Chapel goes international

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Josefina Laanes--Students listen as Mikko Sovonen, global consultant speaks in International chapel

Every Wednesday and Friday, students trek across campus to a place where the doors are open and a speaker stands ready. These are not just any students; these are the international students of California Baptist University.

Meeting in the James Building Staples Room from 10 – 10:50 a.m., first-year international students have their own biweekly chapel services.

A little different than what the rest of the campus experiences in the Van Dyne Gymnasium, this chapel service is aimed specifically at our international peers. A smaller setting, a cappella worship and small group discussions are what differentiate one chapel from the other.

International chapel is also led by the same speaker for the entire year.

“This year the Spiritual Life Office decided that the global consultant, I, shall do the chapel every week,” Mikko Sovonen, CBU’s global consultant, said.

On Wednesdays, Sivonen teaches about the life and works of Christ, while on Fridays he discusses the Old Testament.

On Friday, Oct. 22, Sivonen taught from Exodus 20.

Service began with prayer and a cappella worship as students passed around a clipboard to sign in for attendance, versus the card swipe. For those who were without Bibles, chapel attendants passed out a stack of paperbacks amongst the students so that all could participate.

Sivonen utilized a whiteboard in order to write down key points and background information, as well as a Power Point presentation with the Ten Commandments.

Sivonen went over each of the Commandments by explaining them and giving examples of how people break them.

Of the approximately 45 students who attended chapel that Friday, all seemed focused and intent on hearing and understanding what Sivonen had to say. He engaged the students throughout his lesson by asking questions several times, while thoughtful responses came from the attendees.

At the end of the lesson, something very different from the other chapel service occurred: the students broke off into predetermined groups to discuss what they had just learned. The projector screen changed to a list of topic- related questions and students quickly began engaging with one another.

Each of these small groups had one or two American students who facilitated the conversations.

“We find that the lesson is easier captured or understood in the small groups,” Sivonen said.

English is a second language for the international students. Discussing the lesson in small groups allows them to clarify what they have heard and have any questions answered.

“It is really about intentionally building community so that we can have more than just the biblical rooted event, it should be all about building relationships and through that, leading people to Christ,” Lucas Wehner, lead international student assistant, said.

“Many of them are not believers, so they can ask their skeptical questions about Christianity and engage in relationships that take them outside of chapel,” Sivonen said. “I think this is a really good way to introduce many of these students to the truth of Christianity in a safe setting, so I am really glad to be apart of it”.

While international chapel prepares these students to join their peers in regular chapel, other efforts are being made to connect the international students to the CBU community. From Friday, Oct. 9 to Friday, Oct. 12, all students are able to join in on the International Celebration.

“There are basically two points of International celebration. One is really to highlight international students to give them a home feeling. That they could say, ‘Oh, they’re celebrating my continent,’” Wehner said.

The other point of International celebration is to “get more American students to not just see internationals as internationals, but to see them as CBU students,” Wehner said. “We really want to create friendships through this week”.

Want a sneak peek of these activities? The week includes everything from traditional dancers, music, food and art to broom ball, piñatas and more.

The kickoff for the week is Tuesday, Oct. 9 in the Stamps Courtyard, and events will take place in the various living areas. An informational booth will be up for the entire week, so you will know where to experience.

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