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Colorado State University

Coming full circle

By Katy Attanasi

When Kirk Rohde began his freshman year at Colorado State University, his goal was to get the best grades possible so he could graduate and make his fortune. With a double major in accounting and computer information systems, Rohde realized attaining academic success would mean indulging in the party scene less frequently than he did while in high school.

"I was smart enough to realize what it took to get good grades," he says. "And I realized there would be no more goofing around."

Kirk, Cara and Zion Rohde. "What I experienced in Chi Alpha prepared me for the rest of my life," Kirk says.

 

Since his family had moved to Texas when he started college, Rohde stayed in Fort Collins, Colo., during the summer after his freshman year. It was a lonely time. When a coworker invited him to a summer Chi Alpha meeting, Rohde decided to attend.

"I think I was just glad to have a friend," he says. "All of my friends had gone home, and I had just broken up with my girlfriend."

Rohde, whose parents accepted Christ when he was a child, had lost interest in attending church. Instead of attending youth services or Sunday school, he would go outside and sleep or steal items from unlocked cars in the parking lot.

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"God never seemed real or personal to me," Rohde says. "It was always just distant stories. I never knew that it could be a relationship."

In high school, he got involved with drugs and alcohol to attain popularity. "I had just moved from California to Colorado, and everyone thought that I was cool," he says. "So to keep that image, I did what all the popular kids were doing."

The night of the Chi Alpha meeting, 10 people had gathered for a time of praise and worship. "It was something I had never seen," he says. "The worship leader and pastor acted like they really believed the words of the song. I had never seen people who were so sincere."

During the next year and a half, Rohde began attending church and Chi Alpha infrequently. "I still wasn’t ready to give up the occasional partying or my hope of a career making lots of money."

In January 1993, Rohde attended a SALT conference, an annual regional event featuring workshops, activities and evening sessions. There, he had a life-changing experience and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

"It was exactly what I knew I needed to truly believe in and experience God," he says. "It was a major turning point. It completely freed me from my double standard, and I finally gave some major problems to God."

When he came back from the retreat, Rohde set up a table in a high-traffic area on campus. Each week he would write a different question on a board in order to open up opportunities to talk about God and share his testimony.

"I didn’t want to debate with people; I just wanted to tell people that God is real," he says.

As Rohde got involved in the Chi Alpha leadership team and continued growing spiritually, he realized that his pursuit of financial success was shifting. "I knew I was going to do full-time ministry when I graduated," he says. "What I experienced in Chi Alpha prepared me for the rest of my life."

He interned for a year at the University of Wyoming and came back to CSU as Chi Alpha pastor in 1995.

Kirk and his wife of four years, Cara, whom he met at the 1993 SALT conference, focus their ministry on making disciples, not just converts, and emphasize the importance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. "The baptism in the Holy Spirit is key to helping people become disciples," Rohde says. "We’ll give up large numbers if we are truly making a difference in peoples’ lives."

During Rohde’s eight years in Chi Alpha ministry, at least 25 students have been called to full- or part-time ministry positions, and many more have taken part in short-term missions trips.

The chapter ministers through large group meetings, small group Bible studies, the question table, and spring break outreaches on other campuses. In recent years, Rohde has been asked to speak in various fraternities and sororities about sex, presenting the only Christian perspective many students hear.

But spiritual gifts have remained a focus. "What drew me to Chi Alpha initially and made me want to know more was people speaking in tongues and praising God unashamedly," he says. "That aspect of God changed my life, and we shouldn’t shy away from it."

Brent Mero, 21, accepted Christ after attending an Assemblies of God church at the invitation of a Chi Alpha member. Although the CSU senior had always believed in God, he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Faced with questions regarding his experience at the church, he began talking to Rohde and other Chi Alpha members, and eventually committed his life to Christ.

"The spiritual gifts showed me that God is out there and He sent His Son," Mero says. "He wants to change our lives, so that we can be different from the rest of the world. He gives us the power to change and to minister."

This year, the Rohdes will focus on doubling the group’s size. One way they’ll do this is through an outreach featuring once-a-month activities geared toward helping new freshmen make friends. An average of 20 attended the fun activities last year, and many who heard about Chi Alpha became part of the group, bridging the gap between older and younger students.

The Rohdes will also face the continued challenges of working with people who are resistant to the gospel and dealing with apathy. But they are committed to the ministry because of their experience in Chi Alpha and their burden for discipling students.

"College is such an impressionable time, sometimes in crazy things. But it’s a key time that we can be there," Cara says. "The older people get, the less likely they’ll be to come to know Christ."


Katy Attanasi has served as a staff writer for the Pentecostal Evangel.

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