As her freshman year of college came to a close, Ja’Keya Jackson knew she wanted to reach her campus with the gospel. But she wasn’t sure how. She only had one Christian friend on campus, and she felt alone.
About the same time, Rodney Hammer, former director of the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association, connected Travis Hamm, Executive Director of Collegiate Impact and an MBCollegiate strategist, with a believing faculty member from Avila University. Hamm met with the faculty member and shared with her about the vision of Collegiate Impact to bring the hope and peace of Jesus to Kansas City area college campuses. The faculty member had just accepted a job offer elsewhere, but she told Hamm of a student who desired to bring the gospel to her campus.
That student was Jackson.
“God had been impressing on Ja’Keya’s heart to see a gospel ministry brought to this campus,” says Hamm. “She and I began praying for God to create an opportunity for this to happen.”
As they pursued avenues to start a student club or reserve space to hold a Bible study on campus, they were met with opposition from the Catholic university. “As a new school year began last August, it was not clear how a new ministry would launch,” Hamm says.
But God was working behind the scenes. One day, Jackson set out to do Bible study on her own. She ran into Malik Ashford, a football player and fellow believer. He asked where she was going. They decided to meet up later in the lobby of their hall to study the Word together.
Later, “as we were breaking down the material and studying the Word, a student walked past,” Jackson remembers. They asked if he wanted to join, and he did. A few minutes later, a girl walked past. She joined as well. “That was the first Bible study we had, four people,” Jackson says. “After that we multiplied.”
Each week more students joined the Bible study until they’d run out of space and chairs in the lobby. They moved to the chapel with the support of the university. By the end of the school year, they were averaging 15-20 students each week, with 35 at their largest. A large portion of those students are from the football team. Many of them now go to church with Jackson and Ashford at Testimony Church, formerly South Kansas City Baptist, pastored by Gary Jones.
“One big story is about the very first person we asked to join the Bible study,” Ashford says. “Two or three months later, he ended up getting baptized. Four other people from the Bible study have gotten baptized as well. We’ve seen a lot of life change with the Eagles for Christ Bible study.”
For Jackson, this Bible study has been a powerful reminder of God’s ability to work in any circumstance. “It all started as a prayer,” she says. “I prayed for a Bible study on campus. This testimony reminds me of the Scripture ‘we walk by faith and not by sight.’ A lot was just by faith because I couldn’t see it formulating.”
Both Jackson and Ashford have grown as leaders through this unexpected ministry. “I had to step into a new leadership role,” Ashford says. “It has allowed me to grow as a leader and develop new leadership skills. I’ve transferred these over to my personal life with my family as well as in the church being a new associate ministry.”
Collegiate Impact has still been able to come alongside the Eagles for Christ. “Travis has been a support for us,” says Jackson. “He even provided 50 Bible for students who didn’t have any. He also hosts a dinner every month for us to attend. It’s a time for us from the Bible study and my friends to commune and have fellowship and eat a nice home-cooked meal.” Ashford says, “Collegiate Impact has been a great and our biggest help in our growth in our ministry.”
Both Ashford and Jackson plan to continue the Bible study next school year and hope to see it grow. “My hope is that…we would continue to impact lives of students that come to Avila and that they will continue to grow as leaders for Christ as they have been called to do,” says Ashford.
Though the path to launching an Avila ministry has not been what Hamm or Jackson anticipated, it’s a path that points to one thing: the faithfulness and glory of God.
“God really ordained the Bible study,” says Jackson. “This is only His work. I couldn’t do any of this.”