and Kirk Priest offer free coffee at
The universitys administration supports Chi Alphas efforts, granting the team parking privileges, staff ID and open access to the dorms where posters can be displayed and students can be counseled. Rather than provide dorm therapists, Kirk, Amy and Norma have chaplain status in five halls with the right to minister to students spiritual or emotional needs.
Not that the institution is an evangelical stronghold. A cartoon in the campus newspaper depicts the dreaded roommate from hell as a young lady wearing a What Would Jesus Do? T-shirt and carrying a Bible. A front-page article announces that a special coalition for change will be monitoring alcohol consumption at games, seeking to reduce high-risk drinking and its negative consequences.
Clearly, there is work to do.
Watching a mass of backpack-laden students move from one class building to another, I wonder how many packs symbolize burdens of a heavier kind. While appearing confident on the outside, how many carry deep hurts and longings that will never be healed or fulfilled on the path they are taking through life?
That question is why the ministries of Chi Alpha and the local church are needed. Students searching for reality need a place to turn for guidance and instruction. Those with hurts and fears need someone who will listen with love.
Café Chi Alpha, situated just outside the north gates, is just the place for that to happen. Located in an old storefront building renovated largely by financial help and labor from local Assemblies of God churches, Café Chi Alpha provides a haven for students who want to get off campus and relax. In a comfortable atmosphere, they can enjoy a bagel along with a cappuccino, iced coffee, juice or an international tea all free, a word that resonates well with university students. Church contributions help subsidize the cost. A nearby bakery donates day-old bagels; another restaurant provides crushed ice.
So many flavors, so little time, emblazoned on the cafés sign is a reminder that life offers a lot of choices; but just as coffee is processed from a certain type of bean, there is only one source of truth and hope Jesus Christ. But time is running out. Jesus is coming soon, so choices must be made quickly. Café Chi Alpha gives Kirk, Amy and Norma, along with more than 70 regular members of Chi Alpha, opportunity to share a Christian witness.
Amy tells of a student who came by the café looking for friends. She told Amy she had always wanted to work in a coffee shop. I asked if she would like to volunteer, Amy says. She started working, and two months later received Christ as her Savior.
Several of our Chi Alpha volunteers are catching on to the potential for ministry here, Amy says. They realize the people are coming to them which provides a ready-made opportunity to talk to them about Christ.
During the Thursday night Chi Alpha Live service held in a campus lecture hall, a powerful anointing falls as the students sing praise and worship choruses. Many worship openly, with hands raised. Others bow their faces before the Lord. Of 30 first-time visitors the week prior, 15 have returned. In all, some 70 students are present. Bibles, compliments of Chi Alpha, are given to any who do not own a Bible. Contact information is collected on all first-time visitors and will be followed up on by the leadership team and volunteers.
Preaching from the Book of Daniel, Kirk encourages the students to be risk takers for God, to be willing to take a bold stand for their faith on campus.
Taking a stand will cost you something, he says. A vision to do something for God always comes with a price. If your vision doesnt cost you something, its a daydream. During the altar call, several students commit themselves to be risk takers. Two respond to an invitation to receive Christ as Savior. Four had come forward the week before.
With more than 100 countries represented on campus, LSU is home to about 1,500 international students. Seizing the opportunity to develop indigenous missionaries, Chi Alpha focuses special attention on the foreign students.
On Friday night, I attend a Jamba-laya International Student Reception, held to welcome international students. Jambalaya, a Cajun favorite, is a spicy mixture of different foods blended together as one, symbolizing the mix of cultures on campus, as well as the unity of all who are part of the body of Christ.
Some 200 students participate in the feast. Countries represented include China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, Nepal, El Salvador, Brazil, Uruguay, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. The majority of international students are from Malaysia and Korea.
One girl, a zoology major from Japan, is a first-time visitor to a Chi Alpha function. I didnt know anything about Chi Alpha, she says. But I was invited by Brenda who gave me a flyer and offered a ride. Brenda leads one of the Life Group (Bible study and discipleship) meetings on campus.
Another young lady from China also is a first-timer to Chi Alpha. An information systems major pursuing a Ph.D., she plans to return to her homeland.
After the meal, Kirk introduces the Chi Alpha team and outlines what the program is about.
Some of you might be from countries where Christianity is common, others from countries where it is a minority, he says. While you are in the U.S., we would like to give you opportunity to learn more about Christianity and give you the chance to learn who Jesus Christ is and His plan for your life. We would be thrilled if you become a Christian, but our love for you isnt based on that. We are here to serve you in any way we can. A booklet, How To Survive in the U.S., containing practical information about living in America, is given the international students as they leave.
After the feast, students are invited to make their way to the café where a band is gearing up for a late-night concert in an adjacent alley. As the sound of the guitars, drums and vocalists pierces the night air, students, some on their way to nearby bars, stop to listen. Others go inside the café for a free beverage where Chi Alpha volunteers offer friendship and a listening ear, ready to share their faith in Christ. Visitors learn that salvation too is a free gift like the coffee.
Chi Alpha outreach is making a difference, something co-director Norma Ortiz knows firsthand. A student from Puerto Rico on a basketball scholarship to the University of Southern Louisiana in Lafayette, Norma did not know the Lord. One day I met a student from Chi Alpha in the cafeteria, and we became friends. She invited me to attend their meetings. When I went, I knew those students had something I didnt have, Norma says. I always knew there was a God, but I didnt know He wanted to have a personal relationship with me. I accepted Christ as my Savior and then got involved in a Life Group.
God called Norma to full-time ministry in Chi Alpha, and she has been serving for three years on the LSU campus.
While the spiritual needs are great on LSUs campus and the task is daunting, Chi Alpha leaders, volunteers and supporting churches are working together to change lives one at a time.
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