Director of College Missions, Greg Richards, said he loves it when Jesus says crazy things, such as “don’t worry about tomorrow,” or “pray for those who persecute you.” He continued, “One of the many things I love about my job working with college students is that many of them can still hear Jesus sound crazy.”
Richards, who was hired to work in College Missions four years ago, said the college students don’t understand the real world yet, so they still believe the crazy things Jesus says and they live into that. “Whether its our interns living together on $400 a month, or our student leaders having conversations that matter with other students, or stepping up to help homeless folks in San Antonio and leading high schoolers in worship and prayer, the most amazing thing is that these young people I work with really try to follow Jesus,” said Richards.
He was happy to report that the four programs in San Antonio: the Bridge, the Fire, and the Road, at St. Mary’s, Incarnate Word, and the University of Texas at San Antonio are thriving and growing. “In a given week, we see about 200 students in our programs and they come together to grow in scriptural knowledge, overall maturity, and many our developing into young leaders,” said Richards.
This past fall, a new program, The Spring, was started at Texas State University in San Marcos under the leadership of Bianca Leonard and Sam Regonini. A core group of students is beginning to emerge. Richards continues to be in conversation with priests and church leaders all over the diocese to plan the next moves.
“We want to be strategic and intentional as we grow, and I am pleased to announce that this fall we will be putting our first person in Corpus Christi with a mission to research, determine what our ministry might look like there, and to build relationships that will smooth our growth in that area,” reported Richards.
College Missions is also looking to see how to replicate the Elisha Leadership Initiative program in other parts of the diocese as a way of providing aid to local churches and helping to grow college missions in those places.
The plan to grow is working. And most of this is because of the good people involved, including the Council on College Missions and the College Missions staff – Allie Melancon, assistant director, and Roberto Cellis and Leonard and Regonini. Richards also gave due credit to the ELI interns team – Willy, Wes, Austin, Caroline, Chelsea, and Michael.
This year the six interns, who are working at churches, non-profits, and Camps and Conferences, were challenged last August with the number 1,000 – a goal as a team to have 1,000 conversations with college students, and those conversations only counted if they were with a new student. They surpassed that number in January, and they are still talking to new students.
Richards extended thanks to the diocese as a whole. “We believe God is working,” said Richards. “It is a specific hope in the specific Jesus who said some of that really crazy stuff. It is this Jesus who we follow onto college campuses, and who students respond to and follow,” he said.