Collaborating on Chi Alpha
Four graduates of Wright State University in Ohio are taking a collaborative approach to ensure there is a Chi Alpha presence on campuses in the Dayton area.
U.S. missionaries Andy and Heather Erickson are focused on Wright State and Sinclair Community College, while Jay and Ashley Seidler are focused at the University of Dayton.
While the Chi Alpha groups at the schools allow for individual expression, by pooling resources and skills, the two married couples believe they can do ministry more effectively. In all, there are 11 Chi Alpha staff members at the trio of schools.
“We are able to reach more campuses working together than we would on our own,” says Heather, 37.
“It’s very taxing on an individual or married couple to try to do it all alone,” says Ashley, 36. “Everything works better in a team. We all have different giftings.”
The Ericksons and the Seidlers became friends in 2004 when they attended Chi Alpha events as students at Wright State. Andy graduated with an electrical engineering degree and found work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; Heather went into marketing for a restaurant franchise after earning a public relations degree.
Andy and Heather considered themselves mediocre Christians when they began their college studies, but four years attending Chi Alpha meetings changed not only their level of spirituality, but eventually their career path. When Wright State Chi Alpha leader U.S. missionary Steve Brannan left to become state director 11 years ago, the Ericksons knew God wanted them to step into the role, even though they walked away from lucrative careers. The couple, both U.S. missionaries, seem equally yoked and equally confident.
One of the distinctives of the Ericksons’ ministry is encouraging students to read books by and about deceased Christian leaders such as Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Catherine Marshall, Corrie Ten Boom, and Elisabeth Elliott.
“We can learn a lot from the many men and women have finished the full race with Jesus,” says Andy, 37. “Today’s society is inundated with new information, new methods, and new ways, but we need to learn from yesterday’s Church. Old dead saints can help us understand Scripture.”
“Everything we do is predicated on replicating Jesus’ model of small group discipleship,” says Heather, who is an executive presbyter with the Ohio Ministry Network. “We put everything into the transgenerational model of teaching our students to make disciples.”
The Ericksons don’t consider a student part of Chi Alpha unless he or she is committed to a small group: discipling peers, praying for the salvation of classmates, and seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit for others in those gatherings.
“We want to empower young men and women to make disciples outside the college setting in any context: in their communities, with their neighbors, with their co-workers,” Heather says.
The Ericksons, who have a support team of four others, also believe it’s important for students to give back. During their tenure, 27 students have participated in give-a-year opportunities either in the U.S. or in countries such as France, Peru, and Taiwan. Six alumni have served as short- or long-term missionary associates with AG World Missions.
Through the Campus Missionary-in-Training program, Chi Alpha alumni have served the Dayton area as worship leaders, youth pastors, and children’s ministry workers. This fall, Jeffery and Olivia Palovchik committed to being marketplace missionaries in Alaska, working with U.S. missionaries Paul and Crystal Burkhart.
MISSIONS IN ACTION
In a collaborative effort in June, Andy Erickson and Ashley Seidler led a 10-day Chi Alpha mission trip to Africa with seven students. Three students committed to full-time missions in the country as a result.
The trip, in an overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation, primarily involved teaching English at a school while also encouraging existing missionaries and indigenous Christians. The experience inspired Erickson, who saw healings and other miracles.
“Seeing Muslims convert to Jesus permanently changed me,” Erickson says. “They have forsaken family, jobs, and the future, and they experience persecution regularly. Yet they are committed to Jesus and are joyful. It’s right out of the Book of Acts.”
Ashley Seidler says she and Jay — a U.S. missionary and Ohio Ministry Network executive presbyter — hope every student involved in Chi Alpha at the University of Dayton will go on such a mission trip before graduating.
“We want to push our students to do things that are hard,” Seidler says.
She is grateful that Heather Erickson influenced her as a first-year college student.
“I know Jesus because Heather invested in me,” Seidler says. “Now we serve alongside each other and it’s the best job in the world.”
PHOTO: Cooperating in planted Chi Alpha are (from left) Jay and Ashley Seidler and Andy and Heather Erickson.