Open doors for nursing students

NCF open doors

Bill Harward is passionate about expanding God’s Kingdom on campuses in southwest Florida, but how does that happen? Bill is a veteran InterVarsity staff member who recently discovered wide-open doors for ministry among nursing students. They eagerly caught the vision and started two new chapters of Nurses Christian Fellowship. In this interview, Bill shares his experience and excitement for chapter planting.

Bill Harward has quite a history of starting new InterVarsity groups. In 1998, Bill was hired by InterVarsity to re-start the chapter at what is now Edison State College, a commuter campus in Fort Myers, Florida. Then, in fall 2000, transfer students from that group helped Bill start a new chapter at Florida Gulf Coast University, a new school that was founded only three years earlier. Today FGCU and ESC have active InterVarsity chapters, including a specialized ministry for nursing students through Nurses Christian Fellowship. Tell us about your campus ministry at your schools.

Bill: I’m starting my twelfth year of ministry at Edison State College and my tenth year at FGCU. The InterVarsity chapters at those schools are healthy and growing. I’m grateful that God has blessed our work on both campuses with changed lives of students and faculty. We’ve also earned half a dozen campus awards such as “Club of the Year” and “Most Events on Campus.” And in the last two years, we’ve launched two new NCF chapters for nursing students. It’s exciting! In what ways have the new NCF chapters expanded your outreach to the whole campus?

Bill: It has opened up a larger witness in all of the College of Health professions. There is now a place for a whole new group of professional students to come and inquire about Jesus. We’ve seen more than thirty new students and five new faculty get involved by launching our two NCF groups. Those numbers are significant, but it also represents an open door to a new branch of the academic community that was not previously involved in our ministry. Chapter planting and building are both getting a lot of attention in InterVarsity these days. With all of the schools in your area, why did you choose to start another group on campuses where you already have chapters?

Bill: Our goal is to start and build new groups on all of our campuses, but we need more staff and resources to do that, especially for the distant campuses in adjoining counties. What’s great about the new NCF groups is that they help diversify our current ministry on campuses with established chapters. It’s a special niche and a very practical way to use our existing resources. NCF seems to flow with the professional needs of this locale. We see it as a way to tie into the healthcare community and also generate alumni who can contribute to building the ministry in the future. What have you learned about nursing students by planting NCF chapters?

Bill: The nursing students I’ve met are consistent self-starters, great project managers, accomplished presenters and very compassionate, mission-minded people. I really love working in ministry with them. Have your nursing students gotten involved in leadership or outreach to the campus?

Bill: Definitely. They make NCF visible at our contact tables by handing out brochures and talking with people about Jesus and invite them to our meetings and other campus events we have. They are proactive in seizing opportunities to publically express their faith. For example, many of them gave thanks to God publicly in their personal tribute statements at the spring pinning ceremony for nursing students.

Our NCF students also take an active part in InterVarsity’s annual Easter outreach to our campus community. We share Jesus and the importance of his resurrection through music, drama and art displays. We set up a tent simulating the empty tomb and have Bible studies on relevant passages like John 20 and 1 Corinthians 15. All of our InterVarsity groups participate in this together: the undergraduate chapter, the NCF chapter and our faculty. We are blessed to have ten faculty working with us at the two schools, including five faculty in the nursing school. How have you seen God working through these new NCF groups?

Bill: God has been working in a number of ways. I’ve seen individual students and faculty move from the sidelines of ministry to center field. Also, our new NCF groups are fostering partnerships in the local community and with churches in the area. Most importantly, we’ve seen personal spiritual growth take place. The believing students are developing greater spiritual maturity and the pre-Christian nursing students have a new awareness of the claims of Christ.

And I’ve seen God work through our student leaders, like Christina, who is the president or our NCF chapter at ESC. She is a first generation Haitian-American who radiates the joy of Jesus. Christina is very outgoing, an excellent organizer, recruiter and public speaker. She’s also quite active in other organizations on campus. As a result of her involvement with InterVarsity, she’s seen how praying together opens a lot of doors. After Christina graduates, she hopes to work in an operating room on a surgical team. She’ll have an ongoing influence on people. What has been most rewarding for you in starting the NCF chapters?

Bill: It’s very rewarding to see the enthusiasm on the part of both nursing students and faculty who now have an official avenue to reach out to the university community as healthcare professionals. What excites you about the future of this NCF ministry?

Bill: I have recently been in touch with a few nursing students at a third school in the area and I’d love to see a group start there by next spring. Last week I had lunch with a local pastor whose church wants to buy Bibles for us to give away to students at ESC. It’s so gratifying watching God’s work grow.

Also, I just got word that the Nursing School and Engineering School at FGCU received a three-year grant for their joint summer medical missions trips to Guatemala for 2010, 2011 and 2012. This is an awesome opportunity! Our NCF faculty advisor, Tina Ellis, assisted in this. We give glory to God, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” as Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20. God is definitely good!

Read about nursing students who launched an InterVarsity chapter on their campus in Wisconsin.

Find out more about Nurses Christian Fellowship, a ministry and professional organization that brings God’s love and healing to nursing and healthcare.