“This past year has been a whirlwind. I’ve lived in London, Nashville, Mumbai, and New York. I’ve had moments of pure happiness and desperate heartbreak. Through the highs and lows I’m learning to trust God and grow in my faith.
If you had asked me a year ago what I wanted to do with my life I would’ve confidently told you that I planned to work in the NYC music industry. But honestly, I have been running away from God.
I grew up in the heart of the Bible belt. At home, at church, and at school I was taught the Christian faith. I never questioned it because nothing contradicted. I didn’t understand the significance of the gospel because I had no reason to doubt it. Then my summer capped off a year of challenges.
While sharing my faith on NYC campuses I was quickly frustrated. I met Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, and more! After one week I was spent. I didn’t know how to back up what I believed. I couldn’t answer when people asked, ‘Why do you believe Jesus is God?’ I didn’t know why I believed beyond the truth that Jesus loved me.
I immediately began questioning my beliefs. I felt like the father in Mark 9. He asks Jesus to heal his son and Jesus says, ‘All things are possible for one who believes.’ The father responds, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ THAT WAS ME! I wanted so desperately to fully believe. But had to say to God, ‘I need your help!’
God acted quickly clearing up my serious doubts within a few days! My questions drove me back to Him. Because of my time with Cru, I’m no longer someone who isn’t capable of explaining what they believe or why they believe it. I still don’t know all the answers to all the questions. Yet, today, I am purposefully joining in life with Him. God is the only thing I desire to chase.”
David was running out of time. He needed to gain access to a Manhattan campus within the hour. His spring break visitors from the South would arrive any minute. David was trusting God to literally open doors for them to share their faith at a college we hadn’t seen success at in years.
No one in David’s network had responded. The outlook was bleak. Then, while en route on the subway, he received a text from a friend of a friend who had the credentials to pass security. This person would be available to meet his group and ensure they wouldn’t be turned away.
Most Manhattan buildings don’t allow people to walk in off the street. You need a special ID, a host, or an appointment. Once on campus, you must be ready to explain to anyone why you’re there. We tell them Cru is a Christian ministry serving the campus as a spiritual resource for students and faculty.
This brings up an important question. What is a good way to tell people you’ve just met about Jesus? Answer: embrace the awkwardness. Moving through it is the main friction holding us back from meaningful conversations. So we challenge our students, “Are you willing to feel awkward for Jesus?”
Next, they need to know what to talk about. We’ve created all kinds of tools ranging from conversation pieces, to questionnaires, to interviews, and gospel tracts. People love being asked what they think. They also respond well when we listen well.
David’s group spent their day striking up conversations in a cafeteria. Many had never heard the gospel and two students prayed to receive Christ on the spot. Over three weeks with 180 spring break visitors we witnessed 32 NYC students put their trust in Jesus at 17 different campuses!
What does an average day look like for the Buchers? Well, it varies! Here are me and Kirsten’s weekly Position Focuses:
Continue raising personal funds. We’re entirely funded by individuals and churches who want to give the gospel to college students. With NYC’s considerable cost of living, we still dedicate 20% of our time to growing and cultivating this support. We have 140 financial partners and over 500 praying!
Lead the NYC Summer Mission. Every summer Cru hosts over 200 mission trips around the world! Students will grow as much in a summer as they would in a whole school year. We train them to share their faith, deepen their walk with God and Christian community, and develop a personal ministry for when they return to their campuses. Preparations began in December.
Program Director for Cru’s city-wide fundraising dinner. We’ll fill over 20 tables at the Yale Club in Midtown Manhattan. We’re helping tell our ministry’s story by coordinating content from the main speakers, the videos produced, and the overall flow of the evening. It’s coming up May 2nd.
Minister at NYU. We share our faith, teach basic doctrine, lead Bible studies, host explorers groups, and do discipleship. Then we pass it on through training and coaching with the students who we challenge to lead.
Pioneer new Manhattan campuses. Cru is only ministering at nine campuses of over 100 in the five boroughs. Each is unique, so we “decode” them before starting. We speak with the administration and faculty and students, we talk with other ministries if they exist, and we ask God to show us how to proceed.
Add in meetings, commutes, and prayer gatherings and each week is brimming. Of course, making time to “be” rather than “do” is at the heart of the gospel, so we spend most evenings at home with our kids and friends!
Noah wakes, laces up his sneakers, and runs to school. The trip from his Brooklyn apartment to his classroom in Manhattan’s Garment District is six miles. He carries his lunch, sketchbooks, and change of clothes in a cinch sack and won’t rest for almost sixteen hours after a six mile return run across the Williamsburg Bridge.
Embracing it for the personal challenge, Noah is training for a 53 mile ultramarathon. He knows this regimen is tame, but there isn’t enough time in his day for more. He’s one of eighteen students in his Menswear program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. His intensive workshops and inborn competitive drive have him burning the candle at both ends.
I met Noah because his best friend Jake was in a Bible study I led at UM. They grew up in Great Falls, Montana and attended church together. Last fall Noah arrived on FIT’s campus of 10,000 students and couldn't find any ministries. Jake knew I had moved to the city and so he quickly introduced us.
With an acceptance rate of 4%, Noah’s program, the only one of its kind in the country, produces the talents who craft clothing lines for Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Ironically, he had no idea it was this competitive. He read the wrong statistic when he applied thinking it was a 40% rate. Fortunately, the six months he spent preparing his portfolio earned him a top spot.
With 5,000 stitches Noah will learn to craft a full suit by hand. He’ll also learn to produce and bring to market his own clothing lines. At the same time, he’s eager to express his Christian faith within the fashion industry. This could start by inviting his classmates to simply read the Bible with him over lunch breaks.
Noah is the student God has called us to train and equip. He’ll soon return to Montana to test himself on wooded trails, yet his heart for the city and passion to share Jesus with an industry will be a lifelong endeavor.
They traded beaches for metro passes, bikinis for Bibles, and keg stands for faith-filled prayers. The past three weeks our team hosted a remarkable group of nearly 200 college students from across the East Coast. They chose to spend their vacations sharing the gospel on NYC's campuses.
Our visitors eagerly wore their legs out venturing to ten schools representing 200,000 of NYC’s 1.3 million students. This visit was the ideal win-win scenario. They offered us unparalleled availability and enthusiasm and initiated hundreds of meaningful conversations. We offered them an exciting itinerary exploring the most influential city in the world.
Because of their efforts we have four new believers, many follow-up appointments, and an array of new students who want to start ministries on their campuses!
One visitor shared:
“We were talking with a student named Ryan and when we started with the first point of the Knowing God Personally booklet (that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for us), he began to cry. We asked why and he said, ‘I always wanted to know if God loves me.’ Now he knows!”
In the coming weeks our team will be meeting with these new connections to answer questions and further explain the gospel. They’ll also be equipping new helpers to facilitate gatherings and outreaches.
Currently, Cru is only at a handful of the 140 campuses in the area, and there are more staff like us who are raising support to be able to report full-time. We are excited that these spring break visitors offered extra man-power and helped surface other students who want to help their peers know Jesus on their campuses.
Pray with us that...
They shared 278 Instagram posts during their visit!
It’s easy to mistake Eric for a woman. With his hair down, his long, light-brown curls look much like his sister’s. Most days he wears it in a bun, which is a trending style these days. Yet, what isn’t popular is to trade the freedom of living off campus for 100 square feet of shared living space in the dorms. This fall Eric will do just that to effectively minister to college freshmen.
The two of us have had a good run together. He showed up as a freshman two years ago asking how he could best serve the ministry. His parents are on staff with Cru in Bozeman, MT and are the national directors of Nations, Cru’s Native American ministry. Eric has joined me for both “Would Jesus Eat Frybread?” conferences and has already been exploring his own ministry calling. He spent most of his summer in Nicaragua helping a missionary family with their plantation, where he was mistaken for a woman numerous times.
Eric’s desire to serve on campus has helped us develop a new role for student leaders. We have hired him as a Part-Time Field Staff serving as an Insider, a role I’ve mentioned in previous letters where we challenge students to return to the dorms to minister to their peers. It’s a tall order, and the financial and social benefits of living off campus usually win students away from such a sacrificial commitment. Plus, if a student like Eric is not taking out loans for school, they simply cannot afford to stay on campus.
And then came my pitch, “Eric, would you consider asking God to raise up a team of ministry partners who would pray for your work in the dorms and finance you to move back in?”
“I’ll think about it,” is all he said. A month went by and I figured my challenge was a lost cause. Then, Eric calls me up and says, “I feel like God wants me to move back into the dorms and reach freshmen.” I was shocked. It turned out that the prospect of having forty floor-mates to share life with and potentially lead to Christ was a vision he couldn’t pass up. Eric wanted his time in college to count for more than his own pursuits. He wants many others to know about the purpose and hope he’s found in Jesus.
Mobilizing Eric as a student laborer is a huge answer to prayer. His role will give him the training, preparation, and permission to do ministry in a way we have yet to see. If he can use these next two years to mobilize others, we will witness a successful season of ministry multiplication. This means there would be no telling just how many others would be touched by the Gospel at UM!
Eric is sure to turn heads with his flowing locks, but then again, an upperclassman living among freshmen might seem just as extraordinary. I pray that his presence would bless his floor-mates and stir up curiosity to know Jesus personally.
The three most diverse places in America are all within Anchorage, according to the 2010 census. Queens Borough, in New York City, comes in fourth! We’re three quarters of the way through our Alaska Summer Project and it’s been a flurry of activity. Our team of nine Cru staff, three staff kids, and thirteen students have been exploring the city, the UAA campus, and meeting an incredible variety of people along the way.
Hai, pronounced “Hi”, is a Vietnamese-American student who became a Christian last year through his friend Talo, a Pacific Islander who attends Cru at the University of Washington. Talo was on the Lake Tahoe Summer Project last year, having just converted from Mormonism. As Hai and I hiked up Flat Top Mountain it was apparent that I was the one who looked like a tourist. Most of the people on this popular trail were not white.
Living in Anchorage in the summer is like taking an extended layover at a bustling International Airport. There is no way to anticipate what you will see next, which has made this Summer Project really unique! Our team came to Alaska to discover a new culture, to posture ourselves as learners, and to envision what Cru could look like in Anchorage. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing…
God is definitely using our presence to strengthen relationships here and we trust that good things are in store for the future team!
ALSO PRAY FOR DAPHNE
She’s an exchange student from Taiwan studying nursing at UAA who’s been a Christian since childhood, but was unknowingly placed with a Mormon family, making it impossible to meet with any Christians. Ask God to provide a new home!
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