University students of Buenos Aires, Argentina, are a confident group. They are intelligent, determined and forward-thinking. They will engage you in conversation but may be unapologetically skeptical about your professed beliefs—especially if you say that Jesus Christ is the center of all things and we should orient our lives to reflect that truth.
IMB missionaries John and Lois Wang want to make disciples of the upcoming leaders in business and technology in Argentina. Having grown up through influential student ministry, they understand the power of discipleship in these formative years. Access to students in Argentina, however, is not easy. University officials restrict people who are not affiliated with the school from campus.
In order to interact with students, John and Lois became professors. John teaches engineering and directs a research project at Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA) and Lois teaches Korean at Centro Universitario de Idiomas. Through their teaching positions, they can build authentic relationships that lead to witnessing opportunities.
John and Lois employed the same strategy to reach students during a previous missionary term in Costa Rica. They invited the students to their home for a conference where they shared the gospel afterward. Costa Rican students responded warmly to John and Lois’s hospitality. John says that Lois is showing that same hospitality in Buenos Aires but does not always receive the same reception.
“She did that three times this year. There is no Christian among her students. She shares the gospel or broaches the subject of God and they show resistance. She also has created small groups to study Korean using the Bible. Some students from the university come to this small group.”
John’s Argentine students do not respond to his invitations like the Costa Rican students did either. “I invited 30 students and 4 came. I had hoped to develop deeper relationships but that didn’t happen.
“They show resistance to the gospel,” John says of the students. “Relationships are very important to build bridges with students. It takes more time.”
John and Lois have each been teaching for about 18 months. John shares that the schools want them to increase their teaching commitments, but they want to balance their time with their missions goals. He emphasizes that the point of teaching is to have a strategic platform for connecting students to the transforming power and love of Christ.
“I am praying about managing time and the balance of my strategies,” John says. “I need to know, does God still want me to continue teaching?” John and Lois are praying through a transition to a church-based strategy for reaching students. John says, “I have been asking God, ‘What do You want to see?’”
The Wangs believe that God has given them a three-part vision for mobilizing Argentine churches for student work. The vision includes demonstrating college ministry to the churches by building up a campus ministry, challenging churches to build their own collegiate ministries, and building a network of churches involved in campus ministry.
“This is the long-term goal,” John states, but they are already seeing some progress.
When John imagines churches involved in campus ministry in the near future, he pictures several churches beginning their own college ministry. He pictures churches joining together to offer student retreats. He pictures Bible study groups on campus.
“Three church contacts have emerged in this last year,” John says. “This is the first year we have been invited to talk about college ministry in the churches. We want to support [these opportunities] with materials and leadership training.”
John and Lois remain committed to getting the gospel to Argentina’s young adults, though this is not an easy task.
“I have a passion to minister personally—mentoring, discipleship. I want to meet three to five people who can be changed and influenced by us and they can go on to make disciples. It’s my dream and my prayer request.”