SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Opting for an unusual way to spend a break from classes, four University of Utah students traveled to the 2002 Winter Olympics and, instead of attending any competitions, they shared the gospel.
Although they participated for only three days in the Salt Lake City outreach of Action Ministries International, senior Laura Swank, 21; her brother, 23-year-old graduate student Aaron Swank; sophomore Jenni Schnitzler, 20, and senior, Jason Critten, 22, said they had many memorable experiences.
After hearing them speak about the gospel, for example, an atheist promised Laura Swank and Schnitzler he would read the Gospel of John on his airplane ride home.
Swank met another interesting guy, “Big D,” whom she could only describe as “just a big guy.” After hearing Big D ask for event tickets, Swank took the opportunity to strike up a conversation.
“You want a ticket to heaven?” she asked. The two ended their encounter with a prayer during which Big D asked the Lord into his heart.
All four attend Maranatha Baptist Church in Logan, Utah. They met through Campus Crusade for Christ, which meets twice weekly for Bible study and special speakers. It was through this group the students learned about Action Ministries.
Working with AMI was German history major Schnitzler’s first shot at missions work, but she said she hopes to go on a mission trip to Slovenia this summer. Both Swanks had previous missionary experiences as well. Laura, a biology major, spent three months on a medical mission in Senegal last summer, while Aaron has spent summers in Siberia and Uzbekhistan. Critten, an education major, has worked extensively in missions in Israel, Mexico and New York City.
The students agreed it was encouraging to be involved in Christian ministry after spending the majority of their time at a predominately Mormon school. Laura Swank said she finds it “frustrating at times not seeing people come to Christ,” but that she has found many ways to alleviate her frustration including Christian fellowship and mission trips.
Critten said he shares Swank’s frustration, but he likes the opportunity to present a direct daily witness among members of another faith group.
“Being a student at Utah State is definitely a daily battle, and because of that there’s no room to get comfortable,” Critten said. “I really like the challenge and it gets old, but you have to trust God for everyday life.”
Schnitzler said she also sees her experiences at the University of Utah in a positive light. “I really believe God was directing me here. I’ve had a lot of growth,” she said. “It really is the ultimate mission field.”
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