Going Cross Cultural to Build a Chapter

Katie Schneider knew she wanted to go on staff after she graduated from Wooster College in 2005, but it wasn’t until she visited Youngstown State University (YSU) that she became passionate about sharing Jesus with students. Out of 14,000 students, fewer than 30 Christians met on a regular basis, all of whom were white. Her heart was broken for those who were without hope.

When Katie arrived on campus, she was introduced to faculty members who worked with her to establish a multiethnic InterVarsity chapter. Professor Phil Munro had been praying for thirty years that a full-time InterVarsity staff would come to YSU. Another faculty member encouraged one of her students to contact Katie. The student became a leader in the young chapter. Things seemed to be off to a great start. Katie envisioned a community that would reach out to the blacks on campus, since they were not being served by the existing Christian ministries.

However, by the end of the first semester, student leaders began to lose their commitment and the chapter faltered. As Katie reassessed the situation, she was convinced of two things, God still wanted an InterVarsity chapter at YSU and the chapter should specifically serve the minority black community on campus. So at the beginning of the next semester, the group Collegiate, Black and Christian was established.

Katie, a young white woman from suburban Connecticut who had gone to a private liberal arts college, was spearheading a black InterVarsity chapter at a commuter school in a working class city in Ohio. How did this happen and would it succeed?

Katie’s personal journey in racial reconciliation began as a freshman in college. She roomed across from Diana, a woman from Jamaica. They would eat together in the cafeteria, sitting with Diana’s friends, who were African American. Katie looked around and saw that she was the only person who was integrating a table in the cafeteria. She was disturbed by that and by the fact that she was not so different from the other white students who chose not to sit with blacks.

Though she was willing to eat with Diana, Katie was apprehensive, concerned what others would think, unsure of how her actions would be interpreted. Katie laid these concerns before the Lord. With the help of InterVarsity staff and resources, Katie learned to love people who do not look like she does. When she moved to Youngstown, she moved into a black neighborhood, meeting her black neighbors and attending a black church.

Katie was the right person to establish a black chapter, but would this chapter prosper or would it too die? Soon a small group of dedicated students were meeting for Bible study, manning a weekly table to let people know the chapter existed, and slowly adding to their numbers.

At one point, Katie suggested that the chapter take the risk of doing a small evangelistic event. She and four chapter members used a Proxe station, a poster presentation, to begin spiritual conversations with students. Students were invited to place a sticker in the area of the poster that best expressed where evil had touched their lives—divorce, poverty or violence, for example. The chapter members initiated conversation, asking students if they thought God cared about evil. During the conversation, InterVarsity students shared the gospel.

After the event, Archel, a young Christian, told the chapter that the experience of witnessing was invigorating. He felt that he was finally doing what he was created to do, telling people about God’s love. Four students became Christians through the witness of the InterVarsity members at the Proxe station.

The end of the school year has arrived. One of the InterVarsity students is heading overseas on a summer missions trip. Another is committed to returning to live and serve in his Youngstown neighborhood after graduation, rather than go to the suburbs. God has accomplished great thing through her prayer, persistence, and God’s grace. Katie is looking forward to seeing how God will bless this new chapter next year.




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