher in poverty work, she was compelled to meet Mother Theresa and learn everything she could from direct contact with her.  She travels and speaks about her conversion, her faith and her perspectives on poverty and justice.

You can click here to listen to Mary tell her story.  As I watched just now, I was impacted by several things.  The peculiar twists and turns in her journey of faith to Jesus.  Her mentoring style of connecting with the students in her audience.  Sharp minded.  Warm hearted.  A life of mature reflection on social justice and the Gospel.  I love her insight into the meaning of forgiveness.  Give it a watch next time you have 25 minutes to meet someone new.   You’ll see other Veritas Forum presentations while you’re there.  More on Veritas in my next post.  As I make my way into this thing called GFM, I’m so inspired with the conversion narratives of a group of people I used to think NEVER become Christians.  I think you’ll be inspired too!  We’ll revisit Mary Poplin in the weeks leading up to the KU event.

Advent devotional on eternal judgment?

Here’s the link to the Dec 6th Devotional.

You can check out the whole project at the link in my previous post. These are so well done. They’ve been a great on-ramp to some fresh thinking about Jesus here at the opening of a new year. Hope you can enjoy a few of these. These aren’t sentimental. It’s actually the kind of thing I had in mind when I first started The Boiler Room. By the way, Bertha did just ignite here next to me this morning!

Wait! Christmas is over?

I just sent my oldest kid back to college yesterday. We celebrated his 25th birthday on the 30th of December. Next time the Perry’s are all together there’ll be three generations in my immediate clan! Aaron and Savannah are expecting their first baby somewhere at the beginning of April! The rest of us will be firsts too – Phoebe and Silas our other two kids will be Aunt Phoebe and Uncle Silas for the first time. Cheryl and I will be something… Grams and Pops… for the first time? We haven’t made that awkward decision yet. It’s about as hard to figure out what to call yourself as grandparents as I remember figuring out what to call our kids when we had them!

So when is Christmas over?

It’s never really over as long as we await our Savior’s return. And really, anything we do to celebrate his first coming helps us long for his return. Whatever does that for us… is Christmas enough for me! In these outrageously cold post-Christmas days I’ve been enjoying a set of advent devotionals one of my teammates turned me on to back in November. They are a terrific combination of visual art, poetry, thoughtful reflection and music. I wasn’t able to “open every little advent door” and listen each day, but I’m definitely playing catch up between now and Jan 7th. You might like doing that too if you have some time.

Here’s the link to the Advent Project from Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts. There’s a button that will allow to you see thumbnails of every piece. Here’s how I enjoying them best: Clear away distractions from where you’re sitting. Light a candle and just be quiet for a few minutes. Have a means for journaling nearby – you’ll have lots of thoughts to process because each piece is just packed with artful/thoughtful elements. Look at the painting for a few minutes. Read the poem. Reflect. Turn on the music and keep enjoying the curator’s reflections. Enjoy! No Christmas isn’t over!