Someone once prophesied that Tiffany Patterson’s ministry would impact many nations.
Tiffany wasn’t quite sure how that would happen. She was a missionary associate in Spain, but then returned to her hometown of Quincy, Illinois. There she served as a youth pastor at a local Assemblies of God church.
But God had a plan. Quincy has a community college, trade schools, and a Catholic liberal arts university. With encouragement from her pastor, Tiffany added a college group to the church’s youth program. Students from various campuses began attending.
One of those students was Marlou Peters. Marlou came from the Netherlands to play basketball at Quincy University. But she didn’t fit in with the team’s party culture, so she accepted an invitation to the church group hoping to find friends. Marlou made it clear she was an atheist and not interested in Christianity, but Tiffany and the group welcomed her anyway.
Marlou had plenty of questions and arguments, but church was better than being lonely. When Tiffany took students to a college fine arts competition at Purdue, Marlou went along. She also decided to attend Chi Alpha’s All Nations Conference, a gathering of international students from campuses nationwide.
That didn’t go well. At one point in the conference, Marlou ran out of the meeting to escape the strong presence of the Holy Spirit. “I was angry, but I kept going to church,” Marlou says. “I was not sure what people back home would think. I thought I didn’t need anyone or anything.” But Tiffany didn’t give up. The summer following her second year in Quincy, Marlou accepted Christ! Tiffany began discipling her in her new faith.
Tiffany also wanted someone to disciple and teach her more about campus ministry. She contacted U.S. missionary Linda Seiler, campus pastor at Purdue University.
Personal discipleship is impacting churches across the United States as a way to raise up new leaders and start new ministry. It is a key concept in Chi Alpha as experienced leaders mentor new ones. Chi Alpha group leaders also personally disciple students to lead small groups, and those students reach out to their non-Christian classmates.
Linda Seiler encouraged Tiffany to relaunch Chi Alpha at Ivy Tech, a two-year commuter college near Purdue. Ministry is not easy on commuter campuses. Students come and go, and previous attempts at Ivy Tech had not done well. Tiffany persevered, drawing on her experience in Quincy, and the ministry started to grow.
Meanwhile, Marlou Peters moved to Chicago to finish her degree. Since it was harder to meet personally with Marlou for discipleship, Tiffany asked Chicago Chi Alpha staff members Andrew and Kristi Lundgren to help. As a former missionary kid in Europe, Kristi was perfect for the job. Marlou grew spiritually, began reaching out to fellow athletes, and led one to Christ!
Marlou also attended the All Nations Conference again. This time she shared her testimony. “It is awesome how God works,” she told attendees. “My first time [at All Nations] I was so angry. And now I’m here as a Christian.” Marlou committed to serve on staff at Purdue Chi Alpha for two years before returning home to the Netherlands. She started helping Tiffany at Ivy Tech and now leads the group.
Tiffany is excited about Marlou’s progress in leadership. “We are raising up students to be disciple-makers,” says Tiffany. “I can’t personally disciple 20 students, but I can disciple four, who each disciple two, who also disciple two.”
And that prophecy about impacting nations? As Chi Alpha leaders disciple international students like Marlou, it is happening. Malcolm Burleigh, executive director of U.S. Missions, sees tremendous potential for the far-reaching effects of discipleship. “The U.S. is no longer just a ‘donor field,’” he says. “We are a mission field. And through missions endeavors right here, we can impact the nations.”
“Just think, one student like Marlou goes home and shares Jesus with her family,” says Tiffany. “They tell others in their community. A whole nation can be transformed.”
To learn how you can impact international students in your community, click here to go to the Chi Alpha internationals page.
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