A record turnout, an electric atmosphere and a wide variety of attendees contributed to a very successful fifth annual Thanksgiving feast at Unterwegs, the Globalscope campus ministry in Tübingen, Germany.
Tyler and Shalynn Crawford, campus ministers at Unterwegs, recently reported that the crowd of 140 included not only university students who have been coming to Unterwegs for years but also many first-timers, as well as friends from local German churches that support the ministry.
“There were more members of supporting churches present than ever before,” said Tyler. “One of them was so impressed with our event that he came up to me and put a 100 Euro bill in my hand, becoming a supporter right there on the spot!”
Activities at the dinner included a collection of canned goods that are donated to a low-cost grocery store that assists hungry families in Tübingen and Thanksgiving testimonies from four Unterwegs students.
“A freshman, two sophomores and a senior from Unterwegs all stood up to share with the group what they are thankful for,” said Tyler. “Thanksgiving at Unterwegs is really much more than just an event we do; it’s a cross section of the ministry itself.”
The biggest change in this year’s dinner was the location. In previous years it was held in the Unterwegs campus house and then, when it outgrew the house, in heated tents in the Unterwegs garden. This year, however, there was an even better solution.
“We moved it to the Kreuzkirche, a partner church in Tübingen that supports Shalynn and me,” said Tyler. “It’s even closer to campus than the Unterwegs house, it’s free, and there was much more room.
“The churches that we have been reaching out to for years now, churches where Unterwegs students have found an encompassing Christian community, are now reaching back to us,” added Tyler. “They are also being filled with students who may never have come into contact with a church otherwise. And for that we are very thankful!”
In an ironic twist to a year of fundraising by students in the Georgia Tech Christian Campus Fellowship for the Globalscope Germany team, campus minister Rick Harper received the most donations and last week earned a slap in the face with a fish taken from his own pond.
“It was a close battle, but in the end the people spoke and they chose Rick to be slapped,” said Jordan Kor, a member of CCF’s leadership team. “There were even fish scales stuck to his face afterwards!”
The fish slap fundraiser was the culmination of a year-long commitment made by the CCF senior leaders to raise at least $750 per month to help fund Unterwegs, the Globalscope campus ministry in Tubingen, Germany. The leaders have a long-time relationship with Tyler and Shalynn Crawford, members of the GS Germany team, GT graduates and former CCF leaders.
“Tyler and Shalynn were two especially influential people in the lives of many of us,” said Jordan. “Shalynn was an intern during our first year here at Georgia Tech. They are awesome people and we believe in Globalscope as a program. More than half of the members of my leadership group participated with CMF as GS exchange students for at least one semester during our years at GT.”
At their senior retreat last fall, the 17 senior CCF leaders decided to raise $750 per month for Unterwegs through personal monthly donations, fundraising activities and by participating in paid experiments in the university’s psychology department.
“We are proud to say that we made our goal every month,” said Jordan.
Fundraisers included a “hand slap” that raised $300 one month, a project that charged students for the opportunity to wax body hair from CCF member David Rorick and raised $250, and several donation dinners prepared by Rick Harper. Several anonymous donations also helped keep the project afloat.
The group’s commitment ended in April, so they wanted to go out in style with their most entertaining and innovative fundraiser yet, the fish slap. Four brave CCF staff members – Chris House, Marc Smith, Jeremy Lawler and Rick Harper – set up donation jars, and the students could vote for their choices for the recipient of the fish slap with their contributions.
“Overall this fundraiser raised $437!” said Jordan. “We had Nina Kalu-Orji, a sophomore regarded as the sweetest student in CCF, do the slap as planned, but she was too nice to get a good slap in, so Rick was slapped a second time by Meg Costello, who is known for packing a punch. He wasn’t too happy about that, as you can see in the video!”
Unterwegs, the CMF campus ministry in Tübingen, Germany, baptized its first student on September 20. Here’s a first-person account of that amazing evening from Tyler Crawford, a member of the Unterwegs team:
When Carol first came to Unterwegs two years ago she was not a fan of Christians. Not only that, but she was vocal in her disdain for a people that she considered to be judgmental, unthinking, and legalistic, and she shared her disdain with everyone she came into contact with.
After hearing her complaints, her English tutor from the university recommended that Carol come to a Cafe English at Unterwegs to practice her English, but also to meet some Christians who might not fit the stereotypes she held. She came, and not only were her prejudices broken, but she also found a community that cared for her unconditionally, so she became a regular at the ministry.
With her attitude towards Christians softened, Carol left for a semester abroad. In a moment straight from the story of the Prodigal Son, Carol reached a low point while she was abroad and wanted to come back to the community that loved and supported her. When she returned, we were taken aback at the changes that had taken place in her. It was like talking to a new person. She wanted to read the Bible. She came to church with us. She wanted to be involved. She wanted to share her story. She wanted to share Unterwegs with others.
Then on September 20, Carol’s joy, which had been building ever since her return, spilled over after a group meeting. It was close to midnight and the evening was winding down — or so we thought. The band was playing old songs upstairs, students were making plans with each other for the weekend, and staff members were packing up after a long day of prep and talking to students, with the exception of my wife Shalynn, who was downstairs talking with Carol.
“I want to get baptized tonight,” Carol told Shalynn.
“Okay, go talk to Tyler upstairs,” Shalynn replied.
Carol headed right upstairs and went straight to the microphone in front of the room and announced to the room: “Announcement! Announcement! I’m getting baptized in the river tonight, and I want all of you to be there!”
For a moment, the room is silent. This is the first time this has happened at Unterwegs, and the first adult baptism most of our students have ever heard of or will ever see. I said, ‘‘Okay, let’s get ready,” and everyone gets everything they’ll need: a Bible, jackets (it’s in the 40s outside), and lanterns (we don’t have flashlights).
The group walked down to the river behind the Unterwegs house. It’s dark, but the lanterns light the water and the faces of all our staff and the students who make up the core of Unterwegs. Pam (Heald, a team member) reads Psalm 121 aloud. I say a few words: “It’s great we’re all here. Two years ago Carol came for the first time to Unterwegs, and she’s been with us since, but she’s not the same person she was then. We’ve seen Carol transformed by love. Baptism is a symbol of her transformation. She leaves behind a life with sin and starts a new life of love in community together with God and in community together with us.” Nathan (Heald, a team member) reads Romans 6. Austin prays for Carol, and Carol asks to pray, too. Then Carol and I get in the water, and after a confession of faith repeated in short breaths, I dunk her into the water, and the group erupts into applause.
And that is where we are as a ministry. Sometimes it feels like we’re not in control. We do our best to be patient, and what we often get is a lot of heartache and frustration, punctuated once in a while by incredible high notes. We are an eclectic group, to be sure. Looking at the shore from the river, there were the candlelit faces of Philipp, Franz and Diana, our young Christians who discovered that community is a living expression of their faith; Alex and Baschdi, the introvert and the extrovert, the doubter and the seeker, unlikely friends to the end; Jana and Stella, the skeptics who watch with a sense of wonder at the miracle happening in front of them; and the staff, three team members and three interns, those of us pouring out their lives to make miracles like this possible.