Jessica Franklin says she’s been a Christian for a long time, and over the years she’s had the opportunity to plant a lot of seeds and help people grow in their relationship with Christ.
But she had never led anyone to faith before.
So when it happened during a recent 24-day evangelistic emphasis at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), “I bawled my eyes out,” she said.
Franklin, student president of Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at UAB, was one of dozens of BCM students taking part in Engage24 across Alabama’s campuses in October.
The event began several years ago as a national grassroots effort by BCM groups to help students focus on sharing Christ with students on their campus, said Mike Nuss, director of the office of student ministries for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
It was originally designed to be a one-day, 24-hour effort, but after the first year of trying it that way, Alabama BCM groups expanded it to 24 days of “intensive personal evangelism,” Nuss said.
And during those 24 days, Franklin and others fanned out across UAB’s campus, engaging students in conversations by doing spiritual surveys. Some students just humored them, Franklin said. But others seemed hungry for the message.
Joe was one of those people.
“He was an international student from China, and I could tell he was really interested in what I had to say,” Franklin said.
He told her that his family was a different religion, one that frowned upon Christianity, so he didn’t know much about it at all.
“I went through the salvation story and asked him if he had heard it before, and he said he hadn’t,” Franklin said. “That shocked me, that here in Alabama there are people who have never heard it.”
She asked Joe if he was interested, and he said he was. They prayed together, and in the weeks since then, Franklin has talked with him regularly and helped him get involved in the BCM’s Chinese ministry.
She said she can see that he’s different. “I could tell the Holy Spirit has taken over in his heart.”
And she’s different too.
“That day as Joe and I talked I felt God move in me in a way I had never felt before,” she said. “God showed me that it has nothing to do with me — it is all Him.”
Work of God
Bill Morrison, senior campus minister at UAB, said he saw God move in that way over and over through the students and local churches who partnered with them for Engage24.
Leading up to the event, SBOM and local church staff members came in to train BCM students in cross-cultural evangelism, and during the 24 days, they held several outreach events on campus in addition to conducting spiritual surveys. Across the state more than 20 students professed Christ during Engage24 — and 16 of those were at UAB.
Morrison said that over the course of the 24 days, he watched as students got more and more bold in sharing their faith.
“We had some students that this was their first experience of sharing their faith,” he said. “At the beginning they would hang close to the group, but as the days went on, they would fan out and boldly approach students to share.”
Ariana Ramos, a UAB freshman, was one of those.
“God had laid on my heart that I really needed to be more bold about my faith and to just use my words and take a step away from ministering through the shelter of church,” she said. “When I came to UAB and found out about Engage24, I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to do that and put it into practice.”
Ramos said she originally thought people would be closed off to the message, but she found quickly that many were willing to listen.
“It took my fear away,” she said.
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