KIRKSVILLE, MO—Finding favor with campus administration is no simple task for college ministries. The more secular and liberal our culture becomes; the more college ministries are met with skepticism at best and opposition at worst. At Truman State, however, God has granted the BSU immense favor with the university administration—so much so that they became the first ever recipient of the “Points of Light” award at the Opening Fall Assembly on August 16th.
On July 31, Campus Missionary Greg Xander received an email from the Office of the President saying,
“President Thomas would like to honor the Baptist Student Union at our annual Fall Opening Assembly…This is an event where she shares some encouraging words going into a new academic year, but also recognizes faculty and staff that have done amazing things over the past year. We would love to have you, as well as whomever else you feel represents the group from BSU that has routinely shared kindness, generosity, positivity, and grace towards all of us on campus.”
Xander and two of his student leaders, John Choi and Cozette LeRoy (both seniors), attended the event while his other five student leaders helped freshmen move into the dorms. Xander also brought an alumni who was in town, as well as Pastor Curtis Ferguson from Rehoboth Baptist Church. Ferguson has routinely supported the BSU and invited time and money into loving and feeding students.
The university recognized outstanding faculty and honored staff for their work, skill, and dedication at Truman. Just before President Thomas came up to give her speech, something unexpected happened: they invited the BSU to come up on stage and presented them with the “Points of Light” award.
Standing before the entire university, they received their plaque and had their picture taken on stage. “It is so kind of God and just so amazing to see a university recognize the BSU here in such a way,” Xander says. “This community of student missionaries is doing something that they just can’t deny, and even more they want to celebrate us and thank us.”
After the State of the Union address, Xander and his team had a chance to thank President Thomas in person. She explained that the BSU was not only the inaugural recipient of the award, but the reason they started it. Administrators had been talking about doing something to recognize groups that serve and support the campus but are not part of the employment system. When they determined to start this award, she knew immediately who the first group should be—the BSU.
This wasn’t Xander’s first run-in with the president, and he’s never shied away from sharing what they believe and why they do what they do. She has stopped by their tables on campus when they hand out flowers or other goodies to students. At the end of last school year, the BSU took their annual group photo including a sign that says “We love Sue” in her honor. They had it framed and delivered to her office. When she came by the BSU to thank Xander, bearing a thank-you gift in the form of a ceramic bulldog, he talked with her for nearly an hour.
Xander says, “There were they several times where I got to share Scripture…like why we love our campus from Jeremiah and that our wording is very intentional as we try to fight not against our campus but for our campus… the mission we have that’s very specific about helping people to consider that there is more to Jesus than they thought.”
Though the president doesn’t necessarily share their beliefs, she recognizes something in them—a fact that encourages Xander greatly. “That is so uplifting how God keeps letting us be in so many conversations with others, even our university President who we really do think so highly of and respect and care about.”
The name of the award, he says, is “compelling… Jesus describes us, His followers, as many things, such as being salt or being light. We are so not perfect… this moment can only be because of the incredible God, who is alive and moving here and now on our campus.”
Xander praises God for hearing the prayers of their churches, alumni, parents, students, and the entire Missouri Baptist Convention. He’s thankful for “all the people who give sacrificially and consistently for us to have the funds and the hearts and the will to keep fighting the good fight for others to know Jesus…I love the impact our churches are making on this campus because they are supporting and loving this outpost of missionaries, the BSU.”
Xander’s passion is that the BSU will be known by light and love “because we are living by faith in Him”—and it seems that they are. “For people to hear about the message of Jesus, from students to staff to faculty to a university president …that’s our payer and our hope.”