This is Amanda and her husband, Alex.
Their drinks are an iced amber latte and an iced cold brew, respectively.
They are a newly married couple, and I met them at Cottonwood Park to talk about their mission with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. Well, if I am telling the whole story, I met Amanda, Alex, and a plucky little squirrel who got brazenly close to our quilt (Amanda wanted to make sure I got the part about the squirrel in there).
AMANDA’S LIFE PLAN
Amanda did most of the talking, mainly because she and I have known each other for years through the local community college.
When I asked what was on her heart, she dove right in to the work she and her husband are doing with Chi Alpha:
“I was raised in a Christian home and knew all of the biblical stories, but it wasn’t until my first missions trip to the Philippines and Indonesia that I started to really embrace the Great Commission as a command meant for me: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28.19, ESV).
I started to really embrace the Great Commission as a command meant for me
After the missions trip, I started college with a plan to be an engineer (I earned my degree in engineering from Fresno State in 2018). However, it was the Chi Alpha campus ministry that really set the trajectory for my future.
The veteran members of Chi Alpha noted my biblical knowledge and started talking to me about what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ.
The members of Chi Alpha refer to 2 Timothy 2.2 as the core of their discipleship mission: ‘You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also’ (ESV).
This verse depicts how discipleship is a continuous process: Paul writes to Timothy to be strengthened by His grace and to take what he has learned and entrust it to those who can teach others. If Timothy is being mentored by Paul and will go on to teach those who can teach others, then this verse outlines four generations of discipleship.
And so this verse paired with the Great Commission have really become reflective of His plan for my life. I wrestled for a bit with letting go of the security that an engineering job would provide me, but stepped out in the faith that I am meant to be a disciple to college students along with my husband Alex.
So it is now my responsibility to witness to young adults, to share my faith, and to hopefully help non-believers find their way to the Lord.
This role challenges me in so many ways:
- It pushes me to know the Bible better
- It pushes me in my prayer life because I can’t do this on my own
- It forces me to grow so much more in my faith”
I asked Amanda to give me a couple different examples of how students have responded to her attempts to help create disciples:
“I remember meeting a girl on campus who became a fast friend. I would pick her up, and we’d go hang out, share life, talk about things. I would bring her to the Chi Alpha worship services with me, and she had some powerful experiences during worship— she was really moved.
But in our conversations, I could tell that she wasn’t quite in a place to turn over her life to Jesus. If I brought up the Bible, she would tell me that she didn’t really believe that the Bible had anything to do with her life. She would say things like ‘It was written so long ago that I don’t think it really applies anymore.’
I responded by saying that I make all of my decision based on the Bible—my life choices, how I choose to treat people, etc.
When summer came, we drifted apart, and she told me she was no longer interested in coming to the Chi Alpha worship services.
I still keep up with her on social media, and she has since had a baby. In her captions she writes ‘God is good.’ Even the simple phrase ‘God is good’ implies belief in Him.
So she didn’t end up giving her life to Christ while we were ministering to her, but I believe the seeds were planted at that time like in the verse in 1 Corinthians 3:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labo(1Corinthians 3. 6-8, NIV)
It’s up to God. I’m not in charge of anyone’s salvation, nor can I take credit if someone gives her life to Jesus. It’s all God. But I do have a purpose: to plant seeds of truth.
SOMETIMES SPRING COMES QUICKLY
Creating disciples won’t always be immediate, but occasionally it can be.
After Alex and I were married, we moved to Turlock to be witnesses to students at Stanislaus State.
We received a call from a local pastor that a mother of a Stan State student was in need of someone to help support her daughter who was having a really difficult time.
So the daughter agreed to meet me and a friend of mine at a local Starbucks.
Over our coffees, my friend and I just listened to her as she poured out all of the difficulties she was undergoing. Her boyfriend had been cheating on her, so they split, and she was having problems with her roommates. She told us she was ready to quit school and move back home. She was mad at God… maybe even denying His existence because how could He let all of these things happen to her if He cared for her?
We listened to her. We reminded her that God loved her, and that He did not make those things happen to her. ‘He sees you,’ we told her, and ‘He has a plan for your life.’ We encouraged her to stick out one more semester.
She appreciated our time and our efforts, but we know she was skeptical when we parted.
Nevertheless, when we invited her to a Chi Alpha retreat in the mountains, she agreed to come. On the second night of the retreat, she had a powerful encounter with God. She ran up to me and said, ‘God is so good! I have forgiven my ex-boyfriend, and I no longer have any hurt!’
Her transformation happened so quickly! When I spoke to her recently, she told me she has given up on the types of guys she used to pursue and now looks for a man in the church with whom she can grow her faith.
She tells me she now looks for opportunities to bless people when she can. She currently works in a grocery store, and so what she can offer people is a smile to brighten their days.”
Perhaps one day she will be sitting down in a coffee shop, reaching over to pray for someone else who is ready to give up.
People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.
“Our mission is to love above everything else.
People aren’t going to want to hear about Jesus until they feel valued and cared for.
I think of the adage ‘People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.’
So with each person, I have to determine how to love them best. And because God is love, and Jesus is our savior, telling them about the good news of salvation and forgiveness is an act of love.”
Amanda and Alex have been called to pioneer a Chi Alpha chapter in Santa Cruz at UCSC. There is not a whole lot of Christian presence on that campus, and they are hoping to change that.
They move in to their new apartment in Santa Cruz next month, where they will begin their mission. Amanda says she is ‘excited to see what God does.’ I asked her what we can be praying for and she has two specific prayer requests:
1. Meeting the right students at UCSC— finding the believers who can help become the foundation for this new chapter.
This may have an added challenge if UCSC decides to close for the fall, but I know that obstacle will just bring out the couple’s creativity and resourcefulness.
2. Finding a faculty advisor— in order to be established as a campus club, a faculty member will need to act as the advisor.
Facing the Mission Shoulder-to-shoulder
Have you ever heard the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof? There is a line in it that reminds me of Amanda and Alex:
They look so natural together
Just like two newlyweds should be
There is something really special about the energy between two newlyweds who clearly belong together. Amanda and Alex sat shoulder-to-shoulder for our entire talk, turning to ask each other to confirm details or help finish the words in a verse. They talked with excitement about biking to campus together from their new apartment.
There is no doubt in my mind that Amanda made the right choice in choosing the obedient role of a disciple rather than a financially secure position in an engineering firm. And God only knows how her knowledge of engineering might come to aid her in her mission— His plans are multi-layered and released in the proper timing.
I think Alex would agree with me. And I’d like to believe our new squirrel friend would, too.