READING FOR LIFE
by Lisa Tramontana
Young people are faced with big decisions regarding their careers, their relationships, and their education. But perhaps the most important decision is the one that often gets pushed to the background.
What do I believe? What is my purpose? What is God’s plan for me?
These are the questions that LSU Cru staff members try to help young people answer — through prayer, reflection and reading God’s Word. Cru offers spiritual guidance, resources and programs tailored for people from all cultures and walks of life. Its ministries include athletic outreaches, church partnerships, family and marriage outreaches, and programs that address poverty and other social issues. Cru is also responsible for 6.5 billion exposures to the Gospel through “The Jesus Film,” which has been translated in more than 1,300 languages and shown all over the world.
Cru officially started as Campus Crusade for Christ, founded in 1951 by Bill and Vonette Bright on the campus of UCLA. It quickly became an international organization training thousands of young people in evangelism and discipleship. Today, the organization is comprised of 29 different ministries and projects in 173 nations around the world.
At the college level, Cru creates partnerships between U.S. campuses and those in other parts of the world. LSU’s “sister” college is the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy, and an LSU group makes the trip there each summer for four to six weeks. A Cru staff team of eight is based there year-round. “Our purpose is to help others build a relationship with Christ, engage with their Creator, hear God’s Word and grow spiritually,” said Ali Enos, a senior staff member who has worked with LSU Cru for 16 years.
In Bologna, young people are very open to the idea of hearing God’s Word, Enos said, and there are many opportunities for Cru members to connect with them. A daily lunch on campus creates a friendly atmosphere for the Italian students to talk about their culture and show off their city to their American visitors. But more important, Enos said, is that young Italians are very relational, eager to debate, discuss and share their opinions in a tolerant, respectful way.
“We have a movie night once a week,” Enos said, “and the film we choose always has some redemptive theme, giving us an opportunity to discuss the spiritual aspects of our lives and invite the Italian students to learn more. There is also a daily ‘aperitivo’ in the evenings when people enjoy appetizers. It’s another chance for us to make new friends and introduce them to our thoughts on having a personal relationship with Christ.”
Enos finds her work gratifying because she knows firsthand what it is like to be young and in search of a purpose in life. “I was the typical college student who liked to go out and party,” she said. “But I was looking for meaning in all the wrong places. I would come home, stare at the ceiling and ask myself, ‘Is this all there is?’”
Eventually, a friend introduced her to the Gospel and Enos became a Christian. “I fell in love with Jesus and what He did for me,” she said. “My life changed. My friend taught me the difference between religion and having a true relationship with Christ.”
Until then, she said, she had looked to other people for her identity. She cared too much about what others thought of her. “When I became a Christian, I found my identity through Christ. Other people’s opinions of me didn’t dominate my thinking and it was very freeing.”
Enos is proud of the relationships she has formed and the students she has influenced over the years. “You don’t need a degree in theology to bring people to Christ,” she said. “And you don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary. You can do God’s work wherever you are. I am grateful that God has used me the way he has. Over the years I’ve had students (and their parents, too) come up and thank me for sharing God’s Word. I don’t have children of my own, but I have ‘spiritual’ children, which makes me really happy.”
Cru has been life-changing for many others as well. Vicky Benton says that during her college years at LSU, the Word of God came alive because of the training and opportunities provided by Cru.
“I was blown away with the joy I experienced seeing God work through me to impact the lives of others,” she said. “I experienced the power of the Scriptures as I heard many outstanding speakers teach in a way that I’d not heard up to that point. I was able to rub shoulders with and be mentored by some of the most exceptional people I have ever known. Their impact lives inside me today.”
Benton later earned a degree in counseling — partly, she says, from the discovery that she loved investing in the lives of others. “Cru’s recruitment motto to join them full time after graduation was ‘Come help change the world!’ But really … I’m the one who was changed, and I will be forever grateful!”
For more information on Cru’s ministries, programs and activities, visit Cru.org.