[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]
When I started in campus ministry several years ago, I was 18, unmotivated, and a confused biracial kid with baggage up the wazoo and not a mite of confidence except in the only things I’d managed to perfect: fashion and hair. I started tagging along with the InterVarsity kids not because of Jesus or even to chase after the random hot dudes I frequently pursued.
I went because the InterVarsity staff worker at Wayne State was black. Up to that point, I hadn’t known a single African-American Christian living faithfully to Jesus and I was desperate to see, touch, taste and feel that experience. Instinctively, I knew I’d never follow Jesus in a genuine way if I hadn’t seen it lived out among people who looked, talked, acted, thought and danced like I did.
Long story short, I gave my life to Jesus through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at WSU in my hometown of Detroit, MI. About as soon as Jesus swept through and flipped my life upside down I felt a profound burden to bring the same hope I’d found in Him to other African-American students. I became keenly aware of the gap between the top notch training InterVarsity provided and the many storefront Churches dotting 6 mile barely holding on for dear life. If those storefront Church’s were producing compelling, thoughtful or engaging African-American disciples of Christ I’d yet to meet any of them. My desire for change didn’t come from a sense of condemnation, but of longing. I longed to see ALL of my Detroit homies come to faith in Jesus, and starting with campus seemed to be my best bet.
My first task on campus was to lead a small group Bible study. In the next two years, I went on to be our chapter’s small group coordinator and just ahead of my senior year I settled in at the top of the food chain as our Chapter President. All the while, my staff worker, York Moore consistently encouraged me to join InterVarsity staff upon graduation.
“But York,” I argued “I don’t actually know what I’m doing…leading just comes naturally to me.” Ahhh, I was the ultimate novice. However, York won. Within a year I’d graduated, married & settled into InterVarsity staff alongside my husband, Dave at Western Michigan University.
A few months in, the InterVarsity staff honeymoon was over. I was serving black students within the context of a Gospel Choir. Many of the students were churched, spoke the best Christianese I have EVER heard and were profoundly and shockingly un-teachable.
I was unhappy. That familiar sense of longing came rushing back.
What I wanted to do on staff was to serve my fellow hood rats. Folks like me, who grew up in Detroit: black, Jesus-less & out of control. Throw in a pinch of poverty to boot and they became my ideal student to interact with.
In hindsight, my apostolic gifts broke through the gate like a thoroughbred horse pounding through his starting gate. My gifts pushed through quickly and effectively because they were forced through. And they continued to grow because InterVarsity gave me the necessary support, freedom and empowered training to allow my giftings to flourish.
I wanted to serve black students who didn’t yet know how much they needed Jesus and may not have realized how much they didn’t trust organized religion until they were faced with it. I wanted to serve students who were exasperated by heavin’, breathin’, hootin’ and hollerin’ preachers and who wanted little to no interaction with black Christians.
That is whom I wanted.
So. I went out and got ‘em. I started my own InterVarsity supported chapter at WMU with the express purpose of finding, meeting and changing the lives of black students.
With the Lord’s help within a year I’d managed to plant & grow the chapter up to a solid 40 core students. For the next three years we continued to double in size each year.
From the very beginning my vision was two fold: to raise up African-American students to be bold, empowered, trained, equipped and relevant believers for the mission field.
Secondly, and equally important, I wanted to grow the black family. I wanted to see healthy, thriving black students marry one another to create healthy, thriving, black marriages. Playing cupid with my students —though they were constantly annoyed at me about this —ended up producing some of the most wonderful marriages I’ve ever seen.
Little did I know, my vision was too small. Three of my students ended up joining InterVarsity staff and one still remains committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus to black students at Michigan State University. Many of our other alumni are Gospel bearers and ambassadors of Christ in several different key spheres of society: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.
A few weeks ago, about 40 of these alumni gathered to say goodbye and to bless me as I transition into a new phase of life working at a foundation with high school kids. Through video, a beautiful photo album, letters and spoken words, they called me a visionary…someone who saw the possibilities of what God could do through InterVarsity to impact the lives of African- American students there. They thanked me for following through on that God-given desire and hope for what God could do. They communicated that without CBC at Western they don’t know where they would be and shutter to think of where their life would be now. Through tears, one after another, after another. It ranks up there in one of the best moments of my life.
That, to me, is how my apostolic giftings work: in bold, risky & visionary leadership that relies heavily on God, a pinch on naïveté & a dash of sheer audacity.
If I’m not dreaming, envisioning or starting something new, then I’m probably sitting on a couch watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and wallowing about how I need to get off the couch and get to living fully in my gift set.
So. I envision, I go, I start, I share and I advocate for those who are vulnerable.
A.P.E. all up in this mug.
[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E. stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E. story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]