Ready to Serve Anywhere
by John W. Kennedy11/18/2022 7:30:00 AM
Craig and April Woodham met through mutual friends while attending different high schools in Alabama, then dated long-distance as they attended the two largest universities in the state: Craig at the University of Alabama and April at Auburn. The two rival schools are in medium-sized cities located 160 miles apart, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in the west-central part of the state and Auburn in the east-central part of the Yellowhammer State.
Craig earned an education degree, April a landscape design degree. Although both had been involved in the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries groups at their respective schools, neither thought about a campus ministry career as they graduated and wed in 1998. Both went into the marketplace, Craig teaching high school and April working as a landscape designer.
But after three years, when Craig spoke at a men’s retreat for a local Chi Alpha group, the Lord impressed upon him to consider campus ministry as a life’s work. He shared with April, who expressed an interest in making a career move to Chi Alpha. In 2002, they served a Campus Missionary-in-Training (CMIT) yearlong internship at the University of Arkansas. Afterward, the couple headed off to join the Chi Alpha staff at the University of Alabama, Craig’s alma mater. In 2006, they began a 5-year stretch as campus directors at the school.
During that span, they participated in a “give a year” experience, moving to Bangkok. The couple packed up their 1-year-old son, Tyler, and relocated to Thailand to reach university students.
The Woodhams spent the next six years serving with the national Chi Alpha team, assisting with planning for the World Missions Summit and XA Expeditions short-term missions teams.
Despite their array of experiences, the Woodhams — who are both U.S. missionaries — then undertook a second CMIT, this time at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
“We hadn’t lived on a campus setting for six years, so we thought we needed to learn more from someone else,” says the genial Craig, 46. “We want to be an example to others and be obedient to wherever the Lord sends us. We felt honored to go back to a local campus to raise up young leaders.”
In 2018, the Lord sent the Woodhams to Auburn — April’s alma mater — to relaunch the Chi Alpha there. They currently have seven others on their team, with an average of 65 students attending small groups.
The Woodhams — now with 15-year-old Tyler and 12-year-old Abby as children — don’t make much of the fact that they graduated from different in-state rivals. They take the advice dispensed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22.
“We try to be all things to all people, that we might win some,” says the mellow April, 45.
The vast majority of the Woodhams’ ministry has been in the Deep South, but that hardly means they’ve found a majority of attendees to be overtly spiritually minded.
“While students aren’t as antagonistic as they might be in some other parts of the country, we sometimes have to convince them they are not as right with Jesus as they think they are,” Craig says. “Their lifestyle testifies that even if they come from a church background, they may be lukewarm or backslidden.”
“Even in the Bible Belt, there is a growing sense of relativism,” April says. “People aren’t as biblically literate as before. They can’t believe God isn’t OK with their sinful lifestyle.”
One of those on the Chi Alpha team at Auburn is Brandon K. Shirley — who 15 years ago learned from the Woodhams while a student at the University of Alabama.
“Craig and April were intentional friends and they made me feel loved,” recalls Shirley, 35. “Over the years, I’ve seen their desire to serve and grow. They have big hearts for missions, churches, and other people”
After graduating with a marketing degree, Shirley found jobs in car sales and pest control, but neither proved fulfilling to him. He spent 2½ years interning at the University of Texas-San Antonio with Chi Alpha before joining the Woodhams at Auburn in 2018. He is a worship leader and disciples students as a small group leader.