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Christian Union: The Magazine
October 6, 2021

CU Lux Reaches Out to First-Year Students

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor


Prior to the fall semester, Ben Pascut, Christian Union’s ministry director at Yale University, and Chitra Kovoor, a ministry fellow, challenged student leaders with CU Lux to put their faith into immediate action by living out specific biblical commands as they embarked on the Freshman Welcoming Campaign and another academic year.

Cycle 7 lux photoA Christian Union Lux freshman Bible course

At a leadership meeting, each student leader received a biblical imperative such as: “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7), “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5), “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Pet 5:5), and “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2).

Maddie Bartels ’23, an Earth and Planetary Sciences major from Carlsbad, California, was one of the student leaders to accept the challenge. 

“My imperative was 2 Timothy 2:1: ‘You then, my [daughter], be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,’” said Bartels.

“I love this verse because it hints at one of the paradoxes of faith—how we should dutifully, obediently, and readily carry out God’s will with strength and joy, but our core identity and salvation depends on Christ’s grace alone and cannot be added to or subtracted from by our degree of ‘righteousness.’”

Bartels said the verse was a key theme she wanted to focus on in her role as Assistant Bible Course Leader for a freshman women’s Bible course, especially at a university like Yale where identity is often intertwined with accomplishment.

“I am aiming to use Bible courses to remind the girls that while they should absolutely strive to devote themselves to prayer, service, and Scripture and should try to humble themselves to God’s will, there is nothing that can replace the infinite blessing of Jesus’s blood acting powerfully to wash away every sin,” Bartels said. “In my personal life, I want to apply this verse by submitting myself before God and having the strength to follow his will, no matter my current emotions, plans, or energy level. I’m working on engaging in more individual prayer and reminding myself of God’s presence and grace throughout the day.”

CU Handwritten note 1One of the handwritten notes given to freshmen by CU Lux With determination like this from Bartels and other leaders to boldly walk by faith and live out gospel imperatives, Pascut and Kovoor have been thankful for such a dedicated group of ambassadors. They praised the work of student leaders as they reached out to first-year students through a wide range of events that comprise the Freshman Welcome Campaign. Over four-hundred first-year students received a special welcome package from CU Lux. The packages, which were hand delivered by the leadership team, included a Gospel of Luke, sweets, a handwritten note, and an invitation to a block party hosted by CU Lux.

“I have been struck by the galvanization and commitment of our leaders,” Kovoor said. “What a powerful witness. The freshmen feel very welcomed and loved by our upperclassmen.”

Pascut described the way the student leaders have responded to serving and being ambassadors of the gospel and how the Lord would be pleased by quoting the words of Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

In addition to the hand-delivered packages, other freshman welcoming events included a sunrise prayer gathering on the first day of classes, a group breakfast and hike to a popular lookout point, and a trip to the local rock climbing gym. The Bible Course Kickoff at Christian Union’s Pennington Center was also a great night.

“It’s been so encouraging to gather together physically with fellow believers and new students after a year and a half of Zoom events,” Bartels said. “I’ve already seen such a palpable energy in our meet and greet events. I’ve loved getting one-on-one meals with first year girls, greeting people at club sign up events, and welcoming students into our ministry center. The first year students I’ve spoken to are craving true community more than ever.”

During the summer, Kovoor and Pascut emphasized the importance of freshmen getting plugged in quickly. In the Christian community that is CU Lux, students have access to Bible courses, the weekly leadership lecture series, counseling, and one-on-one mentoring.

“We want to make sure that no freshman falls through the cracks,” said Bartels, who recalled being welcomed in an outstanding way when she was a first-year student.

“I remember Chitra inviting me to coffee just so she could get to know me and feeling so welcomed at events by upperclassmen,” she said. “This personal connection was something I really felt as a first year, because in no other area of Yale could I so easily and freely talk with, get advice from, and hang out with upper-class students.”

As Bartels is now paying forward the way she was greeted as a freshman by welcoming, loving, and discipling first-year students, she is obeying another biblical command of Jesus, “freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). For CU Lux this fall, that kind of passion for the gospel and outreach is imperative.

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