Mike McQuitty has almost always seen himself as a missionary. He gave his life to Christ at the age of six and in high school, realized he loved ministry work and especially missions.
"In college I served as a summer missionary in Colorado and Russia. And while in seminary at Southwestern, I served in youth ministry and then collegiate work for three years at University Baptist Church in Forth Worth," McQuitty said. "Through these experiences, my heart for missions and college students continued to grow."
As McQuitty thought through ministry career options, he was drawn to campus ministry because he sees it as missions work.
"The college years are a time when young people are making the decisions that will shape the rest of their lives, yet often it is a time when faith is put on a shelf," he said.
"You have literally thousands of students gathered in one place where we're able to repeatedly expose them to the Gospel and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that comes through a relationship with Jesus. That's an amazing opportunity."
When McQuitty graduated from seminary, he and his wife, Vicki, began looking for the place where God would have them invest their lives.
"We began looking for needs and saw an urgent NAMB Mission Service Corps request to come to the Northeast," he said. "There were a variety of universities looking for campus ministers and Syracuse University was on the list.
"We flew up and investigated, prayed, and began to feel God calling us here, to central New York, to invest our lives."
There had been some campus ministry at Syracuse in the past, but when the McQuittys arrived, there was just one student left from the former ministry.
"Her name was Alaya," McQuitty recalls. "She had a great heart for God and wanted to see Him do great things on this campus."
Mike, Vicki, and Alaya began with some very simple things — Bible study, discipleship, and all kinds of outreach activities.
"A few students began to come and we began to invest our lives in them, and they began to catch a vision for how God could use them to reach not only their peers, but the world with the Good News of Christ," McQuitty said.
Today, Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at Syracuse is thriving. In addition to the original activities, the BCM has added a large group gathering on Tuesdays, including a free lunch. Mike and the students also go out each week to share their faith and hold a prayer meeting every morning, plus a worship service on Sundays.
"God is moving here," McQuitty said. "A lot of students are beginning to get involved in ministry, and we are seeing lives changed."
One of those changed lives is Mayelin Nolasco, who began coming to the BCM with her roommate. "My first impression was that these people were very serious about their faith," Nolasco said. "They weren't in it just for show — they were earnestly seeking God. I'd never experienced anything like that before.
"It took about a year, but I'd gotten to know Christ pretty well and I knew I wanted to pursue a relationship with Him," she said. Through the church that was born out of the BCM, Nolasco gave her life to Christ.
"I enjoy worship and I feel like I can go on campus and speak to my pastor," she said. "That's something that's really made a difference for me. With all the stress from work and classes, it's good to have a Christian support system on campus."
The birth of a church was something McQuitty never expected. "There was a great hesitancy," he said. "Because it's not like any church I've ever been a part of."
After much prayer and consultation with area pastors, Mike and the students felt God confirm they should become a church. Many of the students became members and the church has begun to flourish and grow.
"It's a bit peculiar," McQuitty said. "Most of the members are between 18 and 22 years old. Yet, it's exciting. The students serve in all the roles of the church. They have a great passion to both know God and make Him known."
McQuitty feels a church on campus is important because a college campus is much like a mission field. Students have their own culture and lifestyle isolated around the university. Students feel comfortable coming to a church on campus and bringing their lost friends.
"So many of these students have never heard about a God who loves them and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for their sins," McQuitty said. "They don't know that they can have a meaningful relationship with God now and for eternity, but they're usually pretty open to hearing about that.
"I just really believe that if God would grab hold of one generation, that set of students would be able to reach their parents, grandparents, and their children and grandchildren. And the entire northeast region of the nation would be changed."
AAEO FAST FACTS
The reason we give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO)
To help our missionary force reach for Christ an estimated 255 million lost people in the United States and Canada; that's three of four people.
AAEO national goal for 2010
Amount given to AAEO in 2009
Year-end figures totaled more than $56 million
Amount of AAEO used to support missionaries and their work
Number of NAMB missionaries
More than 5,300. Generally, a third of the number represents career missionaries, a third are short-term funded missionaries, and a third are Mission Service Corps missionaries.
Total 2010 NAMB budget
Amount of NAMB budget that comes from AAEO
Amount of NAMB budget from Cooperative Program
What do AAEO-supported missionaries do?
• Start new churches
• Engage in student evangelism on college campuses
• Serve the physical and spiritual needs of people through inner-city Baptist centers
• Serve in local Baptist associations as associational missionary or other mission staff
• Provide training and ministry in apologetics (interfaith witness) evangelism
• Minister in resort settings such as campgrounds and ski areas
Jami Becher attends Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, and is a writer for the North American Mission Board.