Hands clutching church flyers to her chest, Mamie Two Shields rocks nervously from side to side. Dressed in a Rogers State University sweatshirt, jeans, and red ballet flats on this unseasonably warm Saturday morning, the 18-year old college freshman is unsure what to expect from the day ahead.
"What do we do? All go up to the door together?" Mamie asks, not really expecting an answer.
"It's OK, Mamie," says fellow student Sarah Sligar. Speaking from experience, her simple reassurance goes a long way.
Both women attend Rogers State University, located in Claremore, Okla. They have traveled to Dallas for one of several 5-day conferences across the country specifically designed by the Campus Ministry of Cru to help college students grow in their faith.
Immediately Applying Conference Lessons
A unique aspect of these conferences is the Day of Outreach, an opportunity for thousands of students to apply what they are learning and to serve others.
Today Mamie and Sarah agreed to represent New Hope Community Church, a local partner with the conference, by distributing packs of free school supplies and talking to people in the church's neighborhood about Jesus. New Hope ministers in a racially and economically-mixed part of Dallas' East side.
Why Students Participate
Unlike Mamie, Sarah is no stranger to community outreach. She spoke about her own experiences from the previous year when inviting students from her campus to attend this year's conference. "I told them that it could change their lives," she says.
And that is her hope for Mamie, a new student involved with Cru on her campus.
"I accepted Jesus Christ last October. I'm fairly new," Mamie says. "I'm kind of shy and don't like to talk to a lot of people. It's definitely out of my comfort zone."
Her fears are not stopping her, though, from taking this step of faith. "I'm hoping that God would give me the strength and courage to speak the Word of God to people who have never heard it before," Mamie says.
Sarah Once Learned From Another Student
Sarah is helping Mamie step out by joining her and another student for the scheduled outreach. She has learned firsthand the positive influence a committed person can have on the lives of others, regardless of experience level or maturity.
After last year's conference, an older student on her campus began to mentor Sarah once a week. Today she serves as the student director of the campus ministry at Rogers State. "I still use things that she used to tell me about trusting the Lord and how [the ministry is] not ours, but the Lord's," says Sarah.
Slow Start Does Not Deter Students
Despite Mamie's fears, still clutching the church flyers, she now walks with her group toward an apartment building in the back of the complex, passing a busy community laundry room and several kids riding their bikes. Approaching the first door, she hangs back, allowing the guy in their group of 3 to take the lead and knock.
No one answers. All 3 students look at each other as if to ask what to do next. A second knock produces the same result.
Their first handful of attempts yields several empty apartments and only 2 short and polite conversations. However, Mamie is ready to give it a try.
"After we got to talk to people, I realized that it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be," she says.
Standing in front of the next door, Mamie raises her arm, fingers curled into a fist. She takes a deep breath and knocks forcefully, surprising for a person of such small stature. Yet another unanswered knock.
Their disappointment is palpable as they move along to the next apartment.
That's where they meet Ron.
A Discussion at Ron's Front Door
Ron answers the door in black slacks and a white tank top, television blaring in the background. Sarah introduces herself and tells him about the packs of school supplies and other programs offered by the church.
An awkward silence stretches out for several moments.
The first to speak again, Sarah explains why 3 Oklahoma college students are at his door. They are here to tell Ron about Jesus.
Sliding The Four Spiritual Laws evangelistic booklet out of her pocket, Sarah begins to read through it with Ron. Mamie holds her own copy, following along as she has never seen this tract before. Her eyes watch Ron's responses as Sarah continues to tell him about God's love and offer of forgiveness.
Although Sarah competently explains the gospel message using the booklet, Ron says that he is not ready to make a decision.
"Can I pray for you?" asks one of the college students. Ron agrees. The group prays for Ron's family and their needs.
Mamie Gets Her Chance
With new confidence, the group knocks on more doors. As they meet new people, Mamie continues to learn from Sarah's example of how to talk openly about Jesus Christ.
"Watching Sarah, I thought, 'I can do that,'" Mamie says. "That was really cool."
Mamie gets her chance with a group of young children playing on the sidewalk. They rush her, asking for the color bead bracelets she carries. The students have brought these evangelistic tools so they can tell children about Christ, too.
"Do you want to know what this means?" Sarah asks, pointing to the beads.
The kids excitedly say, "Yes!" But this time, she allows Mamie to take the lead.
Mamie starts with the first bead, pointing out the color and meaning. Moving along, she explains the spiritual truths in a way that the children can understand. Halfway into the explanation, though, she freezes, searching her memory for what comes next.
Sarah seamlessly takes over, finishing up the gospel presentation. Mamie is relieved by Sarah's help, not disappointed.
"That was probably one of the best experiences of the day, just getting to talk with the little kids," she says. "That's going to be something I remember forever."
What Shocked and Surprised Mamie
What began as a nerve-racking day finishes with an unexpected level of excitement and encouragement. The students are abuzz, discussing what they have seen and heard as they return to the church.
Mamie is shocked and surprised by her own step of faith to talk to strangers about Christ. "I was overwhelmed that I had actually stepped way out of my comfort zone. I was really proud of myself."
Sarah is also proud. "I still can't stop smiling when I think about Mamie." Mamie's desire to grow in her faith has outweighed her fears, as evidenced by her willing participation in this outreach.
Sarah wants to continue doing for other students what was done for her. "I see that it's the little things, pouring into other people's lives, that can influence people."
Those little things made a difference for Mamie.