Atlantic Caribbean Union

Higher Education – A Student’s Perspective

Higher Education – A Student’s Perspective
Teoria Murray, 2nd-year medical student at UWI
Teora M
“Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve”- this phrase, the motto of Oakwood University, played over and over in my head the summer after my graduation. As the words tumbled in my mind, I examined them to see how they had played out during my four-year stay.
I entered Oakwood in 2008, young and eager, uncertain of where this path would take me. When my parents left me at orientation, I tried to convince myself that I would be okay. I prayed that I would make friends, adjust to my newfound independence and increased workload, and have some fun along the way. I could never have predicted the journey God would take me through.
Being an Adventist institution, God’s presence was invited into each class with prayer and the spiritual aspect was considered in all things. Once a week, the whole school would gather in the campus church to worship and testify. My major was Biochemistry, and I was excited to see God as the author of science. The professors spoke from the heart, pushed us to excel, and presented lots of opportunities for us to learn from the students who came before us. Students were motivated to take part in research and represented the school and the Lord well at national and international levels. Above all this, we were encouraged to serve others. There were many ministries - choirs, drama groups, and the orchestra among them.
Early in my Oakwood experience, I joined the mission group NAPS - the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation. This was where my Christian experience came to life. I learnt to give Bible studies to children, then to their families. We travelled around the United States doing colporteur work, raising money for overseas missions, and ministering to young people at schools, detention centres, and churches. I was given the opportunity to go on mission trips to rural villages in Mozambique and Guyana. At the end of it all, I felt called to take a year off from school as a full-time missionary and God blessed my efforts. Beyond a substantial education in the sciences, I gained lifelong friends, a heart of compassion for others, and an understanding of my duty to the world as a Christian.
The next year ushered in new circumstances - a much esteemed public university. The University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica was a whole new world for me. The campus boasted a student population of more than 15,000 (more than 6 times that of Oakwood), and it wasn’t long before I encountered the melting pot of world views and beliefs. There were scholarly Christians of all denominations, Muslims, Rastafarians, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and everything in between. The medical faculty was a mixture of those who scoffed at religion and those who believed, but found it irrelevant to science.
I looked hard for wholesome activities in the midst of frequent parties raging outside my window. My beliefs were challenged and scrutinized, and for a while I struggled with a feeling of isolation. Thankfully, God showed me how to use the uniqueness of the Adventist faith as a ministry. I committed to study my beliefs more carefully and to share them with others as the opportunity arose. On Sabbaths, I answered questions my peers had about my “weekly holiday.” They wanted to know why I didn’t drink alcohol when we celebrated and why I didn’t eat certain things. Every question was an open door for witnessing. I showed kindness to overworked faculty members. I learned to befriend people very different from me and to see life from their perspective. UWI has a firm foundation of humanitarian work, so my friends and I took part in several outreach efforts. Day by day, the school I saw as a mountain of opposition became a stepping stone to a closer walk with God.
To all the students who will be attending Adventist colleges or universities this year, take advantage of the amazing opportunities you will have to understand your faith for yourself, to share the gospel, and to make friends who will support you in your Christian journey. These schools were planted by God Himself to advance His work by preparing young men and women to represent Him as professionals.
To those who will be attending public or private non-Adventist colleges or universities, do not be intimidated by conflict or disheartened by resistance to your faith. Instead, cling to God and you will discover unlimited spiritual power to meet every challenge in His strength. God has promised that He “is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). He has also directed us, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). See how much worth God places on us and what a high standard we are to reach!
I believe God has called me to be a medical missionary. Whatever passion He has placed in your heart to pursue as a career, know that it is not your ultimate purpose, but a means to an end. The purpose of your whole educational journey is to prepare you for Christ’s second coming and to win souls for His kingdom. “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiselled into stone, but carved into human lives...” (2 Corinthians 3:3, Message Bible).