Aparna had no idea what to expect when she arrived in America and on the campus of East Tennessee State University. Johnson City couldn’t be more culturally different from her home in Northern India.
She didn’t know anybody when school started. One day she saw a group of people standing around and wandered over to see what was going on. It was the Pop-Tart Cart, a ministry of the ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry. Sure, it is a place to grab a pack of Pop-Tarts and a cup of coffee, but it is really a connecting point for BCMers to share the love of Jesus and the gospel with fellow students. One of them struck up a conversation with Aparna and invited her to the BCM. That invitation changed her life.
She made lots of new friends in the following weeks and frequently heard the gospel. It wasn’t long before she realized her need for a Savior and gave her life to Jesus. Awesome!
But the story gets better.
Mark is a country boy from Limestone, a small community between Johnson City and Greeneville. Mark grew up unchurched and never spent much energy thinking about God, or if there even was a God. He met some guys from the BCM who invited him to come and hang out. Mark is a deep thinker so all the talk of God, Jesus, sin, the cross and salvation was a lot to process. One day he stopped by Jonathan Chapman’s office, your Tennessee Baptist Mission Board BCM minister, and asked him to explain the gospel. Mark eventually left Jonathan’s office a new brother in Christ.
But wait, there’s more.
Mark and Aparna soon began to talk and there was a mutual attraction, but before Mark asked her out on a date, he wanted to know three things: If she believed in God, if she knew Jesus died on the cross to save her, and if she had accepted that and was a Christian. The answers were all yes, which led to a date which led to marriage just two months ago.
But the story gets even better.
Aparna’s parents came from India for the wedding and while here, Luka Temaj, Mark and Aparna’s pastor at Faith Fellowship Baptist Church in Johnson City, saw an opportunity. Luka and his wife, Jamie, invested themselves heavily in Aparna’s parents and one morning over breakfast, this Serbian-Albanian pastor who is now a U.S. citizen, led this Indian man to Christ sitting in a Cracker Barrel in Johnson City, Tenn.
Only our great God can orchestrate such an amazing story.
I’ve said thousands of times that any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field. Then there is a mission field within that mission field, and in the center of that mission field sits a Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
Approximately 350,000 college students — including thousands from countries around the world — are arriving on campuses across our state for the 2018-2019 school year. An overwhelming majority of them have no relationship with Christ. However, because Tennessee Baptists give through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, Tennessee Baptists have a Christ-centered, gospel-sharing, disciple-making presence on more than 20 campuses across the state.
Your TBMB BCMs are also partners with local churches, encouraging students to get involved with a local church while at school.
This Sunday, Aug. 12, is the Day of Prayer for BCM. In this issue of the Baptist and Reflector you’ll find a complete list of our BCMs, their locations and the minister at that campus. I strongly encourage you to use that list to systematically pray for each and every one. Pray that this ministry will reap a great harvest of souls that will generate endless stories of God’s faithfulness.
Stories like Mark’s and Aparna’s.
It is truly a joy to be on this journey with you.