Although he uttered a “sinner’s prayer” as a Baptist youth because he feared going to hell over unconfessed transgressions, Joshua M. Moran rarely attended church. Parties where he got drunk and swore a lot turned out to be more frequent gathering places. But soon after he began attending college, his life turned around.
“Chi Alpha found me at the University of Virginia,” Moran says of the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions outreach on mainstream campuses. “I felt the Holy Spirit in a way I did not have the vocabulary for at the time.”
Moran’s grandmother Wanda Sears bought him a leather-bound study Bible, he joined a Chi Alpha small group on the campus in Charlottesville, and he ceased imbibing and cursing.
No one in his family had ever been to college. The self-confident Moran had lofty goals. He wanted to become a lawyer, be elected senator, and then run the free world. His Chi Alpha involvement altered his goals to other means of persuasion. He switched his major to religious studies.
Moran graduated in 2007, and he responded to the Chi Alpha student missions challenge to “give a year and pray about a lifetime.” The following year, Josh and Katie Summers became the first UVA Chi Alpha interns. Josh and Katie married in 2009.
“I had a degree in religion, but during the internship I grew in ways I could never have imagined,” says Moran, 36. “It was one of the most formative years of my life in learning as I was repeatedly challenged to be a disciple-maker. I knew I wanted to do Chi Alpha forever.”
The Morans joined the Chi Alpha staff at the University of Virginia and planned to stay a couple of years. But they changed their minds. They built their dream home, began raising four children, and planned to remain at the school in ministry the rest of their vocational days. While rising to assistant director at the UVA Chi Alpha, Josh also took over as Chi Alpha director of the Potomac Ministry Network six years ago, a role he maintains.
U.S. missionary Pete S. Bullette has directed Chi Alpha at the University of Virginia for 20 years, taking it from a core group of 15 students to 500, now meeting in 50 small groups.
“I saw Josh go from a young Christian who never read his Bible to a person whose mind and character became more Christ-like,” says Bullette, 44. “He has matured in his walk with Christ and is a deep follower of Jesus in so many ways.”
Bullette commends Moran for his strong people skills, preaching gifts, and administrative abilities.
“He brings a certain joy and energy to any room,” Bullette says. “Josh is a Kingdom gem.”
Twelve years into their UVA ministry, the Morans sensed a calling to launch a Chi Alpha ministry at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. So they sold their recently constructed dream home and moved into a century-old fixer-upper a block from the JMU campus, which has more than 22,000 students. Those at Harrisonburg First Assembly, including pastor Jeff A. Ferguson, had been praying about ministering to college students and the church has been supportive of the couple’s efforts.
JMU is one of the more selective schools in the nation in terms of applicants. The university offers 115 degree programs, with nursing, education, speech pathology, and sports management among the most popular educational pursuits.
The Morans, who are both ordained AG ministers and U.S. missionaries, started the ministry on campus in 2019 and shared responsibilities. The COVID-19 pandemic hit that first school year, forcing the Morans to be creative in their outreach efforts. Gatherings had to be held outside, with participants wearing masks and staying 10 feet apart.
With all their children — 10-year-old Emma; 9-year-old Levi; 6-year-old Judah; and 4-year-old Esther — being in school this fall, Katie will take over the lead campus role as Josh spends more time with Potomac Ministry Network duties. Others on the JMU ministry team include Hunter and Julia Johnson, Rachel Colón, and intern Faith Funkhouser.
Josh succeeded U.S. missionary Stefanie Chappell as Potomac Ministry Network Chi Alpha director. She has known him for 14 years.
“I’ve seen him thrive as a young leader who took on more responsibilities with excellence, integrity, conviction, and influence,” says Chappell, who since 2016 has been the national Chi Alpha field director overseeing eight area directors. “He has serious leadership skills and is really smart, which may not be the first thing you notice because he is so relational and fun.”
KATIE AS LEADER
Josh anticipates a time of growth at James Madison University’s Chi Alpha in 2021-22.
“This could be our first normal year,” he says. “We will have unrestricted social events for the first time. But small groups will still be the heartbeat of who we are.”
Katie grew up in the AG and always wanted to be a part of Chi Alpha. Josh says in their first two years at JMU she discipled the majority of the staff and led the bulk of the meetings. He says the Church shouldn’t lag behind the business world when it comes to promoting women leaders.
“For years, the Assemblies of God has said we are pro-women in ministry, but that is not always the reality,” Josh says. “The task is too great for half the population to remain on the sidelines. This is biblical; we need all hands on deck.”
Bullette says Katie shares her husband’s heart for ministry.
“They have a lot of solidarity in the mission,” Bullette says. “Josh has been a champion for women in leadership.”
Chappell, 53, expects Katie to thrive as a leader.
“Katie is an outstanding discipler and preacher,” says Chappell, who has been with Chi Alpha for three decades. “What both Katie and Josh bring to the table is essential.”