“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4b-8)
I recently had the privilege of preaching on Acts 1:4-8 & 2:1-21. The tendency for a quasi-Pentecostal like myself is to focus on the supernatural experience of the disciples in receiving the Holy Spirit but I felt God was calling us to focus more on Jesus’ instructions to wait. No one likes waiting for things, but time and time again in Scripture and in the Church, waiting seems to be the precursor to the move of the Holy Spirit. Waiting creates expectation – expectation for God to do something. When I think of Toronto dental student ministries, I often remember how we experienced waiting before the move of the Holy Spirit.
A year into my role as Associate Staff at the University of Toronto things were clipping along fairly well. Three dedicated medical student leaders were at our main campus and another leader at our distributed site in Mississauga. We gathered at each location for weekly Bible study and had occasional events through the year.
At our CMDA Toronto board meetings, I was sometimes asked if I was able to connect with dental students. I didn’t have anything to report on but it was not for lack of interest or effort. I remember I met with Dr. Paul Zung, who had met several upper year Christian dental students through their clinical rotations. I recall him speaking of a a dental student whom one of our medical students knew. Things progressed and one of our med student leaders organized a potluck with this dental student. Several dental students came. It was great to see the the fellowship. I remember asking this dental student who had a friendship with our med student leader if there was interest in having a weekly fellowship; there was some interest but, again, nothing materialized.
The following year, I met another student named Tony. We connected on a couple of occasions and had some good conversations. We chatted about the possibility of getting a fellowship going among dental students. He was also interested but nothing materialized.
If you are reading this and happen to be a Torontonian, you may know the Faculty of Dentistry building is about a block down the street from the University of Toronto campus and the Medical Sciences Building (MSB). Our medical student Bible studies take place in the MSB. It’s not a long distance but far enough to make it difficult for dental students to go within their short lunch break. However there was one lunchtime in September when two first year dental students made the trek up University Avenue for Bible study. It was great to have them… unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to chat with them after the Bible study as they had to dash off to class.
Several prayerful weeks went by. One day, I thought, “I’m just going to go down to the Dentistry Building and see what happens, perhaps I will see someone I know or I will have a conversation with a student.” With feelings trepidation, doubt, hope and expectation, I went. I remember walking into a lobby feeling, “what the heck am I doing?” Awkwardly, I sat in one of the chairs in the lobby, pretending I had something to do there; praying that I might see a student I knew. I kept repeating the thought “What am I doing? Why are you here, Jon?” All the while, trusting God would use my efforts for his purpose. Then I saw Tony!
He saw me and asked what I was doing there. I replied, somewhat awkwardly, that I had come down to see if I could see meet some students. We chatted some more and off he went and off I went, feeling jubilant something happened!
Perhaps a week later, I was walking through MSB and in a flash, I saw one of the two dental students who came to our Bible study weeks ago. I made eye contact with this student and said a brief hello as we continued to walk our separate ways. I felt compelled follow-up with this guy. I was able to get his name, Jonathan, and look him up on Facebook. I sent him a message in November asking if he would be interested in meeting for coffee. Christmas came and went… it was mid-January and we finally connected. We met for coffee, got to know each other and I asked if he would be interested in having a regular gathering for dental students. He knew other Christians and was open to this idea! I finally struck gold thanks be God.
Jonathan and three other students including a student named Marshell, who also came to the medical Bible study months before, and I met for coffee on a February afternoon in a nearby coffee shop. There have been only a few times in my life when I’ve had a profound sense of peace. The meeting with the students was one of those times. There was an openness to want to get to know each other and an openness to having regular meetings. It felt like this was something God wanted to do all along and I was simply coming alongside Him. These students were already meeting from time to time for prayer! It was such a great affirmation that I was where God wanted me to be.
Shortly thereafter, we started our fellowship meetings. I was now extremely busy running around with med and now dental meetings each once per week and working as the part-time Youth Pastor at my church. Fatigue was setting in, yet it felt as though God’s grace was sustaining me. I struggle to describe it but it was as if there was a sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit present with us as we chatted about the Scriptures and shared about our lives.
That summer my wife and I got married. Two dental students and several medical students came to our wedding. Like my wife, Marshell, the dental student, is a native of Indonesia, and he read Scripture in Indonesian and lead worship with one of our medical students, Chris.
Our group has re-convened each year in September. We did go through a “wilderness season” of figuring out what and how we were going to do what we do but things are going relatively well. We have added students and leaders each year. I thank God for Marshell and Jonathan who have quarterbacked our fellowship. We have other student leaders from other years who continue to make Dental Christian Fellowship the dynamo that it is, including three new first year students.
Our original students have graduated this year and I will be forever grateful for their contributions. Like the Disciples in Acts God called me to wait on Him as I looked for ways to get a fellowship started. I pray God would continue to bless our group and our graduates as we seek to bear witness to the Gospel in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”