Missionary Couple Launches First Alaskan Chi Alpha
Leveraging discipleship strategies learned as former Assemblies of God world missionaries in Southeast Asia, Paul and Crystal Burkhart anticipate God blessing America's Last Frontier through their pioneering the state's first Chi Alpha program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).
The Burkharts say two years ago God urged them to return to the U.S., a move they never expected. But on a work trip in Bangkok, Burkhart says he audibly heard God telling him to move to Alaska. Reluctantly he told the Lord, "I'll be obedient, but You must convince my wife."
Upon returning home days later, Paul discovered Crystal on her computer viewing homes for sale in Alaska.
"I was taken back and shocked," he says. "We didn't want to leave Asia, but God has confirmed our decision repeatedly."
Serving in Asia for 10 years, Burkhart learned with his team that making disciples one at a time and training them to return to their villages yielded hundreds of reproducing converts and dozens of home churches. He seeks to replicate a similar model at UAF aimed at Alaskan natives and American Indians, which number almost 20 percent of the 10,000-student population.
Seven missionary associates, all Chi Alpha disciples, joined Burkhart this fall.
"We are beginning by taking a native studies course at UAF and building relationships," he says. "We hope to establish biweekly home groups followed by larger weekly meetings in 2015."
"We had been praying and believing for years for God to raise up a missionary couple to go to Alaska to pioneer Chi Alpha," says E. Scott Martin, national director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. "We have been blessed beyond expectation to have veteran missionaries Paul and Crystal Burkhart move forward in a call of God. But even a greater outcome resulted when they committed to bring a team!"
Burkhart's passion is for converts to return to their isolated communities after graduation to share Christ and to plant churches.
Kevin and Lindsay Welch, saved through Chi Alpha at Sam Houston State University in Texas, are joining the Burkharts. The Welches say they were drawn to the Lord by friendship and discipleship, and will try to teach that model at UAF.
Members of various AG churches in Alaska have been praying for a Chi Alpha ministry for years, according to Robert Ferguson, pastor of Valley Full Gospel Chapel in Healy.
"We are excited because many revivals in history have started in universities," Ferguson says. "What happens in Alaska could impact the world."