A new friendship continues to grow as BCF students Elyssa McCallum in Florida and Hannah Weber (on screen) in New York, regularly meet online during the pandemic.
Photo courtesy of Baptist College of Florida

Campus ministry goes virtual, connects distance learners to fellow students

When students at the Baptist College of Florida were required to move fully online to complete the spring 2020 semester, a long-distance friendship formed between a student in Graceville and another student living in New York.

Staying connected

Like other colleges around the country, BCF went online in the spring semester and continued many online classes through the summer. Baptist Collegiate Ministry leader Lance Beauchamp explored unique ways to keep students connected and engaged spiritually.

Beauchamp moved his weekly Coffee Hour to a virtual meeting and added a weekly “virtual but real Bible study” for all of the students through Zoom. He sent out email reminders, posted on Facebook and encouraged students to participate in the online BCM events to stay connected throughout the semester and through the summer.

All of the BCF students, whether taking classes online or on campus, were now connected to the BCM events online, together, in a way that otherwise might not have been considered in the past.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, two BCF students connected via one of the BCM Zoom sessions and formed an unlikely friendship. Hannah Weber is from New York’s Hudson Valley and started her degree program at BCF in 2018 as a fully online student. She is seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education in hopes of one day teaching in a piano studio or school.

Being a fully online student, Weber has never been able to join any extracurricular events or gatherings that BCF has provided, other than those available on the website or through classroom experiences.

Reaching out

Meanwhile, Elyssa McCallum, a senior from Crestview, Florida, who is pursuing a degree in elementary education, also made it a priority to join every Zoom meeting and every online Bible study that the school offered. After hearing Weber’s testimony, McCallum reached out and offered support from one BCF student to another.

After an exchange of emails, it soon turned into personal Zoom meetings, FaceTime calls and now a wonderful friendship.

“When I came to BCF, I had no idea how someone taking an online class could commune with his or her peers or classmates on campus,” Weber said. “There is such a Christlike community at BCF, and now anyone can take part in this community!”

Both students said the unique connection has been a blessing.

“While this pandemic has brought many hardships to the world, the Lord has brought many blessings through it as well. Without the pandemic, I don’t think I would have ever been able to join a BCF Bible study online, and I definitely wouldn’t have really ‘met’ Dr. Lance or Elyssa,” Weber said. “I have been very blessed to be able to find a like-minded Christian friend, and it is truly an answer to many years of prayer.” McCallum agreed.

Encouragement

“This unlikely occurrence has just brought so much encouragement in this difficult time. Getting to connect with other Christians that are the same age as me is a cool experience. And that we have so much in common is like a super God thing, like we would have never met if quarantine hadn’t happened.”

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By Sandra Richards