"I feel like my whole life has been building up to this one moment!" Exclaimed NYU freshman, Isa. My teammate David was shocked by the conversation he was having. They were meeting to discuss a spiritual interest survey Isa had completed earlier in the week. The result was a divine appointment.
David opened with normal get-to-know-you questions, then Isa redirected, "What do you believe about Jesus?" Caught a bit off guard, David answered succinctly and returned the question. Despite coming from a nonreligious household Isa attended a Christian high school in the Middle East. He’d learned that God had become a man and died on a cross. "I just don’t know what to do with this information… I figured you might be able to answer my questions."
David affirmed what Isa had learned; it was all true. But, inviting people to an ideology wasn’t God’s endgame. We’re invited to know a person. David shared John 1:12, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
Isa had always trusted in his own goodness, ability, and knowledge to be right with God, but it never felt like enough. No one had explained that placing our trust in the person God had sent, the one who was perfectly good, right, and true, was the only way to satisfy God’s holy standard. Isa’s trust was in his own best efforts, rather than God’s work on Isa’s behalf through Jesus Christ.
While he had known about Jesus for a long time, Isa was now finally bowing his head, turning to Jesus as the object of his faith, and receiving forgiveness. David had never seen someone so excited to become a Christian!
When our team heard this we were all in awe. The nations have come to us to hear this Good News. Pray for Isa to grow deeply in his relationship with God and the church and that we will send him home as an ambassador for Christ!
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.
Away from the comfort of home and care of family for the first time, college freshmen experiment with new hobbies, new friends, their own identity, sex, drugs, alcohol, and more. This makes them incredibly vulnerable. Yet, it can be easy to think of them as upper-middle class kids with no real needs and overlook them as just making unhealthy choices, but there is something deeper going on. The majority of these young people are spiritually lost and in desperate need of Christ, and they don’t even know it.
They wander through these years looking for meaning through partying, relationships, academic success, and a multitude of pursuits, but they feel empty inside and need a Savior to rescue them from the vanity and exhaustion they experience. Jesus addresses this need. “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36).
Freshmen are important not just for their own need but also to reach the whole campus. Our ministry focuses heavily on this class in order to give each one a chance to hear and respond to the Gospel. Through these we trust God to raise up Christ-centered laborers who will minister to others on campus and beyond.
Kirsten met Rylie three years ago when she was a freshman. While attending Kirsten’s bible study she rededicated her life to God. Now in her Junior year, she works with the football team in their recruiting department. She loves football and has recently realized the incredible influence that these athletes possess, but underutilize. Rylie tried five different majors before God spoke to her about becoming a publicist to help professional athletes maximize their influence.
“I thought it would be cool to work for the FBI (as a translator), mostly because I like to have the inside scoop on things. And then I thought it might be fun to be in some sort of management position because I’m kinda bossy (probably not a good quality), and publicist just jumped out of nowhere. I started to realize the impact that football players have on kids. I was researching jobs in the NFL and realized what an impact I could have on thousands of young people if I could influence one player enough for him to set a good example. Recent player controversies just magnified my understanding of the importance of players as role models. And then God started opening doors left and right.”
If Kirsten had met Rylie later on in college, it’s likely she would not have had the time to cultivate her relationship with God as she considered her purpose in life. Now, with a foundation in Christ and the training to share her faith and teach others, Rylie can have a godly influence on campus and in her career with people we would never meet.
We ask God to fulfill His promise to seek out students like Rylie and speak to them about his good plans for their lives. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” (Ezekiel 34:11). It’s such a privilege to witness their stories of faith unfold.
Our biggest outreach of the year is here! We’re giving away UM Griz gear to new students whose names get drawn from our campus questionnaires.
Yet, that’s not the “big” part. We’ll then spend these coming weeks meeting the hundreds of freshmen who have said they’re interested in learning more about God.
This year, 70% (almost 600 students) indicated that they wanted to be contacted about how to know God personally or get connected to our Cru community!
My own introduction to Cru was through this same outreach nearly ten years ago. It provides a platform to begin having spiritual conversations with those who have already indicated that they want to talk about God.
We’re already bringing our returning students with us to share the Good News with this year’s incoming class. Join us in praying that God will meet them and that many will place their faith in Jesus!
WE’RE HAVING A BABY!
Kirsten is happily pregnant and will be due in mid-March. We’re overjoyed and are really looking forward to becoming parents!
Health-wise, she has been dealing with a lot of morning sickness, but it’s been manageable. She plans to continue fully engaging with students on campus.
And, there are ways you can help support the growth of our family. We’ll be sure to let you know more soon!
That God would provide multiple opportunities to present the Gospel to each freshmen, not only through questionnaires, but also through the older students who moved back into the dorms to minister to their peers.
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I met Levi in the dorms during the first week of school. He is a freshman who responded to our surveys and asked to be contacted. Since then, he has faithfully attended my weekly small group and become passionate about following Jesus.
“My faith has grown more this year than in all my time at my Christian high school. I think it’s because I had to own my faith when I got here. College life is pretty dark spiritually, so if I’m going to follow Christ I need to trust God to keep me on course.”
At our annual men’s retreat last month, Levi turned a corner. He says,
“I had been in the doldrums about my faith. I hit a serious rough spot when my family received difficult news about my brother’s health.”
During the retreat, we discussed Matthew 13:44, the parable of treasure hidden in a field. A man comes upon a buried treasure and determines to sell all he has in order to buy the field and gain the treasure.
“The parable was pretty challenging because I like to think that I’m the one in control of my life. Trusting God when you don’t understand why He’s doing things is really hard. After discussing the story, I began to realize that God was asking me to surrender everything. This included my plans for medical school and my fears with my brother’s health.
Levi is still working toward medical school, yet now he knows it’s God’s plan taking him there. In the meantime, Levi has developed a desire to help his peers know God.
“Cru has challenged me to not be ashamed of my faith, and to even learn how to share the gospel. This spring I’ve been able to talk with my roommate about God, and he’s interested in knowing what it means to trust Jesus. I’m not so afraid to get into spiritual conversations, and I’m learning how to actually articulate the gospel.”
This coming fall, Levi is moving back into the dorms. He and another student from Cru have responded to our Insider’s Challenge and want to make themselves available to minister to their peers during college.
For Levi to continue trusting God with his career plans and his brother’s health. Pray also that God would use Levi and his roommate to minister to others in the dorms this coming fall.
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