The children resolved to be academic achievers and find high-salaried
professions, in part to make their parents retirement easier.
Carol chose speech pathology as a major because the payoff would be
"I wanted to be someone really successful who made a lot of money,"
Bui recalls. "I wanted to please my mother and father. They had
high expectations of me becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer. They
instilled a drive in me to earn a lot of money because they didnt
want their children to struggle financially."
But events that first semester at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
began to alter her goals for life. It started with an invitation by
some older classmates to a Chi Alpha meeting. Away from home for the
first time and missing her family while living among 16,500 students,
Bui desperately sought friends in her new college environment.
"I went, reluctantly, because I just wanted something to do,"
Bui says. "I knew there was something missing in my life but the
idea of religion made me uncomfortable." Bui, whose parents are
nominal Buddhists, had no exposure to Christianity.
Gradually, Bui came to learn about God through Chi Alpha and she began
experiencing the peace and joy she saw in others who attended the meetings.
By her junior year she had developed a personal relationship with Jesus.
By the time she graduated with a masters degree in speech pathology,
she had a passionate commitment to the Lord, one that would redirect
her career path.
"When she committed her life to the Lord it was a decision she
had really thought through intelligently," says Brad Riley, OSU
Chi Alpha campus pastor who, with his wife, Julie, mentored Bui. "Carol
has a great perspective because of her upbringing."
"Chi Alpha means so much to me," Bui says. "Its
such a special part of my life. Brad and Julie have always challenged
me to live out the full purpose that God has for my life. I would not
be where I am today without their unconditional love, support and encouragement."
This summer, after graduation, Bui joined the Oklahoma State University
Chi Alpha staff full time as a zone shepherd overseeing cell groups
on campus. This fall, she is organizing 30 cell groups and meeting with
the active leaders of each one.
There are more than 70 cell groups on the OSU campus; some are relational
in nature while others provide deep discipleship. For instance, some
students who wouldnt attend a church service, or even a Bible
study, will play basketball games that are preceded by prayer and a
devotional. The interest-based cell groups are geared around everything
from mountain biking to archaeological digging.
Buis role is to guide leaders in how best to lead their groups.
"Carol helps the leaders to channel their passion for Jesus,"
Riley says. "She tells them to go back to those people who were
like them and share how God changed their lives." Cells meet all
around campus, including in fraternities, sororities, student apartments
and hall lobbies. Some are designed to help participants stay on track
after struggling with addictions, from alcohol to pornography.
"We just try to model what Jesus did, being there in the hard
times and being there in the good times," says Riley, who has been
with Chi Alpha at OSU for six years.
Bui hopes she can help OSU students the way others helped her. Riley
believes that Bui is a great mentor.
"My passion is to reach those who are helpless or hopeless,"
Bui says. "I was aimless, but others invested their lives in me
to show me that I had a future and a hope."
The OSU Chi Alpha chapter is the second oldest in the nation, formed
in 1954 after Southwest Missouri State Universitys chapter in
Springfield. The methodology of reaching students has changed by incorporating
such techniques as cell groups. All OSU Chi Alpha facilities are in
a bar district and seven taverns are within 100 yards of the church
that Chi Alpha started on campus in 1998. The ministry office shares
a porch with a saloon.
Because the school is located in the Bible Belt, Riley says reaching
students with the gospel can be difficult. "The majority dont
want to hear about God because they think theyve heard it all
before," Riley says. "Most feel they are fine with God."
A student outreach center coffeehouse opened in August. Riley says
ideas and philosophies can be exchanged at the coffeehouse, much like
the Areopagus of Athens in Pauls day. "We dont want
it to be a typical hangout for Christians," Riley says. "We
want it to be a connecting place for non-believers, for pre-Christians."
In addition, a Thursday night Chi Alpha group meeting draws up to 200
students. They lead worship, preach and present drama. A concert of
praise night once a month sometimes attracts 350.
Bui is not the first in her family to be touched through Chi Alpha.
Her brother Winston, 33, is Chi Alpha campus pastor at the University
of Missouri at Columbia. He earlier had been Chi Alpha campus pastor
at Northeastern University in Tahlequah, Okla.