Charleston, Ill. – March 26, 2003– Several students, working in pairs, shovel gravel into wheel barrels, then spread that gravel evenly across a muddy lot. A few hundred yards away, another set of pairs is spreading the gospel of Christ. The moment is a microcosm of the work of Union University students during their Global Opportunity Trip to Charleston, Ill.
|Casey Stafford, Lance Parrott and Chad Farneth spread gravel on the parking lot at University Baptist Church during GO Illinois.|
Last year, Phil Nelson, the collegiate evangelism strategist for Illinois Baptists contacted several Baptist universities seeking help for University Baptist Church (UBC) in Charleston and its ministries to the students at Eastern Illinois University (EIU), directly across the street from UBC. Union responded by sending this team. “They are dispelling the myth that college students who come to church only take,” Nelson said.
The students’ trip served as a catalyst for the members of the church to begin working on projects which had been discussed but never pursued. “Once they knew the students were coming, everyone started signing up for things,” said Nelson.
The current focus of the church is outreach to the EIU student body through a weekly bible study called “Thirsty” and open air dialogues on the EIU campus.
|Union's Ashli Sutton surveys an Eastern Illinois University student during GO Illinois.|
Union senior Meredith Erlandson joined this trip because of her passion for college students. “This is an age group which needs to make decisions which will impact the rest of their lives,” she said.
The team is conducting surveys which are designed to engage students in discussions about Christ. “We are getting them to think about what their focus is and encouraging them to plug into a church,” said Union senior Amanda Russell. “It’s easy to go to college and become spiritually idle.”
The project has provided an opportunity for the students to put into practice some of the things they have learned at Union. “We are putting our beliefs into action,” said Lance Parrott, a Union freshman. “When you walk up to a person you’ve never met and talk about your faith, it’s uncomfortable,” he said, “but God has been faithful.”
The parking lot the Union students repaired belongs to UBC, and it was filled with ruts, potholes and mud prior to the students’ arrival. “It was horrid,” said Nelson. “If you walked through the lot to the church, you were going to be splattered [with mud].” The conditions were preventing senior citizens from coming to church, he said.
At the end of the week, these students will leave behind visible results in the UBC facilities. They also hope to leave a growing testimony of the gospel of Christ.
“We are trying to plant seeds,” said Union senior Casey Stafford. “The EIU students involved in the ‘Thirsty’ ministry will be here to water them.”
For more information on Union University or its programs, including Global Opportunity Trips, call (731) 668-1818.
By Chris Allen
Director of News and Media Relations