Praise God for Jane!

Jane came to Christ through Cru!

   Jane picked her name when she came to America for college.  Her Chinese name illustrated her father’s desire to have had a son instead of a daughter, but she said that “the whole philosophy of my life was that I can control everything in my life because I am the god of my life.” 

     God had different plans for her, though, and the roommate assigned to her invited her to be part of our international student ministry called Bridges.  She came to a campout and became very curious about God.  Even when COVID came to America, and we moved to online, Jane stayed involved. 

     One Zoom meeting, they went through the prodigal son story and talked about how Jesus can cover your shame. She said, “if God knows about our desires, why don’t I just trust Him to lead me.”  She discovered that Jane means “God is Gracious,” and praises the Lord that God has been watching her whole life!

     Watch Jane share her own story here, and please pray for the many internationals who are discovering Jesus through Bridges!  If you or your church would like to reach international students, please let us know 🙂

Call to Prayer

     Our supervisor asked us all to put out a special call to prayer this month. He quoted Hudson Taylor by saying, “The Lord Jesus, [in] this year of very peculiar trial from almost every quarter, does make my heart well up and overflow with His love. He knows what separations and… He so wonderfully makes all loss gain!”  God is the one bringing about His purposes and, while we have seen Him at work, Karen and I long for doors to open that we cannot open ourselves. In this season, students are reticent, confused, or anxious, and restrictions about gathering keep us from some of our traditional approaches.

Would you consider praying with us for these specific requests over the next month?

1. That every one of our campuses would have someone attend our virtual Winter Conference, Feb. 6-7

2. For students to grow in a deepening passion for Jesus.

3. That students would have a greater sense of God calling them to be salt and light on their campuses.

4. For established ministries to see new breakthroughs in evangelism and discipleship on their campuses.

5. That our monthly gathering of leaders for vision and equipping would grow to include most of our campuses.

Winter Conference

Marveline sharing how God grew her at Winter Conference

     One advantage to being online has been the opportunity to bring student leaders together from college campuses around the country to encourage one another (a meeting we call Cru Live). Last month, a student named Marveline shared about how God used the Cru Winter Conference to grow her walk with God to the next level. Most of these students don’t realize that they’re part of something much bigger than their own group until they step into a room with a thousand others who are passionate about reaching their own campus for Christ.

Though we can’t gather this year in person, that same online benefit can draw many to the Winter Conference that wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise.

     With powerful speakers, and an incredible list of seminar topics, young people will be able to sharpen each other while learning how to walk with God in the face of temptation, anxiety, social media, etc. They’ll grow in biblical literacy, proclaiming Jesus boldly, and loving their neighbors on & off campus. Pray for these thousands of students!

Pastor Wilson Shares About Phil

 Karen and I firmly believe that empowering local churches to reach students can do far more than what we missionaries alone can do. I asked Pastor Wilson to tell me about some of the impact his church has had on students’ lives.  He told me this story about Phil…

Instead of introducing himself, he asked me if we had any new Christians that he could disciple and that he was a part of [a popular cult name] on our campus. I was preparing my proverbial shotgun when God said, “Hold on. Hear his story.” Phil told me he came from a Buddhist background, joined this cult on campus, and got excited to hear about Jesus and share about him.

We invited Phil to hang out with us [at Epic, Cru’s ministry for Asian American students]. We were going to the beach that week and invited him to come.  At the beach, we told him we believed he was a part of a cult and said, “You’re welcome to stay with us but you can’t invite anyone to your cult.”

He was very confused. It took about maybe four or five months for him to fully pull out of his cult because they take over your social life. He became Christian, we baptized him, and he became a leader as well as our greatest evangelist!  Over the next four years, Phil brought close to 20 people into the movement. He paid for people to go to retreats with us and, just yesterday, he told me of another one of his friends he led to Christ (and this is now three years after he’s graduated).

One of the friends Phil reached out to, Carl, was going through depression and thought about taking his own life. Phil called him every day, really became a support to him. Carl started coming to church, went to a  retreat, to Epic, and eventually I got to baptize him.

If it hadn’t been for God, I just imagine Phil being fully engrossed in the cult and those 20 people going to that cult with him. I think about the faithfulness of the Lord.  Phil’s a strong believer now, a small group leader, and just a great part of my church as well.

Karen and I are excited to follow God toward “each student on every campus” by teaching pastors, like Pastor Wilson, and volunteers how to get on campus to meet students like Phil, and we couldn’t do it without you!

Big Partnerships

Naomi and Peter

     God has given me a mind for strategy, and I’ve always been looking at how we could maximize our impact for the gospel. Yes, Karen and I can share the gospel with some students and disciple them to multiply that faith, something we love to do. But, what if we can ALSO teach others to do that? I can teach a handful of people around me and get them taking students out to share the gospel or sit down for discipleship. We’ve done plenty of that. But, what if we can ALSO teach denominational leaders how to teach church members how to reach students like that? Enter Peter and Naomi!

     Peter and Naomi (who are expecting their first baby any minute!) have been serving all of North America for the Anglican Church’s college ministries. He found out about what Karen and I do and reached out for what would become an amazing first conversation. On the call, he shared that there are 3 scenarios related to his churches and the local campus:

1. Distant – where churches & campuses are not near each other, they want to send students to our ministries and stay in touch with them from a distance.

2. Mega – big churches hire their own college missionary, potentially also connected and trained by us.

3. Pioneering – church plants or smaller churches can’t hire a college specialist so may have volunteers coached by my team, the Cru Coaching Center.

Please pray for Peter & Naomi, and for partnerships  like this with other denominations as well!

Cru and the Church

   Karen and I have always had the heart to bless the united body of Christ, so we are constantly on the lookout for ways Cru can be a resource to local churches. That’s why I was totally thrilled to participate in the Sent 6:7 training program this month. Imagine a team of incredibly experienced missionaries (who have planted churches and spread the gospel in some of the most hostile environments around the world) now dedicating themselves to work full-time with church leaders and volunteers in order to build and rebuild churches right here in the states with that same evangelistic heart. These folks are my heroes!

     All of their resources are freely accessible to everyone on their website, but the care and attention they put into the training and the ongoing coaching groups they offer is staggering. While a lot of their material was familiar to me (starting spiritual conversations, relying on the Holy Spirit, discipleship, and multiplication), I learned a lot of new things as well (like 3-Thirds Bible Studies and Oikos mapping).  What if every church in the US was trained and equipped like this???

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     I (Jeff) had the honor to lead a discussion with a church in Brooklyn, NY about how Christians should respond to Halloween. It’s an intriguing topic, and my own perspective has changed over the years, so I was glad to take part and even do a little scriptural digging in preparation. In general, there tend to be 3 typical postures Christians take toward the holiday: reject, receive, or redeem.

     Those who REJECT Halloween see dangers lurking under the shiny surface of the decorations and parties. Some have sworn off all secular holidays, while others cite scriptures that warn us against the wickedness and witchcraft of this particular day (for those who’ve experienced that first-hand, I recommend the Steps to Freedom in Christ).  They remind us to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22), and declare “You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too” (1 Cor 10:21).

     Those who RECEIVE Halloween see it as harmless fun at worst and an opportunity to bond with family and neighbors at best. Each has their own line of comfort with candy, costumes, and creepy stuff (usually along an age scale), but those in this camp embrace the celebration, saying “If I can thank God for [the holiday] and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for [celebrating] it?” (1 Cor 10:30).

     Those who REDEEM Halloween agree with both the dangers and the blessings. They don’t want to wink at evil, but they believe the light is stronger.  They cite John 17 that we are not of the world, but have been sent into it to reach the lost, just as Jesus was (Matt 9:11-13; Luke 5:30-32; Luke 15). Learn more, including resources from this link, and “whether you [do Halloween], or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

Students Together?

     Social distancing has been a challenge for all our campuses as far as keeping a momentum going for meeting, engaging the Bible, and sharing Jesus with classmates; but it is not a new challenge for our Coaching Center (our staff team!) members, who have been connecting with students online and over the phone for decades. 

     One of the biggest difficulties we face is helping new students grasp the vision to reach their campus for Christ if they have never seen a fully functioning Cru ministry before.  Telling people about Jesus doesn’t seem weird when your upper-classmen heroes have already set a culture for it.  Raising money to go on a summer mission or to a winter conference isn’t so scary when you have other classmates who have gone before, but many of these students are trying to start a new thing on their campus that they’ve never seen modeled before.

     I (Jeff) have been working to fix that with a monthly online gathering that has student leaders from all our campuses sharing with each other and cheering each other on.  Our first event (Oct 6th) will feature Rebekah, who feels a burden to speak boldly about Jesus to all her non-Christian friends out of an act of love for both them and for God.  Please pray for students to catch her enthusiasm and step out in courage with their own friends.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     Have you ever had trouble staying focused while you pray?  Attention deficit has been a long-standing challenge for me (Jeff) in a lot of areas, but prayer has always seemed like a particularly difficult time to stay on track.  I sometimes wonder if our enemy watches for these times, when we are looking to spend undistracted time with our Heavenly Father, and he seems ready to assault us with a barrage of busy thoughts to take our mind in different directions.

     I feel like Elijah, straining to hear the “still small voice” in the midst of earthquakes and storms and fires (1 Kings 19:11-13).  I want to follow the command to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and to meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:2).

     One thing that has really been helping me lately is to direct my imagination to really picture things.  Scenes from The Chosen, like Nicodemus on the rooftop with Jesus, really help me to picture Jesus actually sitting there listening to me and reminding me of what He has said to us in Scripture. 

     When we were praying in a team meeting recently, someone asked us to spend several minutes giving over to Jesus the things we were stressed holding onto.  With effort, I imagined Jesus and I in a row boat on a lake, and I took precious things out of some bag (like dolls of my family, my body) and, reluctantly at first, put them in Jesus’ hands.  Praying like this has helped me stay focused!