Discovering HBCU Pathways
While growing up in Spring, Texas, SirJames Offord occasionally went to church, but he never had a close relationship with the Lord. That changed when he attended Sam Houston State University and Chi Alpha Campus Ministries small group leader Michael Ubador befriended him.
Offord went to Chi Alpha meetings and developed a close friendship with Ubador and several other students. Through Chi Alpha events and Ubador’s friendship, Offord began to learn what it meant to live out a real relationship with Christ in everyday life. He helped him learn to love and serve God outside the church doors.
“I always did things for the people I loved to make them happy,” says Offord, now 28. “Mike did the same thing, except God was at the top of his list. By looking at his life, I realized that God wasn’t just a solution to my problems, but that He was worthy of my love.”
Offord went through Chi Alpha’s leadership training the next semester and became a small group leader. He started hosting meetings and developed friendships with other young men, some of whom later became small group leaders as well. In keeping with Chi Alpha’s vision, these young leaders make disciples who in turn make other disciples who serve the Lord wherever life leads them.
After serving as a Chi Alpha student leader at Sam Houston State for four years, Offord spent three years as a full-time staff member. Along the way, he learned that of all the missionaries in the United States — across all denominations — just 1 percent are African Americans. Only a minute number of those missionaries are stationed at any of the nation’s 104 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU). Offord sensed the Lord calling him to go through Chi Alpha’s College Ministry in Training program and pioneer a Chi Alpha college ministry in a needed area.
Offord became friends with Moriah Loris Burrell through Chi Alpha and they shared a passion to reach others with the gospel. They both completed degrees at Sam Houston, and wed each other in 2017.
The Offords are now nationally appointed AG U.S. missionaries and have served for three years with the Chi Alpha National Diversity Task Force, led by Belkis Lehmann. When Lehmann became diversity director in 2015, only one Chi Alpha group existed on an HBCU campus. After two new groups are planted this year, Chi Alpha will have eight teams serving on HBCU campuses.
For missionaries, an understanding and appreciation of the context where they serve is vital. Lehmann has been impressed with the Offords’ cultural connection and how students respond to them.
“The Offords are incredibly talented leaders, but also humble and God-honoring,” says Lehmann. “They are honest, respectful, and extremely teachable. I love their passion for students, their commitment to the mission, and their willingness to venture out.”
In 2019, the Offords and their team eagerly began a new adventure to develop a Chi Alpha group in Texas at Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU campus where they serve as campus directors.
“If the world will know we are disciples by the love we have for one another, we ought to take a serious look at how to love our neighbor,” says Moriah. “In America we have the unique opportunity to bring together believers from many nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. We must link arms with our brothers and sisters in Christ to fight the enemy and every subtle tactic of division, apathy, and miscommunication.”
Lehmann hopes many more will respond to the call to go as missionaries to HBCU campuses, which are located in 22 states and encompass more than 300,000 students.
“These students each have a divine purpose that will go unfulfilled unless someone goes to their campus with the message, in word and deed, of Jesus,” Lehmann says. “We need missionaries who can fully enter the culture and make disciples within the culture.”