When Tim Peterson arrived at UW-Eau Claire in 1981, he wanted to get serious about following Jesus. He had become a Christian in high school but didn’t start to take ownership for his own spiritual growth until he joined the UW-Eau Claire InterVarsity chapter. (Tim claims that this chapter took him “under their wing.”) He eventually became a student leader with InterVarsity and also served on the executive team.
In 1985 Tim graduated, married his fiancee, Tracy, and then accepted a position as a pastoral intern for a local church in Milwaukee. After a year there, Tim needed to make a decision: Did he want to pursue full-time church ministry or did he want to go on staff with InterVarsity?
First call to campus
“It didn’t take me long to decide how much I missed campus ministry work,” said Tim. “By the end of my internship in 1986, I decided to go on staff with InterVarsity.”
Tim’s first assignment from his InterVarsity supervisor was to replant a chapter at UW-Stevens Point. Before moving, Tim shared with a few high school seniors from the local church he was serving in Milwaukee what he was going to be doing at UW-Stevens Point. Within twenty-four hours, those four students approached Tim and said, “We’ve all decided that we are going to go to UW-Stevens Point for college because we want to help you do what you’re doing.”
So these four students plus Tim all went to UW-Stevens Point and helped replant the InterVarsity chapter. For the four students who went with Tim, seeing the influence they could have on the college campus while they were undergraduates made them want to stay on campus and remain in the academic world even after they graduated.
Three decided to get PhDs, several got involved with International Student Ministry, one became a staff worker for InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries, and one became a faculty advisor for an InterVarsity chapter.
Investing in student leaders
Tim stated that one of the most transformational moments he has experienced as a staff worker was directing InterVarsity’s Leadership Institute over the course of nine summers (1997-2006).
“This Leadership Institute is a month-long program where we bring our best and brightest students to grow in deeper ways than a week-long conference can provide,” he stated. “It was during those summers that God showed me how terrific it was to be in ministry, and in the end those summers deepened my call to ministry.”
It wasn’t until 2010 that Tim ever considered going off staff. By that point he had become a Divisional Director. As that work came to an end, however, he thought it might be a good time to leave. He had begun asking God what was next for him.
That’s when the accident happened.
On August 28, 2010, Tim was involved in a cycling accident. A truck pulling farm equipment clipped the back tire of his bike during one of his rides.
Renewed call to campus ministry
There is almost no reason why Tim should have survived the accident. And there is no reason why Tim should have been able to get up and run to get help. He had no idea how extensive his injuries were: a broken neck, a broken collarbone, a punctured lung, and a broken bone pressing into an artery (though not puncturing it).
Tim spent the next 81 days in the hospital confined to bed rest; he had to wear a halo collar, which basically prevented him from doing any of his supervisory work.
“While I was in the hospital, I learned to be very content. I was forced to reflect,” Tim noted. “God got my attention and told me that I wasn’t done with campus ministry.”
After recovering from his injuries, Tim was invited to become the Regional Director of the Great Lakes and Plains, and he loves it.
“The Great Lakes and Plains is a region full of opportunity—campuses where InterVarsity doesn’t exist,” said Tim. “We’ve identified twenty campuses where we would like to plant chapters.”
Tim is excited to see what God does in the next few years as they begin to roll out their five-year plan for ministry across the region. If there’s one thing that Tim’s learned while being on staff with InterVarsity, it’s that God’s work is never done and that we all matter to God and his mission in our world. Our gifts and passions play an essential role in transforming lives—and God’s work is happening, even when we can’t see it.