Jesus’ mission carries on in the life of a student beyond graduation. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, we’re catching up with some of our alumni and celebrating how they are living lives on mission as they continue to follow Jesus.
You could say that Power to Change had an impact on Monica’s life before she was even born. Her parents met through Power to Change (which was then known as Campus Crusade for Christ) in the 80’s. Her father, who is from the West Coast, became a follower of Jesus through meeting Christians from Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of British Columbia (UBC) where he was studying. Meanwhile, at the other side of the country, her Québécoise mother became a Christian during a year of studies in Toronto.
Upon her return to Québec, Monica’s mother joined the Campus pour Christ group at Université de Montréal as a student. Monica’s parents’ involvement in the student ministry, one in Vancouver and the other in Montréal, finally led them to meet on a mission trip to Thailand. After this trip, Monica’s parents kept in touch and eventually married and settled in Québec, more specifically in the town of Mont-Laurier in the Laurentians, north of Montréal.
This was where Monica was born and raised. Even though she grew up in a Christian home, she found it difficult as a teenager to live out her faith among her peers who did not take interest in spiritual things. “I was a little embarrassed to be the girl who went to church,” she admits while adding that she stopped going to church for a time. But she had a turning point while attending CEGEP (obligatory pre-university college in Québec’s education system) in a different city closer to Montréal where there was a Groupe Étudiant Évangélique (GEE or “evangelical student group”). “It impacted me to see young people my age who loved God as much as they did, who really wanted to follow God and weren’t afraid to show it. I saw that it made a difference in their lives.” As a result of seeing other young people who followed and loved Jesus, Monica personally came to faith at the age of 18.
“It impacted me to see young people my age who loved God as much as they did, who really wanted to follow God and weren’t afraid to show it. I saw that it made a difference in their lives.”Monica
After CEGEP, Monica enrolled at the Parole de Vie (Word of Life) Bible school in the city of Sherbrooke, Québec. There she met Nicolas and the two became friends. Nicolas had also grown up in a Christian home, but unlike Monica, he had given his life to Jesus at a young age in a Christian camp and had never distanced himself from the faith. In his teenage years, he was involved in his family’s church in Montréal’s West Island, but among his peers at school, he did not intentionally talk about his faith. However, in CEGEP, he started to step out as a Christian through his involvement in the GEE that numbered about ten students. He took part in Bible studies with his new Christian friends and started to become more intentional in sharing his faith.
During their year in Bible school, Monica and Nicolas deepened their Biblical knowledge and had a few opportunities to share their faith in practical ways. For instance, they participated in an outreach event at Université de Sherbrooke with the Pouvoir de Changer group. That was their first contact with the ministry.
Nicolas and Monica’s paths crossed again in university. After Bible school, the two ended up at Université de Montréal. Monica was enrolled in the social work program and Nicolas was studying civil engineering at the École Polytechnique. Shortly after arriving on campus, Monica started participating in Pouvoir de Changer’s weekly meetings. She appreciated the community aspect and the opportunity to take part in discipleship. After a while, Nicolas also started participating in the ministry after being invited by Monica. Throughout their years of involvement at Pouvoir de Changer, they both developed a greater intentionality in evangelism, especially through conducting spiritual interest surveys with students.
At first, Monica and Nicolas thought the students would be mostly closed to discussing spiritual topics. Because of individualism and the widespread abandonment of religious practice in Québec’s society, faith is often seen as a strictly private matter. They were nervous, fearing rejection, but they wanted to push themselves to go talk to people about Jesus. They were pleasantly surprised by people’s reactions. Most of them showed a sincere openness. “People are searching, they are asking themselves questions, they have ideas of what faith is,” states Monica.
Often, at the end of the discussion, the students thanked them for having given them a rare opportunity to think about spirituality. These students realized that there are still people who believe in God. Even at the École Polytechnique, where rational thought prevails, Nicolas had many good spiritual discussions with students met through surveys. If some students wanted to continue the conversation at a later time, Nicolas would schedule a follow-up appointment with them. One of these students gave his life to Jesus at the very first follow-up meeting! Nicolas sees this former student grow in his faith since they both attend the same church in the Plateau Mont-Royal district. It is so encouraging to see a tangible fruit that resulted from a step of faith!
The intentionality and confidence that Monica and Nicolas gained through their interactions on campus encourage them to keep sharing their faith today. After university, Monica and Nicolas married and entered the workplace. Monica is a social worker in a local community service centre (known as a CLSC in Québec) working with the homeless, and Nicolas works as an engineer in a business firm. They do not have as many opportunities to share their faith openly, now, but they seize them when they present themselves. For example, they invited their work colleagues to their wedding in a church, a reflection of their faith in a province where traditional marriages are now a rare occurrence. They emphasize the importance of building authentic relationships that allow them to be attentive to the needs of others and show them Christ through their life.
Monica and Nicolas see the workplace as a mission field in itself. They do not feel the need to go overseas; they want to live out their faith with intentionality here in the city of Montréal, in their day-to-day life and in their local church. This shared vision contributed to their decision to marry.
Monica and Nicolas encourage students today to take the time to get involved in a Christian community on their campus like Pouvoir de Changer. They explain that if you do not develop the habit of devoting time to spiritual things during university, you will not do it once you are in the workplace. “Time belongs to God, not to you,” they remind students. “You will not have more time once you are done your studies. Life goes by quickly!”
Monica and Nicolas have received a rich spiritual heritage that they want to pass on. May this spiritual heritage live on from generation to generation in Québec!