Before stepping onto the University of Texas at Arlington campus as a freshman, Ashleigh Hood had a lack confidence in her relationship with Jesus.
Though she had been exposed to the Gospel and attended church semi-regularly, Hood felt her faith had never been her own.
“I hadn’t accepted Christ. I had been baptized, but out of a social obligation. There wasn’t any meaning for me behind it,” said Hood.
For a multitude of reasons, including being surrounded by poor influences and feeling like she didn’t fit in with the church crowd, Hood abandoned church altogether by the time she was in high school. However, everything would change as she began her freshman year.
“I got to orientation at UTA and felt such a strong pull towards joining a Christian fellowship group, and I didn’t know why. Though I was unsure, I decided to go check it out,” said Hood.
She approached the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) table, and was instantly met with warmth and kindness. Jaclyn Sugg, a campus missionary for UTA’s BSM, called Hood within the week, asking her to meet one-on-one. The kind gesture showed Hood the love of Christ and after their meeting, Hood was not only certain that she wanted to join the BSM, but that she desired to fully commit her life to Christ.
“After we met, I decided to go home and go to church with my dad. I realized there that I hadn’t ever told God that He was what I wanted. So, it was there, at church by myself, that I accepted Christ,” said Hood.
When Hood made it back to campus, she didn’t tell many about her new relationship with the Lord, but she jumped into involvement with the BSM.
Sugg remembers her first meeting with Hood, as well. As a campus missionary, Sugg meets with new students interested in being a part of the BSM. In response to many incoming students being overwhelmed by everything new happening, Sugg said that the BSM staff desires to have intentional one-on-one time with new students to personally hear their stories.
“I remember talking to Ashleigh and thinking that she was already a believer. We talked about the importance of Christian fellowship during college and how she needed a spiritual family. I told her we would be there for her during the hard times and the good times, and help her be the person God wanted her to be,” said Sugg.
Sugg got to see Hood become heavily involved in the BSM throughout the semester. Hood joined a freshman small group, was actively involved in Bible studies and attended every BSM event. She was a faithful servant, according to Sugg.
Throughout the semester, Sugg endured a difficult season. She wrestled with the Lord about whether or not she was making a difference in her job. She had every intention of pursuing a career in business after graduating. Her plans were quickly changed when the opportunity to work at the BSM presented itself.
When Sugg met with Hood again in the spring semester, the Lord provided proof that Sugg was making a difference as Hood shared with her about her salvation after their initial meeting. Without even knowing it, the Lord had used Sugg to transform someone’s life.
“I’ve realized that at least for the time being, I’m getting to accomplish what I really wanted, but I’m doing it a different way. Instead of having a full-time job and reaching out to my coworkers, I’m spending time with college students to disciple them. Then, they graduate and disciple others in the workforce,” said Sugg. “I know that I am making a difference.”
Currently, Hood is a sophomore working toward her degree in architecture. She is serving on the leadership team with the BSM, leads a sophomore off-campus Bible study and helps with Noonday, a free lunch the BSM provides to students every Wednesday during the school year.
This past summer, she helped Sugg conduct and delegate over 350 one-on-one meetings with new students.
“The thing that led Ashleigh to Christ, she’s now in charge of and has helped hundreds of other students personally connect with the BSM,” said Sugg.
“We love being on the front lines of the Great Commission,” said UTA BSM Director Gary Stidham. “We love being in a place where light is obvious among darkness. Openness to the Gospel among unchurched students here is remarkable - they really want to know about Jesus.”
Last year, UTA’s BSM saw 67 students make professions of faith. On the first day of classes this fall, two students came to know Christ. With the 90 student leaders like Hood and Sugg, transformation will continue on this campus.
To learn more about Collegiate Ministry, visit texasbaptists.org/collegiate.