Following the Family Heritage
It’s no surprise that brothers Christopher and Nicholas Cole are serving on staff with Chi Alpha chapters. The pair of U.S. missionary associates grew up with the campus ministry a part of their daily home life.
Even before the birth of their two children, Curtis and Delyn Cole opened their home to Chi Alpha students. The Coles served as Chi Alpha directors at the University of Montana Western in Dillon from 1991 to 2008. As many as four students lived with them simultaneously during those years, sleeping at the residence, sharing meals, and committing to intentional discipleship. Mandatory attendance at the evening meal frequently resulted in discussions about following Jesus that lasted 90 minutes to 2 hours. In all, 27 students lived with the Coles over that span, during which Christopher and Nicholas attended elementary school.
The environment provided a way for the Coles to model family life for students who might not have been raised with traditional values or a sense of community.
“Treating students like family was a great way to enculturate people into the Kingdom,” says Curtis, 57. “Our boys saw hospitality practiced and had many big brothers and big sisters.”
The Coles also opened their home to a broader range of Chi Alpha students through special events such as hoedowns, fireworks displays, barbecues, and holiday parties. At times, one-fourth of the 1,000-member University of Montana Western student body showed up at the 2-acre property.
Of course living in a communal setting meant the students got to know the Coles at a deep level. One time when Curtis and Delyn had a heated argument, a live-in student confronted Curtis, exhorting, “You need to treat your wife better!”
“Living in community wasn’t always easy,” Curtis says. “We definitely lived in a bubble in many respects. There were some instances of reverse discipleship.”
The Coles moved to the Chi Alpha national office in Springfield, Missouri, in 2008, where Curtis became chief operations officer. When their sons attended junior high and high school, Curtis and Delyn continued to show generosity to both U.S. missionaries and AG world missionaries, who sometimes lived at their residence for six months at a stretch.
“Rubbing shoulders with missionary families was powerful for Christopher and Nicholas,” Curtis says. “They saw how it could be a possibility for themselves.”
The pair are now fifth-generation Pentecostal ministers. In 2019, Christopher joined the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship staff at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville. After completing a 2-year internship at Virginia Tech University in 2021, Nicholas joined the missionary staff at the university in Blacksburg.
The Cole brothers are both on large teams, serving with longtime directors. Christopher is mentored by U.S. missionaries Pete and Amy Bullette. Nicholas is on a team headed by U.S. missionary Anthony Saladino and his wife, Michelle.
“My parents spent an extravagant amount of time with students,” says the fast-talking Christopher, 27. “They were more likely to have important conversations at 10 p.m. rather than 10 a.m.”
Christopher attended the University of Central Arkansas, where Chi Alpha U.S. missionaries Matt Carpenter and Jennifer Schiefer influenced him. He served as student body president of Chi Alpha all four years at the school in Conway. He went on to earn a master’s in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield.
As an undergrad, Christopher received a bachelor’s degree in history. Colonial history is particularly appealing to him, which is one reason he ended up at UVA — a school founded by Thomas Jefferson after his presidency. More than 350 students consistently attend large group meetings on the UVA campus. Christopher is one of two team members who launched an outreach to Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville this semester.
Christopher says his parents allowed the MKs who lived with the family to be real instead of stuffing their emotions in an effort to put on appearances. He says people tell him quite frequently how his parents changed their lives.
“My parents are genuinely great people,” Christopher says. “I had an exceptional upbringing.”
Nicholas, 25, agrees.
“My parents modeled real discipleship,” says Nicholas, who graduated from the AG’s Evangel University with a degree in vocal music. “They had to be genuine because their life was on display all the time.”
At Virginia Tech, Nicholas teaches classes, develops the missionary internship syllabi, coordinates student and intern overseas trips, and helps manage large group worship services.
He says seeing his parents disciple students one on one in the home made him want to continue growing in the Lord. Nicholas says his mom taught him spiritual disciplines in childhood, helping him memorize Scripture and teaching him how to pray for missionaries. He says his dad taught him to be responsible for his actions and how to be himself in ministry.
Delyn, an ordained Assemblies of God minister and U.S. missionary, is national coaching and support raising training director for Chi Alpha. Although Curtis transitioned to being a full-time real estate agent seven years ago, he continues to volunteer with Chi Alpha in a variety of ways, including as campus legal specialist.
PHOTO: Brothers Nicholas (left) and Christopher (right) have followed their parents Delyn and Curtis Cole in ministering with Chi Alpha.