Jersey Boys

Two Monmouth University students help reach their campus for Christ.

Thunk. Splash. Climb. Repeat.

A sorority member sits on the wet edge of a blue dunk tank. Another student throws a ball at a target. Thunk. The woman, wearing a black bikini, drops into the water again. And again. It’s peak traffic time behind the Monmouth University student center: that slot between classes when students wander out of lectures toward their next classes.

Thunk. Splash. She climbs again, students cheering, barely able to hear or be heard over blasting music. There’s a sign nearby signifying that this is a fundraiser—dropping an appealing-looking female into a vat of water could help meet a financial need.

Inside the student center, music causes the glass to vibrate. Away from the windows, sophomore Will Brucella is sitting with a deck of cards. He shrugs when he hears about the fundraising dunk tank: “They’re out here like every week.”

With Will is Campus Crusade for Christ staff member Karen Waters, and three other students—Vincent, Ally and Tamari. Will and Karen are part of Cru, a ministry to and through students at Monmouth.

The cards in front of Will are not typical playing cards. They are part of Perspective, a tool developed to help students understand each other’s spiritual opinions. And Will is not a typical student. On the outside, he’s what you would expect from an American college sophomore: mop of hair, sweat shirt, blue jeans. His features are dark with deep hazel eyes. He’s currently majoring in public relations and journalism, but that might change.

To engage the other three in spiritual conversation, Will asks them to pick cards explaining their thoughts on God, human nature and sources of spiritual truth. Each card they’ve chosen holds a different statement: Jesus is a spiritual being, I live for self, Human nature is neutral: both good and evil, Spiritual truth is through self-discovery. Will and Karen are leaning forward. You can’t tell if they agree or not—but they hear everything.

Will thanks the three students. “Do you mind if we show you what we believe?” he asks, sorting through the cards. When they agree, he shows his cards.

“For human nature, we believe it’s broken,” he says, laying down one card. “We believe in one God,” laying down the Monotheism card, “and we believe Jesus was sent to bridge this gap. Being perfect, through His death, we could have a relationship with God and be restored.” He then lays down another card called Jesus is Creator and Savior.

As Will explains, another student walks up to see what’s happening. His arrival brings awareness that the break is almost over. The three students grab their jackets and used textbooks, and head out the glass doors.

Will stays behind.

Will is atypical because he’s an uncommonly young leader willing to challenge the status quo. Here at Monmouth University in New Jersey, he is the president of Cru, and he became president as a freshman the year before.

Fortunately, Will is not alone. Shortly after his peers leave, Will and Karen sit around a laptop computer, making plans for the semester. Looking up from the screen, Will spots one of his closest friends. “Cyrus!” he hollers, receiving an acknowledging head tilt from the other sophomore, who quickly slides into the next seat.

Cyrus Siganporia’s two most distinct characteristics are his tightly locked hair—dreads once picked so high off his head that people would yell greetings at him from across campus—and his accent. Raised in Zimbabwe by a Zambian mother and an Indian father, Cyrus is easy going and energetic. He and Will make a thoughtful pair. Cyrus stepped into leadership with Cru as vice president, also as a freshman.

Cyrus entered Monmouth with a revelation: “I realized the whole point of college was not to get a degree or play football [soccer]. My perspective shifted, and I began thinking in terms of, How can I glorify God?” At orientation, Cyrus introduced himself as a Christian to a room of other freshmen.

Right after, another student walked up. “Are you gonna join the Christian club?” asked Will. They’ve been inseparable since.

Friends refer to them as one: “WillandCyrus.” Although they have vastly different personalities, they complete each other’s sentences when it comes to talking about Cru, Christianity and evangelism.

It might seem disappointing that, while Monmouth’s Cru has 15 other students, Will and Cyrus are the main leaders, and the youngest in the group.

“That’s not what frustrates us,” says Will. “What does is, are we there to hang out, or to grow in a relationship with God?”

Some students just desire for Cru to be known, but they want to hang out more than they want to strive toward holiness. “I want our ministry to expand so people do know who we are,” says senior Michele Cox.

“We focus on Christians already; I just want more outreach,” says junior Alexandra Casares. She hesitates, then says quickly, “But faith-sharing terrifies me.”

Karen coaches them regularly, and believes Will and Cyrus are key to reaching the campus for Christ. “I asked Cyrus what makes him different than others involved with Cru, and he said, ‘Well, we’re living for the gospel on our campus, and they’re living for a club. They think it’s just an organization on campus, like a Bible study.’”

Last year, when Cru students surveyed others about their spiritual life, each day they had leftover surveys. Will and Cyrus aren’t sure if anyone else spoke to any of their peers. “You’re supposed to run out!” Will emphasizes.

“Yes, and … YES,” says Cyrus, snapping his fingers in agreement. “We’ve got to push people out of the nest.”

“We want to encourage more spiritual conversation . . . ” starts Will, “and stay away from inside jokes,” ends Cyrus.

“And, OK, it feels discouraging,” admits Will. “The upperclassmen should be setting the example. I want someone to lead me and Cyrus.”

So this year, Cyrus and Will have some new goals: They’re challenging Cru members to be active leaders—givers, not just consumers. And they’re trying to change things so that talking to others about Christ becomes a norm. With Karen’s help, they are growing in this area.

“I’ve learned what it means to be a Christ-follower, not just a Christian,” says Will. They are both excited to have conversations about Christ, like Will’s earlier interaction in the student center.

“I love letting people know about God. There’s a lot of broken people,” he says.

It’s the harsh reality of campus: Brokenness is big, and Cyrus and Will are only two. Yet they’re excited and encouraged about bringing Christ to their campus. Tomorrow is the Involvement Fair, where they’ll gather names of students who indicate interest in knowing more about Christ. They’re challenging another Cru member to begin leading a Bible study and meeting with Karen to strategize how to bring not just Christians into a Bible study, but nonbelievers into a relationship with Christ.

After the three students leave Will, they merge into the crowd outside the dunk tank.

“This,” says Vincent, pointing to the student in the black bikini and those cat-calling nearby, “is college, except nobody’s drinking. That,” jerking his thumb to indicate Will’s Perspective conversation, “never happens. It only clicks when you’re 80 years old and on your deathbed. There’s more important things like work, getting a job, planning for the future . . .”

“. . . or getting in your bikini and jumping into a tank,” throws in Ally. They weave through the crowd to their next class.

Inside the student center, Will sits, intently planning new ways to reach his campus for Christ.

You can contact the writer at jess.fong@ccci.org.