Portland Embraces WWU Nursing Students

Last fall, Jonathan Russell, pastor, felt God telling him there was something to be done in Portland, Ore. Not sure how it applied to him, he kept quiet about it. Until he was offered a call. He accepted the position at Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, and after his first sermon there a church member approached him with an idea.

"The thought was to do something special to reach out to the nursing students on the Portland campus," explains Russell. "The campus is right across the street from our church, so we wanted to reach out and welcome them to the neighborhood."

It started as a simple worship and soup supper one Friday night a month, with bread night on Mondays for students to stop by for a between-classes pick-me-up and study break. It quickly grew to a group of 20 church members rotating on a schedule to provide a full dinner for the students on Monday nights.

"They give these young people a first-class feast every week," says Russell. "Instead of a simple grab-and-go PBJ snack, there are anywhere from 15 to 20 students relaxing and enjoying a full meal."

It isn't just the Sunnyside Church that's involved with this outreach. One night a month the Pleasant Valley Church moves its Bible study and worship to Hansen Hall, the women's dormitory on WWU's Portland campus.

The students have noticed the outreach. Now, instead of simply attending church services, some are becoming more involved at Sunnyside, leading song service, joining choir and reading scripture for services.

"We're really trying hard to involve the students," says Russell. "And they've responded by blessing us with their talents and time."

Russell says they aren't just targeting WWU's nursing students. Any and all young adults in the Portland area are welcome to join them for worship and soup on the second Friday of every month in Hansen Hall.

"Sometimes it's easy for pastors to take credit and say, ‘Look at the ministry I'm doing,'" says Russell. "In this situation I must say I had nothing to do with it. God did something crazy and I'm fortunate enough to go along for the ride. This has definitely grown much bigger than we ever thought it would when someone sat down in my office and said, ‘What if...?'"

The WWU School of Nursing offers a bachelor of science degree and currently has more than 120 students enrolled on the Portland campus, with an additional 160 registered nursing majors on the College Place, Wash., campus. A renovated library, new computer laboratory and a future classroom addition on the Portland campus will expand the nursing program by 60 students.

February 01, 2010 / Walla Walla University

Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent