A chapter member connected with Emmi Hendricks in 2017, spotting her sitting alone on a bench outside her dorm waiting nervously for her dating app hook up to arrive. He noticed the metal cane resting alongside her.
Their initial chat led to Chi Alpha members befriending Hendricks for several months in Christian compassion. They prayed against the chronic pain attacking her joints and mobility. They learned about her nonbinary gender-free lifestyle as well.
“I felt strange and uncomfortable about their prayers, but it was nice being around hopeful people,” Hendricks says. “I wasn’t religious and once I belonged to a pagan Wiccan cult.”
Still enduring constant pain, Hendricks dropped to the floor in her dorm room one evening pleading, “God if You are real, heal me and I will follow You forever.”
Navigating dormitory stairs a few days later, she stumbled and heard a crackling noise pulsating through her legs. The pain vanished immediately.
Hendricks’ faith soared after her healing and grew by attending Chi Alpha chapter meetings and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Water baptized six months later, she gave her life totally to Jesus and rejected her gender confusion.
“I identify as a true woman of God now,” she says. “Jesus showed me where the world hurt me and healed me of these beliefs.”
She received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a Chi Alpha retreat in 2018.
Hendricks, 22, graduated from CSU in May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She seeks God’s direction to leverage her clinical psychology knowledge helping adolescents.
As campus ministries director, Banke steers 22 career staffers plus six interns, who disciple 200 students attending 40 weekly small-group meetings.
The university’s 33,000 students are a thorny mission field. Banke arrived on campus 11 years ago, when the majority carried hints of a Christian heritage. Today, however, many students believe Christianity is the enemy of traditional morality and that the faith messes with their freedom of expression. Banke observes most students view God as playing only a trifling role in issues such as social justice, the environment, diversity, and equality. Yet he sees students suffering from deepening stress, anxiety, and superficial relationships, and, of course, angst over COVID-19.
“We invite Christ into their space,” he says. “His Kingdom is built on relationships.”
Chi Alpha students meet this challenge by cementing personal relationships. They find, fight for, and spiritually feed potential friends. They hang out in dorms, teach international students how to cook U.S. food, sponsor meals, play sports, or go camping, hiking, and rock climbing.
Four staffers approached Brent Keizer in 2009 when he was a sophomore relaxing in the student center asking, “Do you like steak?” Always hungry, he accepted their invitation to a barbecue, which opened the gate to following Christ. After graduating in 2011, he joined the CSU chapter staff and currently serves as resource leader.
“I want to give back what God did for me and through me to others,” Keizer, 31, says. “I want to hear the voice of Jesus, experiencing His heart for students who are lost.”
Banke also encourages an international vision among the Chi Alpha family. In 2012, he led a team with his wife, Lindsey, on a “give a year” mission in Krasnodar, Russia, near the Black Sea. They pioneered a ministry at Kuban State University. Up to 60 students packed their small apartment to eat dinner and to hear the gospel. New teams have followed this model in Russia and other countries.
“We suggest that every Chi Alpha chapter invest in a mission effort overseas to mobilize a generation of students to give a year and pray about a lifetime, Banke says.
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