Imagine walking around outside in short-sleeved shirts in January…in sunny Tampa, Florida. Who wouldn’t want to go to a conference hosted there?

10406747_10204811846847355_8991303043832562524_nThat was the setting for the triennial InterVarsity conference called “Ambition.” Ambition is a conference about planting and starting new things on college campuses. Jamie and I, together with 8 students across the Kansas Area, spent 4 days together in Tampa to be inspired and equipped to plant wherever God leads us on campus. We were commissioned to be “Ambitionaries” to our campuses!

It was a joy to hear how the Holy Spirit spoke to these students. One student, Angela, felt like the Lord telling her to be ready for amazing ministry opportunities as she transferred over to KU. Another student, Kristin, sensed God’s call to begin a new InterVarsity chapter at Truman State when she transfers there in the fall. One by one, the students heard permission to dream for what God could do across the area, and one of them is even now rounding up friends to take a 2+ hour trip to Wichita and prayer walk Wichita State University (which still doesn’t have an InterVarsity chapter)!

Praise God for what he did in these students’ hearts and lives!

“No one knows we are here”

This fall, we had a surprise addition to our staff team–Christy came all the way to us from North Carolina! Her husband had taken a pastoral position at a church in St. Joseph, MO, which is where Missouri Western State University is located.

On Friday, our area team decided to go visit St. Joseph and scout out the campus with Christy. The hope was to get a few useful contacts for Christy and to perhaps get some hints on how to begin planting there. So we paired up and went around for a couple of hours talking with different students.
MWSU-Clock-Tower2When we returned to debrief, our team was surprised to hear how similar our scouting experiences had been. By far, the students who were most receptive and seemed most eager to talk to us were black students. When Jeb and Jamie sat down with a group of them in the cafeteria, the students shared openly about their experiences on campus.
They described Missouri Western as functioning like two campuses:
– A first campus consisting basically of primarily white students who lived around St. Joseph, who did NOT want to be at Missouri Western. But all of the campus offerings and programming catered to them.
– A second campus consisting of primarily non-white students who did NOT live around St. Joseph, and who DID want to be at Missouri Western. As one of the students put it, “But no one knows we are here.”
Christy is now trying to gather that group of black students together to dream about a new InterVarsity ministry that would feel welcoming to both black and white students. In addition, she is making inroads into the Greek system, where she is coaching a few students to start Greek bible studies in their sororities.
Please pray for Christy as she tries to plant this ministry with very limited hours on campus–and pray for her and her family as they settle into St. Joseph!

Making the Most of Senior Year

We feel like God is asking us to quit marching band. Robert and Kylie both told me the same thing last spring, which was a surprise since marching band had been a staple in their K-State student life the past three years.

10672256_10152273509611627_2663811663359474469_nFast forward to September, as they began their senior year. What would it mean for them to make the most of their senior year at K-State, especially now their fall marching band commitment had disappeared?
I met up with Robert, and he shared with me how he had never discipled anyone before. What if you invested in a younger student this year, so that the InterVarsity chapter can continue after you graduate? And so he did! He’s been meeting with a bubbly transfer student named Vincent–and they have been challenging each other to get to know more people on campus and to begin talking about spiritual issues with them.
Kylie shared with me how she really hadn’t invited her friends to come to InterVarsity. In fact, she would admit, she doesn’t really know where some of her friends are spiritually. What if you tried to engage one of them (Darla) about spiritual things this week? She felt pretty intimidated by that idea and wondered how she would even begin…
Little did she know that God had other plans! A few days later, Darla and she were finishing a successful group project, and out of nowhere, Darla exclaimed, “Well, God must really love us!” Kylie was dumbfounded–this had never happened before! Then, spiritual stuff kept coming up in conversation with Darla over the next few weeks. As Kylie put it, Ok, God, I guess you knew I wasn’t going to say anything to Darla…so you decided to start the conversation for me! 
This is world changers in the making: a couple of students in their last year at K-State who are stepping out, taking risks, and seeing God come through for them in tremendously encouraging ways. When they graduate, they’ll take what they have learned into their churches, communities, and careers. They’ll recognize the importance of discipling and mentoring others, and they’ll know that if they reach out to someone with the gospel, God himself will guide their way!

Please pray for Kylie, Robert, and the other K-State students as they reach out to the campus with the gospel. Pray particularly that freshmen/sophomores will join the group!

Fall Retreat: Sam’s story

10432129_10204133601651649_3245694541895605594_nAt Fall Retreat 2014, students from across the Kansas Area studied the Book of Jonah together. A central theme of Jonah is how God graciously calls us back to himself and gives us second chances no matter how far we’ve tried to flee from him.

Sam, a Johnson County Community College student, sat quietly and seemingly disengaged during our bible studies. At the end of the 2nd bible study session, I shared during application time, Some of you in this room may feel like Jonah, that you have been running away from God. This weekend is your second chance–just like God called Jonah back to himself, he is doing the same for you.”

I was going to send the students off to some reflection time, but before I finished the final sentence, Sam raised his hand. Yes? I asked. Sam said, That’s me. This is my second chance. Those were the only words Sam said throughout the three bible studies, but they were the most significant ones. When a student leader checked in with him later, Sam shared how he had run away from God for several years–and this weekend, he felt like it was time to come home.

Praise be to the God of second chances!

Second Chances

longviewIn August, I excitedly announced the launch of a new InterVarsity chapter at Longview Community College (Lee’s Summit, MO)! For a few weeks, there was a lot of activity. Then everything stopped. And the newly launched chapter ceased to exist. Chalk it up to another false start.

In January, Katie (an InterVarsity staff in Kansas City) felt like the Lord was inviting her to reach out to students at Longview. For a few weeks, there was no activity. Then all of a sudden, everything clicked. And a chapter launched again: this time, for real. Katie now has a multiethnic group of missional students who are excited about reaching out to the campus in the fall–and I can’t wait to see how they will change Longview for Christ!

I love that we worship and follow a God of second chances, which is a wonderful reminder that false starts can still lead to real chapters!

A Summer on Multiethnicity

photo 1What do we always want to explore with students but never have enough time during the year to do so? The Johnson County Community College (JCCC) staff team knew the answer right away: The value of multiethnicity! So we decided to focus our summer ministry on this topic. Each week, a group of 20 or so students gather at a different host home and study Scripture and/or receive training on an aspect of multiethnicity.

Last week, Martha and I had the privilege of hosting a gathering at our new house in Overland Park. As I led a discussion on first steps to crossing cultures, I was struck by how open students were to learning about different cultures. Our hopes and prayers are that they will take the cross-cultural call of God seriously when they return to campus in the fall and that they will reach out across cultures to build a multiethnic Christ-centered community on campus!