Students Deliver Sandwiches, Answers to Hard Questions
By Ayleen Sanchez, Brown '19
As final exams were approaching, Christian Union at Brown University organized a “Text for Chick-fil-A” event in an effort to engage students in open discussions about Christianity.
The leadership development ministry also sought to ease the stress of finals with the free sandwiches. During the two-hour event, students were invited to text a question about Christianity, God, or spirituality, along with their location on campus. A representative from the ministry would then hand-deliver a Chick-fil-A sandwich along with an answer to their question.
The students organizing the event dedicated a lot of time into advertising far in advance, building anticipation while making it both inviting and accessible. A key component of the outreach was the potential questions, including less threatening ones such as “Do dogs go to heaven?” to more hot-button ones such as “Can a person be a ‘homosexual’ and a Christian?” These efforts sparked a lot of conversation among students as they began to discuss topics likely to elicit the most controversy in the secular environment of Brown’s campus.
The questions arrived at a fast pace as soon as the event began. Students were dispatched immediately. Gianna Uson ’18, who was part of the team that received the questions, said the supply of sandwiches did not last long.
“I think we received around 200 texts within the first 15-20 minutes,” she said.
Many volunteers were worried students would be either ambivalent, hostile, or focused on the free food, but there were no reports of antagonistic behavior during the deliveries, only civility and positivity.
Lisa Yang ’20 was pleasantly surprised by the interactions she encountered.
“There were certainly those who raised objections and those who saw this as no different from any other event with free food, but there were also people with genuine questions. [These students] now have at least one place where they can find someone with whom to talk through struggles.”
Questions received ranged from simple, fact-based inquiries such as “What were Jesus’ last words on the cross?” to those that were interested in deep discussion. For example, in the lobby of one of the libraries, a small group of Christian Union volunteers delivered a sandwich to a person asking how religions can coexist if Christianity claims to teach the only truth. A discussion around truth and relativity ensued with the Christian Union team and four of the student’s friends.
Brenton Duhon ’19, who helped with the outreach, said, “Students were extremely receptive to the conversations and, in many cases, were more interested in the discussion than the free chicken sandwich.”
Although largely successful, the suggested questions received some negative feedback. For example, one student was upset by the question “Can a person be gay and a Christian?” and began to draw attention on social media to Chick-fil-A’s well-known support for traditional marriage. Although several similar situations arose in the hours prior to the event, student volunteers, though nervous, prepared for the deliveries with prayer, remaining confident in God’s moving grace.
And the conversations continued long after the sandwiches were finished and the event had ended. Uson reported that “some people texted follow-up messages saying that it was okay if we didn’t get a sandwich to them, but to come anyway to have a conversation.” Many volunteers, such as Uson, readily gave more of their time after the event had officially ended as they engaged in conversations, allowing God to work through them.
Members of Christian Union’s ministry said it was a true blessing to be able to establish a place where students could open up about their struggles and questions about Christianity.