Two Days in the Life of a Campus Missionary

  • by Jennifer Abegg

Francis Floth spends his days reaching Oregon State University students for Christ.

Meet Francis Floth, an easygoing 27-year-old who likes black-and-white movies and playing football. A regular at the Beanery Coffee Shop in Corvallis, Ore., Francis lifts weights every other day and drives a 1995 Pontiac Grand Am.

He loves the Lord fiercely, and serves as a friend and confidant for young men. Francis dedicates his life to one goal: to bring Christians and non-Christians closer to Jesus. He's a staff member with Cru at Oregon State University, and these are two days in his life.

Wednesday morning, 9:51 -- Francis, who has been awake for only half an hour, steps into the cool fog that smells of rain and hardwood trees, and walks to campus. The missionary smiles as he passes a student clad in a construction-worker-orange OSU sweatshirt.

9:58 -- He climbs the white marble steps at the OSU Memorial Union, and runs into a small group of students he knows from Cru. He stops to talk.

By the third time Francis glances at his watch, it's 10:26.

Tim, a Christian student whom Francis is scheduled to meet, has missed his appointment. That's a common occurrence in campus ministry. Undaunted, Francis invites two other Christian guys to join him for a Bible discussion. They agree and take off for the food court together.

"I like college students," Francis says. "By reaching them, hopefully they'll multiply and reach others."

1 p.m. -- With that hope in mind, he meets with Chris Bean, a freshman. The two order at Burger King in the union, then sit down. Locking his green eyes on Chris, Francis eventually inquires about an important topic for most college guys.

"How much time would you say you spend with her?" Francis asks. A non-Christian coed has captured Chris' attention.

"Monday we watched a movie . . . three hours, I guess. Tuesday we went jogging, so probably four."

"I see a danger here; I've done it myself. I've dated a non-Christian before," Francis says after swallowing a bite of pecan pie. "In your case, you know you shouldn't be dating her. That's clearly God's will."

"Yeah," Chris sighs, "but I know she's in my life for a reason."

They look up some Bible verses, then Francis says, "You know what you need to do. When you follow God, when you take that step of faith, that's when you grow."

"What do you mean?"

"Look at James 1:22-25. He'll bless you if you obey Him."

"That helps right there," says Chris. "That verse."
Soon the two bow their heads in prayer.

"His priority with his guys is to take them to the [Bible] and pray with them," says Maureen York, the associate director of Cru at OSU.

2:00 -- He meets with a student -- the sixth one of the day -- and the two randomly approach students to talk about spiritual issues, in eagerness to pass along their faith in Christ.

"Francis has tenacity," says OSU junior Matthew Adams. "He wants to tell people about God because it's his passion. No matter how many times he gets turned down, he continues on."

3:30 -- Francis returns to the student union to meet with Jordan Hess, a sophomore who chose to follow Christ last school year with the help of Cru staff members and students.

"Your walk with God going pretty good?"

"Yeah, I'm starting to think like a Christian. It's in the forefront of my mind." Francis started meeting with Jordan last year, teaching him to pray and study the Bible. Together, they study the Gospel of Mark -- which Jordan hasn't read before -- as the union clears out for the day.

4:48 -- Francis walks into his two-bedroom apartment that he shares with three other young men his age. His closest friends in Corvallis are students, except Jesse, his best friend and roommate, who is preparing potato chowder in the kitchen.

Francis sits and fills a college-ruled notebook with Scripture verses he's memorizing. "It really bothers me when I know a verse," he explains, "but I don't know where it is at." He's already filled one notebook with hundreds of verses. Just today, he quoted verses from Proverbs, Romans and James without looking them up.

6:20 -- After Francis attacks his third bowl of chowder and a few pieces of sandwich bread with his roommates, he clears the table. Then the native of Washington state pours himself some tea and changes the music in the stereo.

Somewhat of a renegade, he owns only two Christian CDs, both freebies, and prefers a variety of music -- "anything good," he declares. He sits and writes more Bible verses while listening to the heavy guitars and drums of a favorite group in the background. "Nothing like tea with Nirvana," he comments.

6:52 -- He leaves to help set up for Cru's weekly meeting, where Christians can connect with each other socially and with God. It's also a comfortable setting for non-Christians to experience real Christianity.

7:55 -- The meeting is about to begin and nearly 100 of the 200 attendees still wait outside to get in to "Cru," as the meeting is called at OSU. Francis, whose two older brothers named him after Fran Tarkenton, the football legend, mingles with some students who've already filtered in.

Three years ago, when he reported to OSU, maybe 30 students attended "Cru." It has steadily been growing, and since school began, students have accepted Christ as their Savior at a rate of one per week.

During the meeting, five students perform a funny skit about hot dogs. Then Francis, who leads the "Cru" evangelism team, explains details of the hot-dog outreach scheduled for tomorrow night, inviting everyone to assist. OSU students -- especially those in fraternities and sororities -- call that night "Thirsty Thursday" because of the heavy partying that goes on each week. Francis wants to reach that crowd for Jesus.

When "Cru" ends, Francis helps put away chairs, then joins 20 students at Lyons restaurant. The waitress addresses Francis by name -- he and another student explained their faith to her on campus once.

Sometime after 1 a.m., the night owl goes to bed.

Thursday, 12:02 p.m. -- After an all-morning staff meeting, Francis and a student walk to the outdoor recreation center on campus. They rent lanterns for tonight's hot-dog outreach.

1:00 -- He and Natalie, who is involved in "Cru," introduce themselves to a student sitting alone. They inquire about her beliefs. Shelby sees spirituality and religion like a buffet -- choosing pieces from various religions and putting them on her plate. That's not a surprise in Oregon, which has the lowest church-attending population in the country.

 "Christians," she says, "always think they are right." She then emphasizes the virtue of tolerance.

"If you believe the Bible," explains Francis, "Jesus says, 'I am the only way to God.'"
Later, Shelby actually thanks them for their "open-mindedness."

"Francis is a natural evangelist," says Erik York, director of Cru at OSU. "If he could, he'd be sharing his faith all day."

Francis leaves campus at 3 p.m. and runs a flurry of last-minute errands, including making copies, calling students and inspecting a grill. "I don't know if this outreach is going to work," Francis admits. His director and some of the "Cru" students are skeptical.

He prayerfully adds, "If it is, God, it's going to be totally You."

8:00 -- On the steps of the darkened union, 22 students pray, then set up two hot-dog stands this cool night -- one on a main drag, the other on fraternity row.

10:45 -- A blue pickup stops. "What's up with the free hot dogs?" asks a muscular fraternity guy.

"They're free," replies Francis.

He grabs one. His fraternity brother shuffles his Coors into his right hand and answers his ringing cell phone. "We're coming back from a beer run and stopped for free food," he explains to the caller.

After a pause, he insists, "I'm not lying," then begs Francis to legitimize his claim.
Francis accepts the phone. "Yep, we're giving away free hot dogs," he tells the caller.

Then he hands the phone back.

He and the fraternity guy discuss sports, then Francis invites the two guys to "Cru." They accept a flier Francis created about the weekly meeting, but need to get back to the party to deliver the beer.

After they drive away, Francis steps back and surveys the crowd. It's around midnight.

Ten to 15 "Cru" students are immersed in conversations with strangers about the essence of Christianity.

One guy is so interested that he and the Cru students swap phone numbers and arrange a time to meet on campus next week.
"This is why I do what I do," says Francis, "seeing students grow in their faith and share their faith. It's amazing."

Sometime way after 1:00 a.m. and 300 less hot dogs, Francis stumbles past three piles of laundry in his room -- two of them his -- and burrows under the sleeping bag he uses as a comforter. "My life consists of all the things that I feel are the most important," he says.

"I can't see myself doing anything else."

Friday morning, 9:20 -- The alarm goes off again.