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FIRST-PERSON: Cold air, biblical languages and student ministry

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Strolling across the frozen campus on a blustery cold day, Howard Kenzie* seems to barely notice the arctic blast sending even the bravest to huddle in their modest seminary apartments. Kenzie handles the cold well, with the same steadfastness he’s handled college, then pharmacy work and student ministry in Colorado, and now foreign language classes in seminary. Unfazed by the daunting task of earning his Master of Arts in Biblical languages, Kenzie sees that degree as a step in the right direction to earning the Master of Divinity Degree in Collegiate Ministry.

Cold, languages and student ministry. The common thread — perseverance.
Fighting the cold is fairly simple. You wear warm gloves, blow a lot on your scarf, and try to remember to put on thick socks before heading out in the morning.

Biblical languages? Maybe a bit more tricky, unless you have Kenzie’s common sense approach — that anything you learn about scripture will eventually help you out on the mission field, that is for him, a college campus.

“In the kind of classes I’ve taken, languages and things, we have had to answer how the world view showed itself superior,” said Kenzie. “College students don’t necessarily understand their world view or hold to one that makes sense.”

Instead Kenzie said sometimes students pay attention to the latest whatever is on television or to a “hodge-podge” worldview they pick and choose from. “It would be the hardest thing to try to evangelize someone like that without myself not having a solid understanding of my own worldview.”

By taking seminary classes after he had already experienced BSU as a student and then as a volunteer worker at the University of Colorado, Kenzie said he is able to see how a greater knowledge scripture will equip him for the long haul.

“Understanding scripture and the whole of your Christian worldview obviously makes your work more complete and satisfying and life-giving,” said Kenzie. “Where Max’s stuff complements that is that it is very strongly evangelistic-pushing to share Christ instead of the status quo, taking the person from a brand new Christian and building that worldview from the bottom up — discipleship.”

Kenzie said sometimes a Christian worldview is taken for granted, assuming that those who grow up in the church have at least the basics. He shared about a man he recently led to Christ at work. Assuming he would have some sort of foundation in order to begin a discussion of spiritual matters, Kenzie said the guy surprised him by asking simple questions about the identity of Noah, and was not at all familiar with The Flood or its implications.

“Max Barnett helps take a person from maturity in Christ to a person who will be able to make disciples,” said Kenzie. “Discipleship is about training leaders …, sending out laborers.”

Kenzie should know. He was a young college freshman who had spent his life in the Lutheran church. Baptized as a baby, and confirmed as a young man, Kenzie said he readily included himself in activities like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school.

“I was a complete pagan,” remembers Kenzie. “It was hypocritical and sad.”

A simple flyer for an ROTC Bible study grabbed Kenzie’s attention. The BSU director, who was a captain in the Air Force, took it from there.

“The BSU director was an outgoing guy. He was active and energetic and didn’t act like a 30-year old. He even brought me into his home; treated me like a son,” shared Kenzie. Not too long afterwards Kenzie said he prayed to receive Christ during a church communion service. “Memorizing scripture has been the thing that has most influenced my spiritual walk.”

Like gloves against the cold. Scripture memory and a yearning for biblical languages. Understandable, comprehensible. A common thread. Knowing and living a Christian worldview-both at home and in the classroom Kenzie takes his responsibilities seriously.

Chuckling often at the foibles of his two toddler children, Kenzie takes in stride the plans for his family’s involvement in student ministry. Ever careful of his wife Tina’s* time and feelings, Kenzie said her gifts might lean more toward hospitality than leading Bible studies, especially while their children are young.

“A lot of students come from very dysfunctional families. They need to see how a Christian family works,” said Kenzie. “The husband loves the wife and the wife loves the husband and kids. That is well-rounded for a student who comes to Christ to learn that part of the Christian worldview — not just the intellectual part, but the practical family part.”

It’s with a sense of urgency that Kenzie proposes the Christian worldview be used to enable students to be receptive to the Gospel. American or international, they are only here for a short time until they are on to somewhere else.

“We have four or eight or however many years to grab hold, evangelize and disciple them and send them back as missionaries to their own country,” Kenzie emphasized. “This is a time when students are making the most important decisions in their lives. They are at the crossroads of their lives. They are either taking off in the ways of God or taking off in the ways of the world. They stand on that fork. We can impact the world in a major way.”

Since they already had four years of volunteer student ministry behind them when the program began at Midwestern, Howard and Tina Kenzie were able to first complete studies on the seminary campus and then plan to begin an internship on a university campus this summer.

*Name changed
Joni B. Hannigan is a freelance writer and a high school English and Journalism teacher in Kansas City, Mo. She was the former BSU director at Indiana University in Bloomington from 1992-1996.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan