As the 2020 Fall semester started at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) staff met together to evaluate how their ministry would look different as the COVID-19 pandemic drastically modified life on campus. In light of the restrictions on events and gatherings, the BSM has adapted a motto of “getting back to the basics,” with an emphasis on evangelism. This new emphasis has already resulted in multiple salvations in the city of El Paso.
“It’s really caused us to evaluate the things that we were doing and to see if that was the best use of our time and the best way to equip our students for lifelong ministry,” Hunter Ballew, director of the UTEP BSM, explained. “So that’s led us to really elevate evangelism and discipleship.”
Evangelism has always been an emphasis, Ballew said, but it was mainly focused on the university’s campus. Ballew and the BSM staff began thinking about how they could prepare the students to evangelize after college, in a non-campus environment.
“Evangelism is something that we’ve always done. Campus has always been, up until this semester, the obvious mission field, which I think limited how we were preparing our students. And it caused us to ask, ‘are we preparing them for life after college?’” Ballew said.
With campus mostly shut down, the BSM staff discovered it was the perfect time to introduce the students to sharing the Gospel in environments that they may encounter on a daily basis, whether as a student or a working adult. This became the “Evangelism Challenge,” a list of everyday places and activities that were transformed into Gospel-sharing opportunities. The list included activities like going to a local park and sharing the Gospel with the first person they came across or going to their favorite coffee shop and striking up a Gospel conversation with the barista.
Ballew hopes the Evangelism Challenge will give students a familiarity with having Gospel conversations in everyday situations so that they will feel comfortable doing it on their own in later situations.
This challenge has already seen fruit in the city and the lives of the students. One group of BSM students went to downtown El Paso, where they struck up a conversation with a group of men. After they shared the Gospel with the men, the students asked if the men would like to receive Jesus into their lives.
“It was really reminiscent of early Acts… one of the men said, ‘how can I not receive this? What do I need to do?’” Ballew said.
Another group went to a park, where they prayer-walked and began sharing the Gospel. One of the students began sharing with a group of high school students, who engaged and began asking questions. One of the high schoolers prayed to receive Christ.
The BSM students were so overjoyed and encouraged by God’s work in the park that they began working on plans to start a ministry that meets weekly there. They are now meeting weekly with Ballew to develop a plan and pray over their new ministry.
Ballew is hopeful that campus life at UTEP will open again soon. He is excited for on-campus ministry to resume so that the BSM can expand the Evangelism Challenge there as well. Even when campus is open though, they plan to continue encouraging students to evangelize throughout El Paso.
“The Lord challenged us this semester to see if our ministry was preparing students for when they graduate and leave campus,” Ballew said. “We will continue to do ministry on campus when it reopens to us, but we will also continue to consider the rest of El Paso and send students out and mobilize them all over El Paso.”