None of the full-time Chi Alpha leaders at the University of Nebraska-Omaha — U.S. missionary associates Carly Waggoner and Natalie Murrish plus U.S. Missions career associate Samuel Gingerich — had a notion to pioneer campus ministry four years ago. But through God’s unmistakable confirmations, they now can’t imagine serving anywhere else.
Like many college students, Waggoner, 25, entered her first year at Minnesota State University-Moorhead looking for friends and a good time. When she heard about a group called Chi Alpha hosting a back-to-school hangout, she decided to attend what she hoped would be her first college party.
“I met girls who were so caring,” Waggoner recalls. “I’d never really been cared for with that kind of intentionality before, from people I didn’t even know.” One meeting turned into another, and at a fall retreat, Waggoner decided to believe in and live for Jesus. That first semester, Waggoner says, God gave her a burden to reach college campuses with the gospel.
After graduating in 2020, Waggoner became a campus missionary-in-training intern (CMIT) at North Dakota State University, just a few minutes away from her alma mater. While there, she learned only one Chi Alpha campus ministry existed in the state of Nebraska. She says for several months the Lord kept bringing Nebraska to mind, then she heard of a pending Chi Alpha relaunch at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). After her internship, she moved to Omaha to join efforts in reaching the campus.
UNO Chi Alpha director Samuel Gingerich, 29, didn’t think of Nebraska as his ministry destination, either.
An Omaha native, Gingerich didn’t know about Chi Alpha until he moved to Missouri to attend Evangel University in Springfield. While in the city, he encountered Chi Alpha at Missouri State University (MSU). So moved by seeing college students profess faith in Jesus and boldly make disciples among their peers, he decided to attend MSU to earn a master’s degree in religious studies. “I had two years of gaining names and stories to see the need that we have at the forefront of our mission fields in America,” Gingerich says.
Gingerich then embarked on a CMIT two-year internship at MSU. Afterward, he sensed God calling him to return to Omaha to launch Chi Alpha there.
“I couldn’t rest in Missouri knowing that my home had no access to what I experienced in Chi Alpha — no Holy-Spirit witness in campus ministry,” Gingerich remembers.
The first UNO Chi Alpha small group met in Gingerich’s basement during the summer of 2021. By the end of the school year, 20 to 25 students packed into his basement weekly.
Simultaneously, God stirred another heart, in Lexington, Nebraska.
Murrish, a Nebraska native who attended Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, pursued her call to missions upon graduation, serving in Wales as an Assemblies of God missionary associate.
She returned to her home state, working in the Nebraska Ministry Network office in Lexington. Murrish, 27, resigned her network job and moved to Omaha as volunteer staff member. She now serves on the full-time staff.
Waggoner, Gingerich, and Murrish have multiple testimonies of what the Holy Spirit has done in four semesters of Chi Alpha on UNO’s campus.
“My favorite part of this whole journey is seeing our students reach those around them,” says Murrish. “This is not just about staff reaching students; it’s about students being empowered and truly treating the university as the mission field.”
Last year at a student involvement fair, Murrish met a sophomore, who confided that she had experienced no community her first year. “We walked through a discipleship journey together,” Murrish says. “She took a deep dive into knowing Jesus, she experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and she is now one of our small group leaders this year.”
Gingerich asked one student, whom he befriended at a Chi Alpha flying disc event, to give prayer a chance: to set a timer for 10 minutes and talk to God. The next day, the student reached out to Gingerich to say that he enjoyed prayer so much he ended up praying for 30 minutes. “He felt Jesus taking away his anxiety and stress,” Gingerich says. “He ended up recommitting his life to the Lord. Then he asked if he could be baptized.”
Each community group has at least one student who is not a Christian, which thrills Waggoner, who says she belonged before she believed when attending school in Minnesota. “The other girls were so patient with me,” Waggoner recalls. “The fact that our groups have students who are not Christians tells us we are reaching the campus and seeing the unsaved come one step closer to Jesus.”
About 40 students now regularly meet across campus, facilitated by six student leaders. Gingerich credits this growth to the Holy Spirit and the power of discipleship. “These students engage with one another regularly in small group discipleship,” Gingerich says. “They are full of faith and passion.”
LOWER PHOTOS: Slide 1 - Carly Waggoner, Slide 2 - Samuel Gingerich, Slide 3 - Natalie Murrish