Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to lead a team of students to the neighboring city of Richmond. Our team prayed for the city, picked up trash in the community, served in the church food pantry, prayed with individuals as they left the pantry, helped organize the church’s thrift store, volunteered at an elementary school, handed out sack lunches/prayed with several homeless who were on the street and finally (my favorite) was getting to talk with individuals who are in the year long rehab program. One guy I met was 3 months in and ready to give up, but through conversation and prayer I was able to encourage him. This guy’s day was turned around and we both left encouraged. God is so GOOD!! I can’t express how much fun it is to journey with college students on a spring break trip. We stayed up late, had deep conversations and I had the opportunity to answer some of the typical questions college students have about God, the bible and their walk with Christ.
Every year, Chi Alpha at UVA does a March Madness tournament. This year once again core groups came up with team names and played one another tournament style. However, this year a new element was added and the girls had their own bracket and a girls staff team was birthed and challenged. Paige actually got to show her skills on the court, be a part of the team, and have some fun with the students. We won’t talk about whether the girls staff team won or lost. Go PAIGE!!!
In the campus ministry world we are always trying to find ways to love and welcome those who come from other countries. This year we had a Chi Alpha International Super Bowl party at our house and the turnout was incredible!
The night was full of laughter, explanations of the game of football, prizes, LOTS of food and we had 5 new people from Singapore show up because I met one of their friends while out tabling. The neat thing is that one of the guys from Singapore who is not a Christian is meeting with me today for lunch and one of the girls has been coming to our large group gathering weekly.
During this time of the year I am always reminded of and amazed by the fact that our God chose to come and live among us – that the awaited hope was found in a baby named Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us.” What a beautiful step of love and hope for not just Mary and Joseph, but for all humanity and for all time.
We have found this hope in Jesus, but not all know of this great love that has come. Jesus knew this and told us to proclaim the good news in Matthew 9:35-38:
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, â€œThe harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.â€
Knowing that Christ has come and that the harvest is plentiful, we feel an urgency in telling those on the university campus about this Great Shepherd. So, for the first time in Chi Alpha at UVA history, I (Tyler) organized and led a week of focused evangelism called Engage:UVA.
Over 150 students signed up at Monday Night Live to participate in the outreach events. We handed out 20 gallons of water and over 20 pounds of pancake mix at tables, set up for the purpose of showing love to the party- and frat-goers. We handed out s’mores by international and first-year dorms and played pick-up sports. We built a plywood Conversation Wall with a question across the top to engage students in the areas they (and we) care about, and what difference the Gospel makes.
One night during Engage:UVA, I was handing out water to those bouncing between house parties and connected with a guy. This young man used to be a Christian and wasn’t sure how to choose between a life with God and a life lived for himself. We chatted, prayed together and agreed to continue our conversation. During the same night many Chi Alpha students also connected with friends out partying, talked with them and prayed with them. It was an incredible night!
At the heart of every Engage:UVA event were encounters to provide a listening ear, to remember a specific student’s name in a sea of thousands, to make a connection, and to show up as representatives of Christ.
This is the question we have gotten quite often from all of our friends and family as our Campus Missionary in Training (CMIT) year ends. We have been praying and making plans for what comes next for our family and we are so excited to share our next steps with all of you!
LONG TERM PLANS
We have been offered and accepted the Chi Alpha director position at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas! We will relocate to Dallas next Summer (2018) and begin the path to re-pioneering Chi Alpha at this campus.
For the 2017-2018 school year we will stay in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia as we focus on three key elements before pioneering at SMU:
- Recruiting a team of full-time staff to go with us to SMU.
- Focusing on learning a few more key items here at UVA – specifically reaching out to Fraternities/Sororities and evangelism.
- Raising support – our budget will increase as we take on a Director position and we will also be applying for National Appointment as U.S. Missionaries with the Assemblies of God.
We are excited about the potential to reach students who are on the trajectory to be national and world leaders. Also, we hope to target and engage students in the Greek Life system. According to USA Today, all but two U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents, 75% of U.S. Congressmen and Senators, and 86% of Fortune 500 executives came out of a fraternity. What an incredibly strategic mission field!