Collegians' 'ForColumbus' aims for long-term impact

by Meredith Yackel, posted Monday, June 15, 2015 (3 years ago)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) -- The millennial generation doesn't always have the best reputation, and they know it. When Jon Shah, pastor of H2O Church on Ohio State University's campus, asked a group of collegians participating in ForColumbus how they thought people perceived them, they answered with terms like lazy, impatient, entitled and emotional.

Hundreds of students from across the United States and Canada gather for a prayer after spending the day working on the Linden Extreme Garden Makeover Project June 13. The students transformed a vacant lot into a community garden, cleaned up sidewalks and planted flowers around the community in Columbus, Ohio, as part of Crossover 2015.
Photo by Bob Carey
"I don't actually believe that," Shah said. "I believe they are made for a grand purpose, and nobody has invited them to it.

"They have no idea what it is, and when the Gospel gets ahold of someone's life and they believe it, they get touched with the purpose they were made for."

ForColumbus, a new collegiate 10-day extension of Crossover, placed 500-plus collegians around the city June 7-17. Students from across the Southeast, Arizona, Ohio and Quebec, Canada, have engaged in city beautification initiatives, people group mapping, prayerwalking, evangelism at Ohio State and creating gardens in abandoned lots in under-resourced areas.

Students and their leaders were challenged to have at least three Gospel conversations with residents while working on their projects each day.

For Rebecca Fountain, a recent Western Kentucky University graduate who will start her graduate program at Murray State University this fall, it was her first mission trip.

Kevin Cody, pastor of H2O, a church that meets on the campus of Ohio State University, leads training for hundreds of college students from across the country on the campus of OSU June 12. Students branched out across Columbus, Ohio, June 13 to volunteer at multiple evangelistic outreach events across the city.
Photo by Bob Carey
"I was a little nervous about the trip, but I have been praying that God would work through me and I wanted to see His work in action," Fountain said.

"I got to see God work through little Ali," she said of an 11-year-old boy who came to the backyard Bible club they hosted. "The first day we taught on creation and the second day, when we taught about the fall, he accepted Christ. He had never even heard of Jesus before. After we took some time to speak with him about his decision, he threw his hands in the air and yelled 'Jesus!'

"Before ForColumbus I was not intentional about sharing the Gospel," Fountain said. "I was really nervous, at first, to initiate Gospel conversations, but that was something local leaders taught us well -- how to be intentional and mindful of ways to share the Gospel in everyday conversations. I can say I feel really comfortable doing that now."

The ForColumbus project emerged from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Network (BCNet) church planting team, said Brian Frye, national collegiate strategist for NAMB. "Ultimately, the goal of ForColumbus is to see students become lifelong, fruit-bearing disciple makers -- to become students who make disciples who make disciples in order to plant churches that plant churches."

The project aims for students "to leverage their lives for the Gospel and to give their first two years after college to serve alongside a planter/pastor to start churches," Frye said.

Kevin Stacy, a collegiate project specialist with the North American Mission Board and strategic organizer of ForColumbus, noted that students were introduced to the "3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide," along with other training during the week.

Stacy underscored "what has happened in Columbus from 11 years ago, having only 54 churches, to 119 now because of how many churches that have been planted. If you look at the number of people who are accepting and following Christ, it has been exciting to realize that tremendous impact happens when churches work together, but even more because we serve a big God."

Stacy also credits prayer for the renewal.

"We have been praying that students who come in will see how God is already working in Columbus and then join Him in that," Stacy said. "We have specifically been praying for 10 percent of the students who participate in ForColumbus to come back and plant their lives and help plant churches here."

Meredith Yackel writes for the North American Mission Board.
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