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July 5, 2017

Ministry Director Thankful His Family Stepped out in Faith

by Jim Black
Hey Jim, hope all is well with you. Just thought I’d reach out to let you know how grateful I am for the guidance you gave me throughout undergrad. I’ve been meeting with a guy here at graduate school every so often… and it’s been good. But it reminded me of how huge it was to have that from you (and your family) during a pivotal four years of my personal growth. Love you all — Josh

A dear friend and former student sent me that text this morning and it caused me to reflect on God’s kindness and faithfulness to me over the last six years of surprising service in Christian Union. You see, in the summer of 2011, my family and I made a remarkable transition. I had been joyfully serving as the senior pastor of a church in the Houston, Texas area for a number of years. I loved being a pastor and felt very content in my calling.  
blacksHowever, that spring I received a phone call from a representative of Christian Union. They said they were ministering to college students at some of the most influential universities in our nation; they were inquiring to see if I would have interest in joining their team. This seemed an unlikely possibility at first consideration. My wife Laurie and I had three children at that point (we’ve since added a fourth) and we were happy in Texas. 

Christian Union was asking me to consider launching and directing their ministry at Columbia University in New York City, a transition that would obviously entail a massive life change. Yet, after much prayer and contemplation, we clearly sensed God’s call to pursue this new opportunity in ministry. We sold our home and more than half of our possessions, filled a U-Haul truck, said good-bye to family, friends, and a church we loved, and drove from Texas to Manhattan in July of 2011.  

We knew hardly anyone in New York City and absolutely no one at Columbia, and were particularly keen as to how this experience would impact our kids. As we saw our small children move into an apartment building, experience subways, and begin to taste New York City life, I felt overwhelmed and began to call out to the Lord—Please Father, we’re all pursuing your calling on our lives…please meet us in this new work in a new city and allow us to make an eternal impact on students. Please, show us your faithfulness again.

It brings me great delight to reflect on all the ways the Lord has answered those prayers over the last six years. Because of God’s work through Christian Union, I’ve been able to be in contact with hundreds of Columbia University students in a variety of settings. Our small apartment near Columbia’s campus has seen scores of young men and women file through on a weekly basis over the years; they’ve gathered in our home for food, fellowship, and study of the Scriptures. By God’s grace, we’ve attempted to provide a taste of family to these students; in response, those students have been the closest thing to family that we’ve experienced in New York City. Through it all, we’ve seen God work in the lives of many young men and women. I’m deeply grateful that He allowed me to be a part of that effort.  

But most of all, I rejoice that I’ve seen God’s kindness in my life and in the lives  of those I love most dearly. Christian Union has certainly been used over fifteen years to minister to thousands of students at these campuses—that is true. However, it is equally true that through His faithfulness to Christian Union, God has personalized His faithfulness to me, and to my entire family. While His love is wonderfully broad, it is also gloriously particular. For that, I am most grateful.

*Since this article was published in The Magazine, Jim and his family have agreed to take yet another step of faith to pioneer a new Christian Union ministry to athletes at Stanford University.