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Summer 2008 Rapport: Building relationships, reaching students

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Matt Herman (M.A. 2004) andhis wife, Tracy, are Chi Alpha pastors at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. They began with five students in 2006.

Driving more than twenty hours to New Orleans for a spring-break mission trip, we listened to the shouts of students in our twelve-­passenger van as they played Catch Phrase. The goal of the game is to get your team to guess a phrase so you can “hot potato” the index to the next team. As the timer wound down and panic set in, one student yelled, “Chi Alpha is all about this!” to which the rest of the van responded, “Relationships!” In that moment I knew the first year and a half of our time on campus had been a success.

Tracy and I always wanted a challenge. We came to the Northeast because we knew that a large portion of influential universities and colleges were here, but few Chi Alpha ministries. At Cornell our conversations with students have centered around issues common to every college student: dating, careers, family, religion, etc. Every campus, however, is unique. Cornell students possess a potential that is cultivated by an elevated standard of learning in a wide variety of disciplines.

It is a mistake, though, to think that intellectually and socially gifted students always need to believe in their head before their heart. Most of the time, Cornell students need a hug and someone to walk with them through the natural transitions of life. They, like all of us, need one another more than anything else.

When Philip visited one of our meetings, he did not expect to stay long term. Just days before visiting Chi Alpha, Philip’s brother convinced him to “find a place where God is.”

In fact, the only reason he chose our group is because we met close to his dorm room. But the warmth and care of our Chi Alpha community has encouraged Philip to ask questions, join a small group, and ultimately realize, “Perhaps God has more for me at Cornell than I thought.”

Our thought exactly!

Updated: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:24 PM

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