Closed Doors, Open Windows

As director of Navigators International Student Ministry (ISM) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Adam Johnson has been charting new waters in a world halted by pandemic.

“The first couple of weeks after the news of campus going completely online, emotions ran high,” Adam says. “Many students were dealing with disappointment, uncertainty, and fear. We have had an amazing opportunity to minister at a deeper level to students as they process grief, loss, and confusion related to this abrupt end to campus life as they had known it.”

Closed Doors Have Led to Open Windows

Closed Doors, Open Windows | Zoom call with coffee

“In many ways, we are not hindered in our ability to work among students,” Adam says. “By God’s grace, and through online ministry, our Monday night discussion group has continued. We still have a small group of students opening the Scriptures with us on a weekly basis.”

Adam and his team are embracing God’s sovereignty and goodness, and opportunities for Kingdom work.

“Every person seems the same distance away—just one click,” Adam says. “It’s also been encouraging to see how easily I can connect with some of the students who have returned home. Stephen*, who just returned to Germany in December, has been such an encouragement as we connect bi-weekly to pray and encourage one another.”

This unprecedented season has also reaffirmed the power of Life-to-Life® disciplemaking for Adam.

“When ministry is seen through relationships and not events, you realize that there is a lot that can still take place in a time like this,” Adam says. “Most of our relationships have continued strong. The time that it once took to commute or to plan events has now become additional time for a phone or Zoom call to check in on students. Everyone is a call away. We’ve seen relationships rekindle and grow.”

One of the primary ways Adam and his team serve the international student community is through a bi-weekly English Club.

“Cancelling these meetings felt like the biggest loss,” Adam says. “So we jumped quickly to launch an online conversation partner program—12 international students signed up to meet regularly with an American student or volunteer for the opportunity to continue English language practice and friendship. There have already been some very encouraging connections made there.”

Where Technology & Ministry Meet

Long before we started keeping a six-foot gap of social distance between us, International Student Ministry (ISM) found God where technology and ministry meet. ISM’s alumni equipping team leader Minako Wilkinson sees remote technology as a game changer in accomplishing ISM’s—and The Navigators—vision.

“The ability to inexpensively call someone has allowed us to practice discipleship long-term,” Minako says. “Disciples and disciplemakers are not made overnight, but over years, and remote discipling is a vital resource.”

God’s promise to Abraham and Abraham’s response of solid hope, spoken of in Romans 4, has been a pillar of strength for Adam. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations … Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:18,20,21).

“The world has been turned upside down, but God has not changed,” Adam says. “Not one of His promises have changed. I am asking God for the grace to keep my eyes not on the circumstances, nor our abilities, but on the God who ‘has the power to do what he had promised.’”

Ultimately, Adam sees God’s possibilities.

“I try to think of Life-to-Life less in terms of location,” Adam says. “It’s more than that—it’s in the depth of our sharing, caring, and praying. Even though we can’t meet in person, we can still share Life-to-Life, care Life-to-Life, and pray Life-to-Life.”   

Pray that believing students would look to Jesus in this uncertain season, and that those who don’t yet know Jesus would be drawn to Him. Pray that we would see the gospel move forward. He is able!

*Name changed.


  1. We have to remember that no matter what happens in our life, God was not taken by surprise. He remains in control through good times and not so good times. This is when our faith has to be the strongest and most trusting. May not be all that easy to do, but the reward is beautiful and is God’s gift to us for being faithful.

  2. Es estimulante ver como el TODODPODEROSO actua en medio de su pueblo. verdaderamente cuando El abre, nadie cierra, y cuando el cierra nadie abre. A El sea la gloria por los siglos de los siglos.
    Jenaro Gomez, Republica Dominicana.

  3. Discipleship seems to me a precious thing, a 3-way connection of Jesus, others, and ourselves. It is His plan, what it does is wonderful.

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