After the baptism, the group explodes in applause.
"It was very special," says Mucken. "God brought everybody
I loved together to see me get baptized, and it was such a beautiful
day. It was the support I needed."
Mucken has come a long way since his high school days in Portland.
He did not grow up attending church, though he had many Christian friends
and admired the genuine joy he saw in their lives. Because of those
relationships, he grappled with the idea of making a commitment to Christ,
but didnt do it.
"I wasnt sure I was interested in being a Christian,"
he says. "It was hard. I didnt know how it would affect my
relationship with my other friends."
He worked on Sundays and turned down invitations to church. "Money
was too important to me. I wouldnt miss a chance to work."
What he didnt know was that his Christian friends and many of
their parents were praying fervently that he would find Christ. They
had been praying for years.
In June of Muckens senior year in high school he made a last-minute
decision to apply to the University of Oregon. "I had planned all
along on attending Portland State," he says. "But some friends
talked me into UO. I couldnt believe I was able to get in."
In retrospect, Mucken sees it as a move of God. "Thats something
God did to bring me to Him."
Once on campus, Mucken began hanging out with some friends from high
school who had become involved in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. He
attended occasional social events with the group and began building
a relationship with Hammond, who was rebuilding the Chi Alpha ministry
"Jack never put me on the spot, which was important to me,"
says Mucken. The two developed a fast friendship as Hammond and the
Chi Alpha students continued to pray for him.
Mucken was finally drawn to church on Super Bowl Sunday. A party had
been planned after the service, and Mucken agreed to attend for the
first time in his life.
He was overcome with emotion during the service. "I almost started
crying during worship," he says. "Then I almost started crying
during the preaching."
He went back the next week. And this time he made a decision to follow
Christ for the rest of his life. He had found for himself the genuine
happiness he had seen in his Christian friends.
"Its so much easier to get through the days now knowing
that I have God on my side," he says. "Theres just something
different about every day. I have that happiness now."
Since that life-changing Sunday in January, Mucken has immersed himself
in the UO Chi Alpha group a group that started in the fall of
2000 with no students.
Hammond, 28, and his wife, Renee, first came to Eugene in 1998, certain
that God had called them to serve at the University of Oregon. Two weeks
after moving into an apartment that they couldnt afford
and not knowing a soul in Oregon Hammond was rushed to the hospital
with an acute case of Crohns disease. He spent two weeks in the
hospital and was in bed recovering for the next three months. "This
is how our lives in Oregon started," he says. "Renee and I
still ask ourselves why we stayed."
Once Jack was back on his feet, the Hammonds spent two years itinerating
to raise their budget. In the fall of 2000, they were ready to launch
their Chi Alpha ministry.
Hammonds passion for reaching students stems from his own college
experience, when he came to Christ through a Chi Alpha connection as
a freshman at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. "I
was in my dorm room and two gals came in and invited me to Chi Alpha,"
he says. "I thought it was a frat party, so I agreed to go. It
was a powerful service and I literally thought I had walked into a cult."
He left with no intention to return.
But the next day a Chi Alpha intern visited his dorm room and offered
to explain some of the things Hammond had seen. "I was curious
enough to talk to him," he says. "I got involved in a small-group
Bible study, and eventually I was confronted with the issue of who Jesus
was and came to realize that there was no one else He could have been
except who He said He was."
Hammond now uses that same style of relationship evangelism to reach
students at the University of Oregon.
Starting from scratch, Hammond used every method in the book to begin
meeting students. Initially he invited 67 students to meet with him
for coffee; 34 took him up on the offer. From that group, six students
indicated an interest to be involved, and three followed through.
Those three students embraced Hammonds vision. They focused strongly
on building relationships. "A phrase we constantly use is discipleship
is relationship, " says Hammond. "We believed that if
we loved one another, students would come to find God. We didnt
focus on programs, the meeting room or sound equipment, just investing
in relationships. And the Lord added to our numbers daily."
Hammond, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, is working toward
a second bachelors degree so he can sit side-by-side with the
students he is trying to reach. He and Renee bought a home next to the
university so students have easy access to them. He meets with students
regularly for coffee to talk one-on-one.
The Chi Alphans meet weekly in cell groups, where they share praise
reports and prayer requests, worship together and study the Bible. After
Sunday church services, many of the students gather at the Hammonds
home for lunch. They talk about the Sunday service together and then
often head to the park for Frisbee or a game of baseball. Cell group
members commonly get together throughout the week, finding in each other
emotional and spiritual support as well as a respite from the demands
of college life.
"My goal is to equip these students to grow their cell groups,"
says Hammond. "To help them love each other and be productive in
the kingdom of God."
Students like Mucken and Leedy share the vision and believe with Hammonds
leadership and Gods help they can do something significant on
the University of Oregon campus.
"Chi Alpha means lasting relationships," says Leedy. "A
lasting relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And also
with my friends in Chi Alpha as well as my campus pastors and their