With more than 22 million people, Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and one of the top three urban areas in the world. And with more than 120,000 students at the University City campus, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is likely the largest university student population on the planet. Because of the size and stature of Mexico City and University City, and its strategic importance for the church and kingdom of Christ, the UNAM became the location for the first official attempt to begin a chapter of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) outside of the United States.
RUF sends seminary trained, ordained pastors as missionaries from the church to “reach students for Christ, and equip them to serve.” It focuses on shepherding Christian and non-Christian students during their vital university years so that they might understand the scriptures and salvation in Christ, and so that they might be fruitful men and women who are growing in grace, developing authentic relationships and learning to serve others, reaching across cultural and cross-cultural boundaries with the gospel, and integrating every area of their lives under the rule of Jesus.
In 2004, RUF (the campus ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America) signed a partnership agreement with Mission to the World (the missions agency of the Presbyterian Church in America) to work together to begin international ministries. In January of 2005, campus minister Peter Dishman headed south of the border to begin the work at the UNAM through MTW’s partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.
Over the next several years, RUF at the UNAM began to solidify. The ministry team grew to include Ruth Martinez, an UNAM alumnae and Biblical counselor who moved to Mexico City in 2006 to focus on female students, administration, and translation. It also grew to include interns Josh & Amy Oettle and Jared Weatherholtz, who worked through a study program, encouraged and led small groups, and reached out to the non-Christians on campus through our conversational English clubs. With the departure of the interns at the completion of their terms, and with Ruth’s transition towards translation work this semester, Peter and the student ministry team have been working with zeal to maintain and grow the group in 2010.
The shape of the ministry has also developed since 2005. On Tuesdays, we now have a large group meeting of 20 to 25 students at which we sing and Peter preaches (he just finished a series on The Parables of Jesus and the Proverbs of Solomon: Living in Jesus’ Kingdom and is preparing for next semester’s 16 sermons). On other days of the week, small groups meet to study in in different departments (we call them “faculties”) of the UNAM. Last semester we had studies on the foundations of Christian faith, Philippians, and John in the faculties of Urban Design, Sciences, and in the central quad of campus known as “The Islands”. And practically every day of the week, Peter meets with students individually to talk about life and the gospel. We also host a conversational English club that meets twice a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and we meet many students through this free, “no strings attached” service to the university community.
We have frequent social and service activities, as well as spiritual retreats, and we hope to continue to see students becoming more involved and intentional as they ministering to other students both inside and outside of our group. One of the ways they do this is through participation in our “service team”, which meets every week to talk about ministry and plans various events (social, service, prayer) throughout the semester.
The National Presbyterian Church of Mexico is struggling to reach and retain a generation of youth – it is our hope that we might be part of shepherding those students through this key moment in their lives so that they might be planted in the gospel community of the local church for a lifetime of service of Christ, his people, and his kingdom.
Thank you for taking a few moments to learn more about this ministry! Please feel free to visit the other links to learn more about the people, place, and plan of the ministry, and how you can partner with us for Christ and his Church. Read and see what has been going on here through our blog posts, newsletters, and media offerings. Finally, feel free to send us your questions, comments, and even constructive criticism – this site is not supposed to be a one way street.