When Opportunity Knocks

Some years ago, I was laser-focused on two things: raising my young children and getting promoted to the next rung on the academic ladder.

Although I was a believer, I had never considered the university as my mission field. Fortunately, God pulled back the curtain and let me see what He was doing, despite me.

This began when I received an email with a photo from a former student. The message stated simply, “I bet you never thought you’d see this.” With curiosity, I opened the attachment to find an image of him playing handbells in a church.

He was right: it was not what I expected to see.  

I taught this student for several years and mentored him in his research. On one project, the student worked with another professor on research related to ethics and religion in the workplace. I helped the team with the statistical analysis. The theory in the paper led to some discussions in my office about God. This student, a devout agnostic, knew I was a follower of Jesus. He thought this was quaint and a little strange, but he respected me as a mentor and scientist.  

It was about three years later when I received the email with the photo. In a subsequent conversation, he revealed that his wife prompted him to go to church and join the choir. Although his wife got him in the door, he shared that my classes opened his mind to considering the gospel. 

How could that be? I teach statistical methods, and not once had I mentioned God in the classes he took with me.  

The field of statistics is often defined as “the science of decision-making in the presence of uncertainty.” In these classes, my student was confronted with the reality of uncertainty in scientific conclusions.

As he learned to manage uncertainty in science, God revealed to him that he was not very certain about his conviction that God did not exist. He shared that now the thought comes, “Maybe God does exist.” Other very intelligent academics he knew were also Christians. Perhaps this gave him evidence even good scientists could believe, with conviction, that God exists.  

My former student’s journey continues in church with handbells and a slightly more open mind. He shared that he listens to the sermons and wishes he could raise his hand to ask questions, like in class. He thinks everyone else there has all the answers, and he wishes there was a “Sunday School for Doubters.” Now, when I’m in my church full of college students, I wonder how many of them feel the same way?

In recent years, I have become more convinced that God has me in academia for a purpose, and that purpose is about furthering His Kingdom. 

God can work with or without me, but now I want to be looking for the opportunities. I am just thankful that He is working behind the scenes, and sometimes He pulls the curtain back, letting me get a glimpse of His work.

I want to be who God needs me to be for these doubting students.

Allison Farmer
Business Analytics
Miami University of Ohio