When he was a university student, the gospel transformed Cameron Mason’s life. Now Cameron and his family are living in Canberra, serving on campus, and being used by God to transform the lives of students for Jesus’ sake.
Cameron became a Christian during his first year as a student at Wollongong University, at a mid-year conference run by Uni Bible Group (formerly the Evangelical Christian Union) in 2008. He remembers, “Phillip Jensen was speaking on the resurrection, and I was convinced that Jesus really rose from the dead, and so he had to be Lord and Saviour, and my whole life had to be lived for him.”
A student of law and medical science, Cameron was initially interested in pursuing medicine as a career but failed one section of the GAMSAT. Then in 2011, Cameron went to his first CMS Summer School, where Lindsay Brown, the General Secretary of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) was speaking on the need for people to go into universities with the gospel.
Cameron remembers what Lindsay said clearly:
“There are thousands of people that want to spend their life being doctors and lawyers, and Christians can be great gospel doctors and gospel lawyers, but there’s not as many people that are willing to have a go at an apprenticeship. Jesus says, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’ He equips us, he promises us at the end of Matthew’s gospel that he’ll be with us to the end of the age, but he also commands us to make disciples.”
From this point, failing the GAMSAT didn’t seem to matter so much. Cameron threw himself into ministry with Uni Bible Group while completing his degree, and saw great fruit being borne out of the university campus. God grew in Cameron a desire to extend his ministry training through an MTS apprenticeship, which he began in 2013 on campus at Wollongong.
Lessons from MTS
One of the most important lessons Cameron learned during his apprenticeship was about failure. “’Fail forwards’ was always the catchphrase,” he recalls. “Learning how to fail well in ministry, learning from your mistakes and trusting God.”
Cameron also learnt about the value of knowing those you serve: “It’s important to handle the word of God well, but it’s also equally as important to love people and to know them well. So I think that was another highlight.”
The MTS apprenticeship raised challenges for Cameron that were important to work through. It revealed his sin as he interacted with people and received feedback from his trainer. And since MTS is all about relationships, at times his mistakes in ministry had an impact on others, but by God’s grace he was able to reach reconciliation.
Despite the challenges, university ministry presented Cameron with amazing opportunities for the gospel. Cameron shares, “There’s an abundance of opportunities to speak to people about Jesus. When I was doing MTS, people were just sitting on the lawn, they have lots of time. So that was a highlight, speaking to lots of people about Jesus.”
Preparing to head back to campus ministry
After MTS, Cameron spent one year in the United Arab Emirates, a location with a significant Muslim population, where he was involved in similar work on university campuses and saw God at work in the lives of many people.
Upon his return Cameron decided to study at Moore College, where student ministry remained on his radar. Around this time Cameron was married to Winnie, who also completed an MTS apprenticeship, studied at Moore and was involved in AFES ministry in Wollongong.
Towards the end of college, Cameron and Winnie began to think about where they wanted to serve in ministry, and they decided they wanted to leave Sydney to serve in a less-resourced area. An opportunity arose at the University of Canberra, in the FOCUS Christian group.
Cameron says, “There weren’t any male staff workers, so we thought I’d apply, and in God’s kindness, he brought two male staff workers down here. One is Paul Avis, he’s the campus director, and I am working down here looking after mission and evangelism and international students.”
Proclaiming Jesus to students in Canberra
A big part of Cameron’s role at FOCUS UC is looking after international students. While there aren’t many new international student arrivals at the moment, due to border closures, Cameron has been able to share the gospel with men from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and India, and spend focused time training local students in evangelism.
Cameron is particularly excited about one student, of David, whose life is being shaped by Jesus through university ministry.
“David didn’t really know much about FOCUS and our ministry DNA. We started to read through Romans, and he has now caught our vision to share the life and love of Jesus on campus, and he’s part of our executive team. He is studying teaching, and he actually changed one of his pracs to come to our mid-year conference. He prioritises digging into God’s word and being trained.”
Despite the joys of campus ministry, there are challenges to serving God at university. Students are often young in their faith, and it can be hard for them to realise the value of being involved in university student ministry.
In the last five years on university campuses, sentiments have also changed towards Christianity. Cameron says, “Just a few years ago, perhaps you might be a bit weird [as a Christian], but now in general culture, there’s a bit more, ‘Oh, you’re not a good person for believing in Jesus.’ So I think that makes it hard for some university Christians.”
Advice for those considering MTS
For those thinking through an MTS apprenticeship, Cameron says the first thing to consider is desire. “It’s not an ultimate factor, but it is a significant one. You don’t want to be doing it out of compulsion.”
Even though Cameron started MTS soon after his university degree, he believes it’s important to consider whether you have the life maturity to serve in ministry.* But more importantly, he asks, “What are the people around you saying? Do you have people that are wiser and a bit further along in the faith that are encouraging you to think about an apprenticeship?”
Cameron’s other piece of advice is to consider who will be training you during your apprenticeship. “It’s very important that have a godly trainer as you think about doing MTS.”
Praise God for MTS apprentices and staff workers like Cameron serving God in university ministry. Please pray that Cameron and Winnie will continue to love God’s word and be godly parents to their five-month-old son Daniel. Pray that in God’s kindness, more apprentices would be raised up in universities across Canberra, and that the gospel would go forth in this city.
* MTS Director Ben Pfahlert has written about the benefits of spending time in the workforce before doing MTS: https://mts.com.au/learning-w-o-r-k-before-mts/