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Muslim connects campus minister with yearning friend

GRESHAM, Ore. (BP) — Jason Spurlin began by building relationships as director of Northwest Collegiate Ministries at Mt. Hood Community College on the edge of the Portland metropolitan area.

Spurlin arrived at the commuter college in Gresham, Ore., after receiving his degree in kinesiology from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, although he had always believed he would go into youth ministry in his home state. Some life struggles following graduation, however, stirred Spurlin to return to the basics of his beliefs by claiming his identity in Christ.

“I told the Lord I would serve Him somewhere and I really wanted to go to Manchester, England,” Spurlin recounted. He had signed up to serve through Go Now Missions, a Texas Baptist ministry which partners with collegiate ministries. The night before he was to find out his assignment, he saw a book with information about Portland — and, as it turned out, the Go Now leaders didn’t see England as a good fit for him, “but they asked me about considering the possibility of Portland.”

Both overwhelmed and excited, Spurlin agreed to venture to the Northwest where he didn’t know a single person. Upon arriving on the two-year Mt. Hood campus, Spurlin set about meeting and building bonds with everyone he met.

Although “[l]ots of students at Mt. Hood think they just have to put in their time here before going on somewhere else,” Spurlin said, “There is a big mixture of types of students and a desire for community. I have found people open to talk about spiritual things.”

Spurlin took to heart what he heard from Ken Harmon, Northwest Collegiate Ministries metro director, who told him in their first meeting — serve the campus. Spurlin and a team of volunteers do that weekly by providing free food at a weekly on-campus Bible study, a huge draw for hungry college students.

Also in his outreach, Spurlin became friendly with a college employee who he learned was Muslim.

“I would take pizza to her and another lady at the front desk with no intention of anything but loving on them,” he said. “I asked her to show me how they do their headdresses when there was a Muslim celebration going on and she wanted to talk about religion sometime.”

Spurlin was surprised when his Muslim friend later asked if he could help someone outside the college community.

She had a Catholic friend who wanted a vibrant faith “and she thought of me because of what I do,” Spurlin said. “A non-believer trusted me with her friend, Lesley Cedillo. I got in contact with her and we met for the first time. After I heard her story I saw that God had been working in her life for years. She told me that for weeks she had been praying for someone to help her as she didn’t know how to pass that threshold of faith.”

Spurlin credits a student evangelism training called Beach Reach, tailored to spring break ministry on the beaches of Texas among hordes of students, with his ability to share the Gospel with those in the Catholic faith.

“I was equipped and familiar with where she was at,” Spurlin said. “Lesley told me she wanted peace and we talked through Scripture in Romans and I then asked her if she was ready to accept Christ. She was and within an hour of meeting her, she did so and we were both crying. Lesley said she had never felt so much peace and a weight was really lifted for her.”

Now Cedillo has begun attending Greater Gresham Baptist Church where Spurlin has been connecting her with others to help grow her new faith.

“My people in Texas put in the hard work of training me and we are all a team under the banner of Christ, Spurlin said.

Meanwhile, numbers are growing at Bible studies and other NCM events at Mt. Hood.

“We set up a table during registration and gave out free cookies,” Spurlin said. “We found many people who were already Christians that didn’t realize there were others like them on campus. We have people joining our group that are atheist who thought we wouldn’t want them there, but we encourage all to attend. We are making a community of believers, some for the first time away from their youth group.

“We have seen a lot of growth there and leaders emerging from the group,” Spurlin said. One week, he noted, “we had 40 people attending — and that is 40 people who have heard the Gospel, which is super-encouraging.”

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  • Sheila Allen