Crossroads, Chicago and Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Chicago was cold but it was fun to see the city and also connect with some of our colleagues from around the U.S.

At the beginning of December, Jen and I got a chance to spend a few days in Chicago with some of our Cru colleagues from around the nation who are also reaching out to Millennials in their respective cities.

It was bitterly cold, but it was a great time of connecting and learning from one another as we’re all in various stages of pioneering this new venture to reach and minister to Young Professionals.

The headline on this newspaper aptly describes how our ministry feels.

Ironically, one morning as I was waiting in the lobby to meet someone, I noticed the title of a newspaper, which read, “Chasing The Millennials”. Sometimes, that’s what it seems like we’re doing. We’re chasing the Millennials and we’re not quite sure where to find them or how to catch them when we do encounter them.

One of the questions we have been frequently asked since starting this new venture is: how are you going to find Millennials? It’s a good question.

When we were working on campus, it was easy to find students. We just showed up on campus and there they were. It was simply a matter of engaging with them and seeking to connect them to our specific campus community.

But reaching Millennials in Orange County is more complicated. There’s no “campus” where they all naturally congregate. There’s no Student Union where they all relax and hang out. They’re everywhere and nowhere at the same time. For us, it’s a matter of finding the natural places where they live, work and recreate and engaging with them there.

We believe that our ministry is going to grow through the natural relational networks that already exist among Millennials. For that reason, we’ve been focusing efforts on meeting and connecting with as many Cru grads as possible who are living and working in Orange County. The hope is to connect with Young Professionals in our area who already have a familiarity with Cru and then expand by tapping into their relational networks.

Attending the Crossroads conferences allowed me to connect with students and many staff friends, including former UC Davis students Paul (left – San Jose State), Chris (Univ. of Arizona) and Josh (right – Chico State).

Right before Thanksgiving, I attended Crossroads, a yearly conference for Cru juniors and seniors designed to help them navigate life’s choices as they seek to pursue Christ while making decisions about their vocation.

Being at the conference gave us a first-hand opportunity to talk to students and share with them about our ministry in Orange County. Perhaps the biggest benefit though was connecting with many of the campus staff we’ve known throughout the years. Many of them were reminded of grads who are now living in Orange County whom they can connect us with.

One of our former students who is now directing the Cru ministry at UC Irvine and Chapman invited me to dinner to hang out with his team. While there, I met Jeff, a recent Cru grad who is serving as an intern with Cru here in Orange County. Jeff expressed an interest in what we’re doing because he works with students all day and he wants to have more community with guys who are in a similar life stage.

Jeff, far right, not only won our Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, but he connected us with (left to right) Josh, Andrew and Tim.

I invited Jeff to come to our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. To my surprise, Jeff not only came but he invited some of his cycling buddies to come as well.

Through a series of natural relational networks, I met Jeff who then introduced me to Tim, Josh and Andrew.

Our hope and prayer is that the scope of our impact will continue to expand as we tap into the natural relational networks that already exist here in the OC. Please pray with us as we continue to reach out to Young Professionals and seek to help them thrive spiritually and live missionally!

The End of an Era

Reflecting on the Impact of the San Jose State Crusade House

To read the pdf version of this letter, click here.

 

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with some sad news. The Crusade House that I lived in my first 3 years on staff with Cru, would no longer exist after this school year.

It seems that the house has changed ownership and the new owners decided not to renew the lease to the students who are living there. Hence, the house that has served as a hub of ministry activity for San Jose State Cru will no longer serve in that capacity.

The Cru house was the brain child of Don Wilcox, who was the director of the San Jose State ministry when I arrived in 1989. As far back as the early 1980’s, Don envisioned a house close to campus that could serve as a beachhead for ministry on campus. Don saw the advantage of challenging young men to live together and sharpen one another as disciples for Christ, being raised up as leaders for the campus movement.

The Crusade House in 2010. The house was a hub for campus ministry for nearly 30 years.
The Crusade House in 2010. The house was a hub for campus ministry for nearly 30 years.

In 1984, Don was able to secure a house within a block of campus that would serve as the Crusade house for nearly 30 years. During that span, dozens of men have lived in that house and hundreds of lives have been impacted through the ministry of the house.

For me, the house was an incredible part of my own spiritual journey. It was the first place I lived on my own after moving away from home. Living with 12 other guys who all loved the Lord and were committed to following Him was incredibly challenging and motivating to me.

The house provided an opportunity for me to grow up and develop healthy relationships with others.

Joshua 24.15 - "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24.15 – “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

It was a great place for ministry as well. I led Bible studies, prayer meetings and training times. I hosted parties and discipled guys right there in the house.

One of my fondest memories of the house happened within weeks of my arrival on campus. We held a prayer meeting at the house on a Friday night and somewhere during that meeting, there was a knock at the door and then a young man walked in.

Eric Oxford looked like a “deer in the headlights” as he stumbled into our prayer meeting that night. Clearly, he didn’t realize what he was walking into, but to our surprise, he acted as if he intended to be there and he decided to join us.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to Eric and found out a little bit about him. I learned that Eric was a transfer student and one of his friends from back home was living in the house and was involved with Cru. Being a Friday night, he decided to come over and hang out with his friend. That’s when Eric mistakenly stumbled into our prayer meeting.

Eric Oxford came to Christ when he inadvertently walked into a prayer meeting at the Crusade House.
Eric Oxford came to Christ when he inadvertently walked into a prayer meeting at the Crusade House.

Eric admitted that he was too embarrassed to turn around and leave so he decided to stick around. I asked Eric if we could meet up on campus the next week and he agreed.

The next week I shared the gospel with Eric. God had prepared his heart and to my excitement, he trusted the Lord with his life right there in the student union.

Eric joined a Bible study I was leading and for the next four years, I had the privilege of building a relationship with Eric and discipling him.

The next year, Eric moved into the house and lived there for several years, experiencing exceptional spiritual growth as a newer believer. He was not only my disciple, but he was my housemate, and he became one of my dear friends.

Today, Eric and his wife live in the Sacramento area and they both are walking with the Lord, desiring to serve Him as teachers.

I believe that God’s primary instrument for impacting lives is people. But the Crusade House reminds me that God can also use resources like a house to influence others towards His purposes. Though I’m sad to see the legacy of the house come to an end, I praise God for the role the house played in my own spiritual development and in the lives of guys like Eric.

I praise God too for the role you have played and are playing in helping to reach people for Christ! We are so grateful for you.

If you have a resource, like a house, that could be used for ministry purposes such as a team retreat or special meeting, please let us know. The Lord could use your resource to dramatically impact a life for Him.