Malik* arrived at Virginia Union University with hope. He had a difficult life. His family fled violence in his home country, but not before he personally was marked by it. They were able to find asylum in the U.S., but Malik struggled finding a place in his adopted homeland. His experience, his values, his world was so different, but VUU was offering everything he was looking for. It promised community; a place where he could develop real friendships. It offered challenging academics; a place where he could grow his knowledge and ability. It offered purpose; a place where he could begin to bring change to a world that desperately needed it. Malik saw endless possibilities in his acceptance to one of the oldest HBCUs in the country.
Marcus Floyd, missionary associate with Chi Alpha Campus Ministry in Richmond, met Malik three years later. He was no longer brimming with hope. He no longer saw VUU as an answer to the challenges he faced. It was in fact another milestone in his life journey that was filled with disappointments. He struggled to find the promised friendships, finding either a highly competitive or apathetic environment instead. The promise of academics and purpose fell short too to the point where every semester he questioned why he remained enrolled. Marcus and Malik met through a mutual acquaintance. Jason*, a new member of Chi Alpha. He told him about the friendships he was finding in this campus ministry and Malik had to check it out. He visited once and was hooked.
Malik found, for the first time as a student at VUU, a place of relationship. The people who were a part of Chi Alpha had genuine care and concern for him. Even though they didn’t share the same core beliefs, he was Muslim and this group was full of Christians, their love for him kept him coming back. He even signed up to join them on a retreat. That’s when it all came together. That’s when he realized the reason they were different. The reason why they loved and accepted him was the one thing that made it so unlikely to join them in the first place. It was Jesus. On Saturday night of that retreat weekend, Malik surrendered his life to Jesus.
Why is it vital to plant at HBCUs? We need to plant there because there are thousands of students just like Malik at every one of them. They’re looking for community, looking for purpose, looking for God. By planting loving, intentional communities on these campuses, these students can see the relevance of the gospel in powerful, life-changing ways. We owe it to students like Malik, and Jesus who loves and pursues them, to try.
*Names have been changed for privacy.