Big Easy Disciples
Christine Johns was a sophomore at Eastern New Mexico University when she surrendered her life to Jesus.
“I realized that God loved me,” says Johns, now 30. “I’d made terrible decisions, and really wanted God to be my Lord and lead my life.”
That sophomore year in 2005 also was when Hurricane Katrina, the most damaging natural disaster in U.S. history, struck the Gulf coast. Johns sympathized with the devastation that displaced students who came to her school in Portales had endured. So when a resident assistant exchange program presented an opportunity to spend a year at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, she went.
Aware of LSU’s reputation as a party school, Johns says she envisioned herself as the only Christian on campus — until a friend invited her to a Chi Alpha Campus Ministries event. The genuine community of the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions ministry captured her heart. Through Chi Alpha, Johns received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
“I wanted to pursue knowing God deeper and helping others know God deeper,” says Johns. After the yearlong exchange program ended, the former Clovis, New Mexico, resident decided to remain at LSU. She also switched her premed major to pursue God’s ministry calling.
Now Johns is an ordained AG minister and has been the Chi Alpha campus pastor at the University of New Orleans for the past six years. Last year, her husband, Hilton, a former youth pastor, joined her in co-directing Chi Alpha activities. The couple are now U.S. Missions missionary candidates at UNO.
Christine’s heart for missions is evidenced by the way she challenges students to think beyond themselves, so they’ll go serve God in a variety of settings. This past year, Johns sent teams to the Atlanta Dream Center, the University of Mississippi, and an African group in Minneapolis.
Several students from the New Orleans citywide team went to Atlanta over spring break, where they mainly worked on outreach in the city, especially with underprivileged children.
Another group of students went to help start a Chi Alpha chapter at the University of Mississippi. While there, they put on a huge campus outreach as well as other events where students could connect.
In May, a student team spent 10 days in Minneapolis helping Somali refugees learn English and job-related skills. The underlying goal was to connect Muslims who might be interested in learning about Jesus to a long-term missionary in the area.
From the library to the cafeteria to the leadership development classes she teaches, Johns says she loves helping people achieve breakthroughs in their faith. Thought-provoking discussions equip students with the spiritual tools they need. In the process, Johns says she’s learned not to make suppositions.
“It’s easy to assume that everyone has heard the gospel and knows who Jesus is.” However there are many people who have grown up in the United States without ever having heard the gospel or knowing who certain Bible characters are.”
Jack Felty, 21, was such a student.
“I knew the name of Jesus, but had never been told about who He was in relation to who God is or who I am,” Felty says. “I’d been told next to nothing about the Bible, the gospel, or the entire creation story before coming to UNO.”
The first time Felty heard the good news was at Chi Alpha’s Fall Breakaway retreat. That first day he says he participated in outdoor games, played football, and gave his life to Christ.
“It only took one time to hear the gospel message to know it was true,” Felty says.
Johns not only baptized Felty, but also has been willing to have those difficult conversations that have helped him understand the challenges of being a Christian.
Part of that change involved a global encounter in Guatemala. Because Johns speaks functional Spanish, she has led that team to the Central American country each of the past five years. On his first trip out of the country, Felty worked with people, especially children, in underdeveloped areas. Team members shared their stories, put on Bible skits, and helped the kids memorize Bible verses in Spanish.
Pictured: Christine Johns, third from right