The state of Oklahoma had not had an InterVarsity presence in 20 years when Chris Goree and his wife Laurie began a chapter plant at Oklahoma University (OU) in 2008. Chris brought several years of experience in campus ministry to the plant, as well as ten years in the practice of law, but he was new to InterVarsity.
Chris and Laurie’s arrival in Madison for the annual Orientation of New Staff (ONS) was their introduction to InterVarsity culture. They liked what they saw. “We were very impressed with the amount of prayer,” he said, particularly noting the prayer room that was occupied by intercessors throughout ONS.
Chris and Laurie started daily prayer walks on the Norman campus as soon as they returned from Madison, and continue the practice now every Monday night no matter what the weather is like. “We’ve been hailed on twice,” he said. “We pray for OU as a whole, professors, other student groups; anywhere from 8-12 students participate. We’re just talking to God, and with 2-4 people in each group, it sounds conversational.”
The recent World Student Day of Prayer organized by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), of which InterVarsity is a member, provided another opportunity to focus on prayer. The Oklahoma Daily covered the event and highlighted the global connections on the typical college campus: students who have gone abroad to study or to work on short-term missions projects, as well as international students who bring their culture to the U.S.
The scripture teaching for the event was from Revelation 7:9-17, which describes people from every nation and tribe worshiping before God in heaven. “When we can make it look like heaven on earth on a college campus, it’s very healing to people,” Chris said. Because of the newspaper coverage many students who were not part of InterVarsity visited the prayer room set up in the Memorial Union and prayed.
Can’t Get Enough Bible Study
Chris and Laurie’s ONS training also exposed them to Bible study, InterVarsity style. “We just fell in love with doing manuscript study in a large group,” he said. “We have built our weekly large group meeting around manuscript Bible study and prayer for each other. The students seem really hungry to get down to some of the basics of faith.”
Oklahoma University has a number of campus Christian organizations but Chris says InterVarsity stands out to the students because of its back-to-the-basics approach at the large group meeting in the Adams Tower dorm lounge every Thursday night. “They like being able to look at the scriptures themselves, with a group of people they love and trust; the word honesty probably best describes how they feel about it.”
Exchanging Law for Campus Ministry
Chris came to student ministry after a ten year career as an attorney in Tulsa. He was involved in ministry in his church and his neighborhood and although he liked the legal profession he felt he needed to make a choice between practicing law or helping change lives. He felt there wasn’t enough time to do both. “It was very clearly the call of God,” he said. “I wouldn’t have left law practice it if I wasn’t certain that God was calling.”
Chris believes his legal training helps him in campus ministry. “At the end of each manuscript study I’m able to stand up and bring it all together and tell the students what we’re learning,” he said. His vision for campus ministry is to develop in students a love for God and a love for people. “That sums up the law and the prophets,” he noted.
Chris calls his wife Laurie the brains of the operation; they work together as a team. “Her logistical ability is peerless,” he said. “She masters the details well, and turns me loose.”
Tom Lin, InterVarsity’s Central Region director, has mentored Chris through the first year of the chapter plant. He applauds Chris for his energy and for his use of social media to connect with students. “Chris overcame great obstacles,” he observed. “With his utilization of Facebook he’s done a tremendous job of creating an online presence for InterVarsity at OU.”
The chapter has an official photographer to make sure that lots of photos are taken, posted on Facebook, and tagged with students’ names. “Everything we do is on Facebook,” Chris said. “It creates community and it also helps them know each other’s names. I tell students ‘make sure you stalk us online.’ A lot of times they’ll know a lot about what we do before they step inside our door.”
Starting with one student at the beginning of the fall semester in 2008, the OU chapter now has about 50 students involved. Chris is pleased and thankful with how the chapter plant has gone so far. “I think God has blessed me with a tremendous capacity to love students,” he said.
Find out more about Chris and Laurie’s ministry in this video, produced by InterVarsity’s Twentyonehundred Productions. You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at Oklahoma University by following this link.