Move-in is the freshmen’s first impression of campus life. More often than not, the first invitation they receive is to a frat party. It colors their view of how things work on campus. We want to change this.
This is a guest post by Brittany Zielske, a former Chi Alpha student. She loves to cook, pray, and host amazing themed parties for her friends (not necessarily in that order). You can connect with her via Twitter!
I showed up as as freshman at American University convinced that Jesus was nothing but a distant, angry deity who was out to punish me. I felt lonely and unlovable, and it seemed like a given that, eventually, my life would end at my own hands. I had simply given up hope.
Then Chi Alpha found me. My second day on campus, a flyer for a Chi Alpha ice cream social showed up on my door. I like ice cream, so I went. I met a group of people who kept inviting me back - to other Fall Kickoff events, to mid-week services, and to small group- and for a reason I still cannot explain, I kept going.
I quickly figured out that these people weren’t like the Christians I was used to. They didn’t use faith as an excuse to judge each other or condemn me, but instead they truly loved each other and cared for me. It was clear that they really, truly knew Jesus, and that knowing Him somehow gave them abundant hope and peace.
They taught me what Jesus’ voice sounded like and how to listen for it. They taught me so well that when six months later, after a rough night, I decided it was time to start planning my own death, I could hear the voice of Jesus shouting through all the chaos in my heart. I could hear Him telling me to walk away from the hopelessness and the lies because He had a purpose for me. I could hear Him telling me that the joy and hope I so desperately envied in these Chi Alpha students could be mine as well.
So I walked away from the easy out and into the arms of a Savior who promised to hold me and love me through anything. And He has. Through the encouragement of Chi Alpha leaders and staff, He raised me up into a leader and radically changed my life. Now, over a year after graduating, I am mentoring and pouring into college students in my local church because I remain convinced that college is the best time to interrupt the course of someone’s life and set them on a new one.
This is why I am supporting Chi Alpha’s Welcome Week efforts. Five years ago, an ice cream social ended up saving my life. Who knows what else Jesus can use a Fall Kickoff event can do?
You can join me in giving to our 100 for $100 Project here!
This is a guest post by Jon Rice, the Georgetown University Campus Pastor, and also a runner and a fan of good TV.
Four years ago Jenny and I arrived at Georgetown to pioneer a ministry that had dwindled in recent years. Especially since there were only a handful of students who still considered themselves a part of XA, we knew that the Fall Kickoff was incredibly important. If we didn't meet them as freshmen, we most likely wouldn't know them over the next four years. By simply handing out a few hundred snow cones, 4 new visitors came to our little group our first Wednesday night.
Four years later, all four students were still involved with XA and were responsible for the tremendous growth we had seen. During their senior years, one of those four students felt God guiding her that her time with XA at Georgetown wasn't over. That student become the first student ever to graduate from Georgetown and go into Chi Alpha full time. Bonnie Duncan will be an intern this fall at Georgetown, and thanks to your donations, we will have the funding for her to hand out a few more snow cones.
Kings, presidents, congressmen, and CEOs. All four are graduates of one school - Georgetown University. If you want to change the world, you start with a place like Georgetown.
I did my internship year with Chi Alpha @ Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI. It was right down the road from the University of Michigan. Every now and then, when I wanted to get a taste of the Big 10, I would wander over to Ann Arbor and walk the campus. I'll never forget what I heard on one of my visits.
I was talking with Steve, a guy in my small group, on the main quad when a tour group passed by. The guide stopped the group just a few feet from us and pointed out some of the buildings. He gestured to the Undergraduate Library and gave this explaination: “Over here we’ve got the Undergraduate Library. We call it UGLY for short. There are side room that you can reserve. I think people use them for hook-ups.” That was it. That was his official description of the what to expect in the library. For the high school seniors, this was part of their first impression of college life @ UM. First impressions are powerful.
In just a few weeks, students will be arriving on university campuses all around the DC area. Each one will be forming their first impressions of college life. That’s why Chi Alpha’s outreach during this time is so vital. As we hand out water bottles to international students and free ice cream to freshmen, we help to form their idea of what their next 4 years will be like. Each one of our events is designed to help us reach out in relationship, helping Jesus followers know they can continue their journey as college students and inviting others to see what He’s all about.
Erica was one of those incoming freshmen @ AU several years ago. She was a soccer player and was overwhelmed by the pressure to party with her teammates. Although she had been a part of a church for most of her life, she was finding it hard to represent Jesus all by herself. She found Chi Alpha at one of our welcome week events and got plugged in. Not only did Erica stay connected to her faith, she invited others to join her by becoming a small group leader the next year. She was able to form amazing friendships--she even met her husband in our group.
Erica’s life was changed because we were there to meet her. Will you help us meet more students like Erica? Join our 100 for $100 campaign today. It will help us get the resources we need to do it.
I like to use the word “anomaly” to describe the social atmosphere at American University, which is a liberal private university with strong political science and international relations departments. Students pride themselves in being open-minded and accepting of all cultures and backgrounds, and they get a chance to meet people from everywhere from Virginia to Bahrain. Among the 6,000 undergraduates who live on and around campus, students know enough people to not recognize everybody but to still encounter a good handful of acquaintances and friends on a walk across the quad. Chances are good that when they meet a new classmate or fellow activist, they’ll have at least ten mutual Facebook friends already, which makes it easier to connect from the get-go. Once the conversations get deeper, politics, your own adventures abroad, and the cultural implications of the latest blockbuster are all fair game.
God, however, is something that is discussed as something that is “good for you but not for me.” Christians have gotten themselves into all kinds of anthropological, political, and international relational conundrums. Anyway, truth is relative. To each his own, right?
For about a week and a half, though, this social box is shattered. During their first days on campus, none of the new students have friends yet, so they are genuinely eager to meet people, to make connections and to test the waters.
During Fall Kickoff anyone meets everyone. Students ask each other “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” until they’re blue in the face. It’s not weird to go for frozen yogurt with someone you met two hours ago and their roommate and their friend from orientation and the guy down the hall and his roommate. It’s not weird to show up for Cones & Chi Alpha – but it’s also not weird to show up in line for a ride from an unknown upperclassman to the off-campus fraternity party with no clue how you’ll get back. This makes Fall Kickoff a more than crucial time in the spiritual lives of the student body and, inevitably, their circles of influence beyond the university campus both domestically and internationally.
An Unforgettable Story
Let me give you an example. I met an incoming freshman, who we’ll call Sean, during Welcome Week when we helped move him and his roommate into their dorm room. Later that night, he came with us to Dinner Out and I got a chance to explain that Chi Alpha is a great community to explore your faith in. He said he had been involved in his Catholic church at home and seemed interested in some faith exploration, so I wasn’t surprised when he showed up regularly to our worship services and heard he was attending a guys’ small group (Bible study).
Only at the end of that school year did I have a chance to ask Sean more about his faith journey and what made him want to stick around Chi Alpha. Come to find out, Sean had been cutting himself, was very disillusioned with his church experience, and would have turned away from God completely. Except that one of the Chi Alpha guys happened to invite him to small group and Sean – in classic Welcome Week spirit – decided to give it a go. And he just didn’t stop going.
Sean will tell you that he became a Christian during his first semester at American University. This summer I have been so encouraged to hear about how God is answering his prayers. In addition to starting a process of personal healing, God has brought Sean’s reluctant parents to his new church, and they loved it. God also allowed Sean to reconnect with his estranged former best friend from high school and tell her about his new faith.
The way that God granted us access to incoming students during Welcome Week has made way for Him to work in and through students who might never have even given Jesus a second thought had it not been for a connection made during those critical first few days on campus.
Our 100 for $100 Project will go towards each of the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in the DC area and has the potential to transform their Fall Kickoff. Are you interested in donating or reading more? Click here.