Meet Sharon Dhavale, our newest CRC campus minister at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Sharon arrived in Prince George just under a month ago, driving North with friends from Vancouver through British Columbia’s interior to a new city, a new job, a new community, and a new adventure.
Starting a new position in a new place is challenging at the best of times but this is especially true during a global pandemic. Like most post-secondary institutions, UNBC is pivoting quickly to be more online and less in person. Meanwhile, campus ministry is so often a ministry of incarnational presence, gathering together, shared meals and fellowship.
Nevertheless, Sharon is not only up for the challenge but genuinely excited for what God has in store for this ministry. She’s already been making visits to campus, connecting where she can, listening and learning. She has chatted with InterVarsity and other campus groups about ways to partner in ministry, and she’s found some great guidance from longtime CRC campus ministers and advocates of campus ministry Virginia and Neil Lettinga who are “back” in Prince George during the pandemic.
Sharon has also received a great welcome from Prince George Christian Reformed Church, which she is already calling “my church.”
“Folks here have been so kind, and welcoming, and wonderful," she said. "I feel very supported.”
One of Sharon's long-term hopes for campus ministry in Prince George is to build strong connections between the church and university. She sees great potential, for example, in how the church as God’s “family” can be a supportive “family” to university students on their Christian journey.
Sharon also expressed gratitude for the posture of Prince George Christian Reformed Church and the campus ministry committee of making space and encouraging her to be herself: “You’re here. What are your gifts to minister? How can we support you?”
And with that support, Sharon is eager and passionate for ministry—cultivating a ministry of presence (and figuring out how to do that virtually as well as in person); being a blessing to the university; getting to know students, staff, and faculty and learning how to connect with them; and above all, paying attention and leaning into what God is wanting to do at UNBC and in Prince George.
“I’m excited for the things God is going to do,” Sharon said.
With respect to students in particular she said, “I know I’m not going to have most of the answers, but I’m passionate about making space for big questions, and I’m excited to be the person who continues to keep God in the conversation and at the center.”
This is exactly what impacted her life when she was an undergrad at Calvin University as an international student. Campus ministry and chaplains were a lifeline.
“They were faithful, never forceful, no hidden agendas," said Sharon. "For me and my friends, it made a huge difference.”
That same outworking of God’s goodness and grace that she experienced in campus ministry as a student is what she longs to see unfold through her ministry at UNBC.
The experience of campus ministry from “the other side” has no doubt shaped Sharon’s present calling. In the same way, while being “chaplain” will be a first for Sharon, she is no stranger to the university setting.
Sharon, who was born in India but grew up in Hong Kong, has studied in the UK, USA, and Canada. After completing her MDiv, Sharon has been studying comparative religion and is in the process of completing her ThM from Regent College. I asked her about what she was studying specifically and…suffice to say that she’s very comfortable in the academic setting.
Sharon can speak with passion and depth of knowledge about how John Edwards writings on God’s self-revelation might communicate with an Eastern/Hinduism-shaped perspective. But in case that is too much for you, she can talk with equal or greater passion about how campus ministry is an opportunity to participate in God’s love and good works on campus, in church, and in our lives. And to this opportunity she has said, “Yes!”
Written by Rich Braaksma, Resonate Global Mission's Regional Mission Leader for Western Canada.