500 COLLEGIATES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA ENGAGED IN FORCOLUMBUS PROJECT: ARK. BAPTISTS ‘LED THE WAY’
by Lisa Falknor
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A twenty-something male stands just inside the glass doorway of the Ohio State University student union. He’s struggling to answer the question asked by an out-of-state stranger, Arkansas State University incoming freshman, Kaitlyn Stockert.
“What happens after I die?” he repeats the question. “Maybe I revert back to before I was born; I don’t know.” “That’s a good question,” he said, as if pondering it for the first time. “It’s one I can’t answer.”
Out of the over 4,900 gospel conversations like these presented in Columbus before and during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) June 7-17, 654 came from students and their leaders, said Brian Frye, collegiate evangelism strategist with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.
Five-hundred college students like Stockert said yes to a new idea: engage the 15th largest city in America garnering a close-up view of mega-city church planting. University students came from such states as Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and New York, and as far away as Canada. But the largest group came from Arkansas.
“Arkansas college students led the way in the ForColumbus project,” said Frye. “Outside of Ohio, Arkansas was by far the largest group represented. We had state convention staff engaged, local Baptist college ministries engaged, and some of the most significant churches in Arkansas—Grand Avenue and Cross Church.” Moreover, Cole Penick (BCM Campus Minister at the University of Arkansas) chaired on the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Network (BCNet) church planting team, he said.
In Columbus, students worked to beautify the metro in over 20 different mega-projects.
Some, like Sierra Chavez from the University of Arkansas, assisted elderly church members in gardening. “I’m not being disrespectful, but they’re old and can’t do it anymore,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard, that constantly. I’ve been picking up trash, lifting rocks, and painting–making it look like a garden.”
Additionally, the millennials attended SBC highlights like the pastor’s conference, missionary commissioning service, and convention-wide prayer gathering for a Great Awakening.
“I don’t think anyone (in ForColumbus) had ever been to the SBC,” said Brianna Tharp, a senior at Lyon College. “I had never been in that large of a gathering.” She learned that week that the author David Platt also had another title as International Mission Board President.
Finally, 260 students engaged in a cross-cultural city mapping event, providing key statistics to round out a joint North American Mission Board/International Mission Board website, said Tiffany Smith, North American Mission Board national mobilizer.
“Most of these students had never eaten foreign food or never seen a mosque,” Smith said, adding that the goal of the day included “shifting their mind-set to think cross-culturally.”
At least one small-town university student called to missions caught that vision.
“I know after going to Columbus…I’m definitely being called to a larger city with lots of different cultures,” said Jeremy Ogletree, a junior from the University of Arkansas Monticello who grew up in Hamburg, town of 3,000. “Maybe God brought me to Columbus to meet a few people I could possibly network with in the future.”
Lisa Falknor is a writer for the College and Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention