At 921 Sherman Street, a quaint building stands. Nearly 60 clients enter daily through its heavy iron door. A “Guns Prohibited” sign hangs at eye level. A young man—wearing a cotton T-shirt with his straight, light hair peeking through a fitted cap—rests his shoeless foot on a side table near an electrical outlet. He waits as his ankle monitor charges.
Israel Garrett II knows this world. He spends his 40-hour work week in this building, Oriana House, as an electronic monitoring caseworker. He helps those working their way out of the criminal justice system in Akron, Ohio.
Izzy helps individuals through his job at Oriana House, a nonprofit organization that helps incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men return to life outside jail.
But Israel’s day doesn’t end when his 9-to-5 does.
The 26-year-old leaves work and drives 20 minutes to volunteer with The Impact Movement® at Kent State University. He’s learning how to navigate the cadences of busy living, where deliberate choices and priorities in his life frequently intersect.
Kent State University is a large public university located in Kent, Ohio.
This particular Wednesday looks like it’s been pulling on him, tiredness from an eight-hour shift brushing around his edges.
Israel, better known as Izzy to friends and family, volunteers three to four times a week, spending 10-15 hours with the KSU chapter of Impact—a partnering ministry with Cru® that equips black students to become disciples of Jesus.
During one of his weekly trips to campus, Izzy talks with two young men who are part of Impact.
Entering the HUB—a natural gathering spot in the Kent State Student Center where students connect and quell hunger—the self-described “extra extrovert” banters joyfully with a few students.
He spots sophomore Antonie “Ant” French working behind the counter of Einstein Bros. Bagels. Izzy breaks into a dance and a catchy call-and-response chant, causing his shoulder-length coiled locs to bounce to the rhythm.
Ant recognizes the dance and mimics it back, smiling as she jumps into the banter.
Ant says Impact is helping her grow in her relationship with God as she desires to help her peers understand Jesus and each other.
The ministry creates an atmosphere that celebrates black culture while also laying a spiritual foundation, which helps students experience authentic community.
The movement at Kent State University began in 1996, when student Bryndon Glass started a Bible study. The gathering grew to 50 students.
What makes Impact at KSU unique?
The movement at Kent State University began in 1996, when student Bryndon Glass started a Bible study. The gathering grew to 50 students. Cru staff members connected with Bryndon and shared a vision for The Impact Movement. Later, the study evolved into an Impact campus chapter.
Bryndon graduated in 1999 and soon after launched a church, SPAN Ministries, near Kent, Ohio. SPAN soon became the local church home for KSU Impact students. Impact volunteer leader Darnell Wilson believes the connection is vital.
“Ultimately, what we want to do is have churches support our local chapters,” he says. “If the church wasn’t here, we wouldn’t be here.”
With the support of the local church, students and volunteers—like Darnell and Izzy—lead the KSU Impact chapter full time. As fall 2017 began, 98 students attended the first weekly campus gathering and 95 returned the following week. The movement also witnessed 12 individuals who indicated they placed their faith in Christ.
Impact challenges students to embrace and critically understand their ethnic identity as integral to the ministry of the gospel on campus, in the community and throughout the world.
“We got something special here [at Impact],” Darnell says. “We can’t even verbalize it.”
“Impact’s just real,” she says. “And I love realness. We struggle with that on college campuses.”
The campus is a strategic place to reach leaders like Ant, and the KSU experience is one Izzy knows personally. As a 2014 graduate, he became one of those leaders and grew in his faith through Impact.
Izzy hopes to influence students amid their normally busy lives on campus.
Izzy brings enthusiasm and laughter as he helps lead the Impact praise and worship team.
The Toledo, Ohio, native feels compelled to influence the next generation of spiritual leaders because of how Impact changed him.
“I just don’t see purpose in doing anything outside of sowing into people eternally,” Izzy says.
He says meeting Darnell Wilson his freshman year affected both of their lives, even though the two had little in common. Izzy’s the energizing extrovert and a fan of sports, music and anime. Darnell, eight years his senior, is the introverted extrovert and low-key foodie.
Darnell Wilson (left), also a volunteer, directs The Impact Movement® at Kent State and meets regularly with Israel.
One day, Darnell asked freshman Izzy, “If you were to die today, where would you go? Heaven or hell and why?” Looking back, Izzy says, “That question got me.”
The conversation helped Izzy see his need for Jesus. A journey began, Izzy says of his relationship with Darnell, with Darnell challenging and mentoring him as he came to know the God of the Bible.
Darnell, a KSU alumnus and information technology professional, has led Impact volunteers at KSU since 2010.
Darnell Wilson (standing), volunteer leader of The Impact Movement® at Kent State, leads Impact’s weekly meeting.
His influence in Izzy’s life moved beyond college through a unique challenge. Darnell invites all graduating student leaders, who’ll remain at Kent or in Akron, to volunteer for two years, receive leadership training and help reach the next generation of KSU Impact leaders.
Izzy stepped into that challenge. He pursued job opportunities, and turned some down, so he could remain at Kent. A personal reason also motivated him to stay.
Izzy’s senior year, a freshman named Will asked Izzy to mentor him. Izzy knew that Will was adopted.
“Ay, man, you’re not leaving are you?” Will asked, aware that Izzy was graduating.
“When he said that, that just hit me,” says Izzy, remembering that day. “I was like, dang, I can’t just up and leave ’cause that’s all he’s experienced in his life. And here I am, a young man around the same age, his mentor; he sees me living for God and we connected.”
Izzy knew he couldn’t go, especially because of the level of vulnerability Will showed, which Izzy says rarely happens between men.
Izzy chose to stay.
Desmond Crawford is another student Izzy is influencing. Des, the president of the KSU Impact chapter, meets regularly with Izzy at his home for encouragement. This particular Thursday afternoon, another full workday has ended. Homemade spaghetti, made by his wife, Jessica, waits on the stove for him.
Izzy meets with Desmond Crawford (left), a student and president of The Impact Movement® at Kent State, for discipleship.
Sitting on a stool by his patio window, Izzy recalls how he met and courted Jessica, as Des laughs on a nearby couch. Des, a senior majoring in aeronautics with a concentration in air traffic control, is reserved, intelligent and thoughtful. He’s younger than some of his peers on the Impact leadership team.
“I know you’re not always vocal,” Izzy observes. “Has that been a challenge for you?”
“Being vocal is just something I’m gonna have to learn to do,” Des replies. Izzy listens as Des considers the uncomfortable realities of leading others.
“What do you feel you have to overcome?” Izzy asks. “Is it telling people to do something they don’t want to do or maybe speaking in a louder tone?”
“Ooh, probably both!” Des says. “I don’t like stepping on people’s toes, but I know that we do have to do things.”
As part of his volunteer service, Izzy helps lead the Impact praise and worship team while playing the keyboard.
They switch conversation from growing past fears to studying God’s Word. They read Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus visited the sisters Mary and Martha, and taught in Martha’s home.
“What stands out to you?” Izzy asks him. “Take your time; there’s no rush.”
Des examines the passage, cross-referencing the verses between two Bibles to enhance his study. “Mary ended up sitting at Jesus’ feet and decided to listen to His teaching, instead of serving. Martha was distracted while He was giving His teaching. So I guess she was missing His Word. She was kind of complaining.”
“Jesus says, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled by many things,’” Des observes. “So you’re worried about the wrong things, I guess He’s trying to say.”
Des continues reading, “‘But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
The verses linger, prompting Izzy to consider how they relate to his bustling lifestyle.
Izzy’s life moves very fast. He juggles a busy schedule of volunteering with Impact, working at Oriana House, and cultivating a healthy personal life with God, his wife and friends. His plates of responsibility don’t always juggle well.
“That’s one of our biggest issues,” Darnell says. “He’s just ‘go, go, go’ and he doesn’t tell people, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on.’”
Izzy (standing, at left), his wife, Jessica, and former Impact student Cordell Bolder hang out after a game of laser tag with other Impact students.
Sometimes Izzy’s energizing personality can drain him. A laser tag social with the Impact leaders the following afternoon begins with conversations and lively moments where he jumps on tables to get the group excited. A few hours later, the extrovert retreats into a world of anime, quietly scrolling through Instagram on his phone during dinner at BJ’s. He’s surrounded by people but withdraws into himself.
When entrenched in the busyness of life, Izzy says sometimes he doesn’t communicate well with others, including his wife. Bustling weeknights from work to campus, he occasionally loses track of time hanging with students.
One evening, a text message from Jessica pops up. She wants to know where he is. The newlyweds aim to eat dinner together nightly, but he doesn’t always make it home when he’s expected. He promptly heads home to spend time with his wife.
Izzy understands that his personal relationship with God is the steady source of life he needs. Without regular moments to recharge with the Lord, Izzy has nothing to offer his Oriana clients, his wife or his students, other than fading spiritual fumes and limited strength.
Newlyweds Izzy and Jessica work to find time together.
As Izzy grasps how to grow through the busy in his life, he senses when he needs God to fill his spiritual tank.
“I started learning how to calm myself down, and I could hear from God clearly,” Izzy says. “It helps me sort things out.”
Izzy finds time to work out between his job and his many volunteer hours on campus.
Sitting in silence in his living room with his eyes closed and his phone on mute helps him. Exercising also allows him to uncover the quiet. After running, he’s less anxious and bogged down, putting him in a better position to hear from the Lord.
Helping young believers like Des learn how to listen for God’s voice motivates him. As they unearth more understanding in the Luke verses, Izzy wants Des to make the Scripture personal.
“How can this apply to you as president of Impact?” Des considers the question.
“I’m doing all this stuff for Impact, I’m making sure everything’s great, but if I’m not also in my Word, discovering, it doesn’t really matter, you know?”
“You have a million things that you could be doing. But what’s the most important thing you need to do?” Izzy asks. “The most important thing is your relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s also the most important thing for the people you’re leading.”
As another long day of work and volunteering comes to a close, Izzy’s words to Des rest in the air. Those words are available to him, too.
Impact volunteers and student leaders at Kent State gather to play laser tag.
Melody serves as editor-in-chief for Cru Storylines™ and a journalist with Cru®. She’s an Atlanta, Georgia, native and University of Georgia graduate with a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism. She enjoys the intersection of creativity, theology and popular culture in her writing projects.
Ted loves zigzagging the globe, capturing photos and stories of what God is doing. Originally from California, he serves as a missionary photojournalist with Cru® in Orlando, Florida. Ted also ministers to international scholars who come to Orlando to study.