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Northwest College, Kirkland, Wash.

Focused on outreach

By Joel Kilpatrick

On a spring afternoon in Kirkland, Wash., Northwest College students are tossing a softball around in the large grassy area, going to class or heading to the library. The campus could not be more beautiful, with its gentle slope through a forest of pine, fir and blossoming trees. In the library, students are making use of the computer kiosks and book stacks.

In the dining hall, students linger and laugh together over finished plates. This is the students’ favorite time of day to get to know each other.

Kengo Nakagawa, 21, is here studying Bible. Originally from Japan, he now lives in the dorm.

"I went to an Assemblies of God church in Japan, and my pastor told me about Northwest," he says. "My dream is to work in hotel management in Japan, using that as a base for evangelism."

Working on a nearby computer is Roy Rowland, 22, a senior from Olympia, Wash. He says he wants to be a film director and spends a lot of time playing in a band. "We play worship music at rallies," he says. "It’s a great ministry, and we get to speak to youth."

With a diverse student body and variety of majors, Northwest unites its students in a common purpose: to use their education and talents for the Lord, whatever their chosen occupation. From drama teams to worship bands to good neighbor days when students help elderly people with yard work, outreach is the rhythm of the campus. A job board advertises auditions for a southern gospel quartet and openings for overseas missions trips.

Ministry is as much a part of student life here as late nights and cafeteria food. In the men’s dorm, where decorating consists of photos taped to the doors, books and compact discs strewn over desks and beds, and VeggieTales paraphernalia placed here and there, a group of guys is enjoying the late afternoon. On Jared Gooksey’s dorm wall is a calendar for June, July and August with weeks blocked out for the kids camps and vacation Bible schools he and other students will conduct.

"I’m part of a children’s ministry team called Peanut Butter and Jesus," says Gooksey, a sophomore from Oakdale, Calif. "We go to camps, churches and day care centers doing skits and puppet shows. We’re going to travel this summer. I want to be a children’s pastor when I graduate."

The sound of acoustic guitars and worship songs floats down the hall as guys go from one room to another, waiting out the final 20 minutes before dinner is served.

The campus feels like an intimate community. With 978 students enrolled and half that number living on campus, there is ample opportunity to get to know professors and faculty. Class sizes are small; every dorm is wired (and filtered) for Internet access.

And nearly every student is involved in outreach.

"My favorite thing is that the college encourages people to be involved in ministry," says Stephanie, a student from Billings, Mont. "I’ve been on summer ministry teams and other outreaches, and they’ve helped me grow in the Lord. My dream is to go to northern Africa and show God’s love to the people there."

Katy, 19, also from Montana, agrees. "The best thing about Northwest is the opportunity to minister," she says.

Some students volunteer at local elementary schools. Others go to places like Israel and South America, as part of their program of study. When they return, they share their experiences in chapel services. Students say there is a fresh wind of the Spirit blowing through Northwest College.

"There are a lot of students who are going after God, and they have lit up the campus," says Jeremy Seaward, 19, student body president and son of missionaries to Singapore. "It’s been an amazing year. We’ve done more outreach ministries than we’ve ever done. The spiritual climate is high – the best since I’ve been here. Across the board, students are hungering after God. We’re channeling our energies into ministry so we’re doing more for the Kingdom."

Several students, independently of each other, confirm that this year has been uniquely blessed with a sense of God’s presence.

"Chapel times have become times of seeking after God, not just making announcements," says Kelly, a junior from Alaska who is studying psychology. "You can see God touching lives. He has called people into the ministry or redirected them during chapel. It’s a comfortable setting where you can meet God."

On Monday nights, many students come out for student-led worship, a voluntary time of singing, praise reports and prayer.

"God’s really moving this year. I’m excited," says one student.

The excitement has spilled over into the greater Seattle area. Monthly all-city worship and prayer events have drawn students from different campuses.

"There has been very good response to that," Seaward says. "We pray for revival and salvations of souls at these colleges."

In the dining hall at dinnertime, students linger and laugh together over finished plates. They have their choice from a variety of foods – tacos, cold cereal, salad and much more. Seaward tells me this is the students’ favorite time of day to get to know each other.

Paul MacArthur is a junior majoring in business administration. "I came here and didn’t know what to expect," he says. "Now, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I’m on a drama team and we travel during the summer. This is a good place to grow in friendships and to find out why we believe what we believe as Christians. I’ve learned a lot about accountability."

The next morning, students arrive in a room for a 9 o’clock class on effective writing. The professor opens in prayer, then hands out a three-page writing assignment. A discussion ensues about the story they are studying. "Next Wednesday I want to have a major discussion about this book," the professor says.

Minutes later, the students are outside, joining hundreds of others streaming into the chapel auditorium. Required chapel services are held three times a week. The speaker this morning is a renowned journalist.

Announcements for various outreaches flash on a screen as students take their seats. A visiting pastor from the Navajo nation opens by reading from the Book of John. A missions offering is taken, and a choir sings, "If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now."

As the students worship, it is clear they are eagerly coming into the service spiritually alert. "There’s been a growing movement in our age group toward worship and prayer," Seaward says. "Students come into the college with a desire to worship God and seek His heart."

Joel Kilpatrick lives in Sacramento, Calif.


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