Six years ago, Tom Weiner and Cameron Bunch, sat together outside the Kahala mall in Honolulu. They met through Navigators Collegiate at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UH Mānoa) when the ministry first began.
Tom was Navigators Collegiate staff and Cameron was in his third year of college. It was a weekly occurrence for them to enjoy a meal and talk about life, ministry, and their relationship with God as part of their discipleship relationship.
Before heading back to campus, Tom looked at Cameron and asked a personal question.
Cameron didn’t respond.
Tom wondered if Cameron would be more likely to answer if he shared his story first.
As Cameron listened, he sensed he could trust Tom. He believed Tom would respond in love to those painful and broken places in his story, which includes childhood sexual abuse.
“There are very few people who you can be with and let down every wall,” Cameron recalled. “When you are hurt, broken, things have gone wrong, or you’ve done wrong, there are few people you can be vulnerable with. It’s not easy to say, ‘This is who I am at my worst.’ And they love you still.”
Offer Hope Through Vulnerable Conversations
Today, Tom is on the Campus Directors Team at UH Mānoa. However, he grew up believing God didn’t exist. After hearing the gospel for the first time from his high school friends, he eventually put his trust in Jesus Christ.
Tom saw how God could fulfill the loneliness and longing in his heart to be known and loved. It was through Navigators Collegiate at the University of Texas that he discovered what it looked like to follow Jesus.
“I definitely had an impactful moment where I opened up and shared with Chris Segrest (who was the South Central Regional Leader for Navigators Collegiate). He loved me right where I was at in life as I participated in a Navigators Summer Training Program (STP, a discipleship program where college students do life together while being employed for the summer in a specific location),” Tom shared. “I’ve noticed that Navigators staff are incredibly willing to talk about the deep and dark in themselves in order to empower others to bring things to the light.”
Tom believes discipleship includes being real about life especially in the messy parts and having intentional conversations to love people who are hurting inside.
“Sometimes discipleship is meeting people in the middle of their mess in order to help them,” Tom said. “I often pray, God, they are really going through a ton right now. Would you please meet them and help them? And I’ve seen Him answer those prayers.
As Tom disciples college students, sometimes these hard situations hit all at once. They can be both challenging and discouraging. It depends on whether a student turns toward God in difficulty or away from Him.
“It’s humbling. It forces me to depend on Jesus,” Tom shares. “God, You are the only One who can help these people grow. You are the only One who can help me grow.”
Disciple According to the Person Not a Plan
Cameron now works in the marketplace for both an investment firm and also a college scholarship organization of which he was a recipient. This scholarship organization requires recipients to be mentored which led Cameron to connect with Navigators Collegiate staff, like Tom, at UH Mānoa.
Tom was the first person to challenge Cameron to disciple someone. Initially, Cameron thought disicpling someone would be similar to how he had been mentored. He figured this other person would be like he used to be, but this was far from his actual experience.
“I expected the first person I discipled to be like I was—completely resistant to it,” Cameron said. “But no, the first time we met he shared his entire life story with me. I thought, Wow! That went a lot faster than I anticipated!”
Through both jobs, Cameron has multiple opportunities to build relationships and have conversations about faith with those who have never heard about Jesus.
Colleagues notice his peace and ask more questions about the advice he offers, not knowing it is from the Bible.
As Cameron opens up about his story and the healing the Lord provides, it gives others hope because they can see past their own life situations that may be painful.
“When you start discipling you get to see how much pain is really in the world,” Cameron said. “What’s truly important is how brokenness can be healed by God and transformed into something greater. God changed my life and I want to share that!”