Students rally against ‘open-air’ ministers

Students rally against open-air ministers

By Christine Won

For Michael Venyah, wearing a bright red shirt with “No homos go to heaven” on the front and “All homos go to hell” on the back —- both in bright yellow letters and underlined by “1 Corinthians 6:9 — 10” – true love meant telling University students the truth: If they don’t repent, stop all their sins, give their lives to Jesus Christ and live a loving, sin-free, obedient life according to the Bible, they are going to hell.

Maheen Sayeed, sophomore in LAS, was walking with her friend on the Quad when Venyah came up to within three feet of her with his finger in her face and told her she is going to hell, following her from the English building to Noyes Laboratory.

“I think my black hijab triggered it,” she said. “I wasn’t scared, but more shocked.”

According to their Web site, the purpose of the Soulwinners Ministries International, founded by Venyah and his wife Tamika in 2003, is “to present the uncompromised truth of God’s Word, through preaching repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, to the college students of this nation.”

Their mobile “open-air ministries” on college campuses also take place overseas to work against “sodomy, same-sex marriage, fornication, and abortion,”

“I love Jesus,” Venyah said. “I love the people, too. Hate is if you don’t tell people the truth.”

Thursday was the group’s first time on campus. They came from Michigan and visited campuses in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

But a vast majority of the crowd and certain singled-out individuals heard only that they were going to hell.

“His answer for everything is, ‘you’re going to hell,'” said Jason Jackson, freshman in LAS. “I prayed for him that God would show him what true love is all about.”

More than 60 students crowded around Venyah, some enraged, some incredulous, some mocking and others troubled.

“This is bullshit,” David Simison, freshman in LAS, said. “The Bible says to love everybody. They’re taking what they want out of the Bible. Who are they to condemn other people to hell? They’re the reason so many people are turned off of Christianity.”

They claim they’re perfect and sinless, but no one can be perfect – only God, said Kavan Shay, freshman in Business.

“I consider myself Christian personally, but he told me I’m going to hell,” Shay said. “I know my feelings and my beliefs, and nothing he says is going to affect me.”

When Eli Wald, senior in LAS, walked over to Venyah holding hands with his male friend to rile Venyah, Venyah’s immediate response was to say, “homo alert.”

“There is so much hostility – he’s got 30 people around him hating him, and by associating himself with Christianity, he’s turning people away from it,” Wald said. “It’s like he’s a counter-missionary.”

Other students also disagreed strongly with Venyah’s rhetoric.

“Christ would not say these things — if anything, he would approach people in love and show them the way, instead of closing the doors of heaven,” said Tammi Jordan, senior in ACES. “They’re not applying the principles of God’s grace and God’s mercy that forgives all sins.”

Scott Blair, junior in LAS whose majoring in religious studies, said Venyah’s tactic was not effective at all, speaking from his observation and knowledge of confrontational evangelism.

Blair, like many of the students, said the group’s preaching does not make sense and often contradicts itself.

“Some people were calling (Venyah) a fag,” said Dan Han, freshman in LAS. “But instead of doing that, we should be showing him what Christ’s love really is, interceding and praying for him.”

In his 15 years of ministry, Venyah said he had been choked, hit in the face, stoned, jailed, spit upon and cursed.

“But it’s expected,” said his wife, Tamika. “They crucified Christ – why should we expect anything less?”

The Venyahs said they are only here to follow and obey Jesus, who says to preach the Gospel to every creature in Mark 16:15.