Engage24: Gospel reaches 9,300 collegians
ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) -- It seemed like any other day for Amy at her college, going from class to class. Then a Christian classmate asked to go for a cup of coffee.
Amy accepted the invitation.
"You see, I was kind of happy she asked because there was something I desperately needed her perspective on," Amy wrote in a subsequent email.
About a year ago, Amy had an abortion and was condemned by her mother. Carrying an immense amount of pain, guilt and disappointment, she shared her story with her classmate, expecting also to receive judgment. But that didn't happen.
"She surprised me," Amy wrote about her classmate. "She smiled, grabbed my hands and told me all about how and why everyone is messed up -- most importantly, how and why everyone still has a hope. She told me it was the Gospel and that it meant that regardless of who and where I was, I was loved."
The conversation between Amy and her classmate is just one of thousands that took place on Oct. 11 through Engage24, a 24-hour period when college students involved in Baptist Collegiate Ministries around the nation and Canada made intentional efforts to engage their campus with the Gospel. The goal was to see every Christ-following student share his or her faith with at least one person that day.
Though Amy did not make a decision to follow Christ that day, she has been openly seeking answers and learning more about Christ since her encounter.
"Your Engage24 really gave me something tangible, and it has been the first piece of life I've seen in a while," Amy shared in her email to leaders of the initiative, who asked that her real name or location not be published.
"I've even begun to see new strength, and it is helping me begin to do things like rebuild my relationship with my mother," Amy wrote.
Amid 17 million-plus college students across the U.S. and Canada, leaders with the Baptist Collegiate Network, an organization of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries in the U.S. and Canada, have had a heart for each student to hear about the hope of Christ. As the leaders began to pray in October 2011 about involving more college students in evangelism efforts on college campuses, their hearts were drawn to promote a one-day effort for sharing their faith.
"Our heart was to somehow move evangelism forward on a national level and communicate to all the college students in the U.S. and Canada that we want them to be out sharing their faith," said Christi Brazile Matthews, associate director of the Baptist Student Ministry at the University of Texas at Arlington who serves on the Baptist Collegiate Network evangelism committee, which includes ministry partners like the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
Through the Engage24 outreach, nearly 2,700 students across the nation and Canada reported sharing the Gospel more than 9,300 times, with 96 students choosing to begin a relationship with Christ.
"We just have been absolutely blown away with what God has done," Matthews said.
Each campus ministry decided how it would participate in Engage24. Some held evangelism training the weeks prior to the effort while others held services or campus events in order to engage students with the Gospel.
John Shaffner with the BCM at the University of Arkansas said his group planned a campus revival around Engage24 and saw 39 students choose to follow Christ.
"Students have been connecting with and praying for lost friends this semester and this was the week to take it to the next level and share the Gospel," Shaffner said. "We planned 'REVIVE' with the hope that this would be a harvest event, a place where students could personally invite those they have been praying for and investing in. Souls were saved and lives were changed."
Richard Parsons, a business management major at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, told of meeting a student who was struggling with his faith as the BSM students were using Solarium witness cards at a nearby table.
"We exchanged contact info and had a deep talk. He was really depressed," Parsons said. "We were going try to meet up last night, but he was tired and we ended up texting. It seems he's getting back on the right track again. It's great to see how we were trying to connect and make an impact with non-believers, and yet we were making an impact for the struggling believers, as well!"
At the University of Texas at Arlington Baptist Student Ministry, Matthews and other leaders held evangelism training each hour of the day on Oct. 11, equipping students to share their faith. The group also gave away coffee and more than 600 donuts, giving students an opportunity to connect with others on campus and begin Gospel conversations. Matthews herself was able to explain the Gospel to students four different times that day.
"There are students in the BSM who have grown up in church but had never shared their faith until Engage24," Matthews said. "I think because it was a national day, they felt encouraged to be bold and take part in sharing their faith."
Beyond spreading the Gospel to students who may have never heard, Engage24 is the start to helping students make evangelism a daily part of their life, Matthews said.
"I hope that this helps them to have a lifestyle of evangelism," Matthews said, "that they will look at their everyday personal lives they are living as a chance to share Christ, that they won't see this as a one-day event but a lifestyle of sharing Christ with friends and family."
Kaitlin Warrington is the new media manager for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Next year's Engage24 is slated for Oct. 10. For more information, visit www.Engage24.org.