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Christian Union: The Magazine
September 16, 2023

Ministry Snapshot: Christian Union Vita at Cornell University

By erin conner


“Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”  - 1 John 3:10


In February of 2023, Marcus Buckley and his wife, Lea Ann, packed up their life in Florida as church leaders to move to Ithaca, New York to answer God’s call to serve Cornell students.

This call did not come without sacrifice. 


“God's call for us meant leaving a thriving church with a great staff and a loving, supportive congregation, along with cherished friends and family members, 1100 miles behind. However, from the beginning of our talks with Christian Union, the calling from the Lord was so apparent and strong. We felt drawn to Christian Union’s vision, mission, and values,” Lea Ann said.

The Buckleys joyfully joined veteran women’s ministry fellow, Liz Thomforde, at Christian Union Vita seeking to quickly make a meaningful and measurable impact.

“Over the last few months, we have spent time building relationships. We spent time in prayer and fasting asking God to create an environment of Christian unity and boldness within our group. He heard and answered our prayers,” the Buckleys said.

When asked about the variables contributing to the growth of CU Vita’s ministry, Marcus simply said how grateful he is to God for blessing him with the opportunity to serve and lead students. “God is so good, not just in what He does, but how He does it, and when He does it. God’s faithfulness is so beautiful and perfect.” At CU Vita, a love of the Lord is evident, not just in each of the faculty’s words, but in their work.

A love of the Lord is also evident in the Mott Center, CU Vita’s ministry center.

Hundreds of students have flowed through this ministry center since August 21, as Bible Courses have started and numerous other engaging outreach events have been held. How much food was needed in the past four weeks to host this many students? An estimated 1000 cookies, 100 lbs. of fruit, 100 lbs. of veggies, 75 pizzas, 300 hamburgers/bratwursts, 200 sub sandwiches, 12 dozen gallons of ice cream, and countless bags of chips, smores, cheese & meat trays, bagels, and doughnuts.

“The center is a place for students to grow in their studies and to grow in their walk with the Lord. We want them to know that our doors and hearts are always open,” Lea Ann said. “My greatest joy in working as the manager of our ministry center is in creating an environment for the students to feel safe, loved,and appreciated.”

“As a student leadership development ministry,” Marcus said, “we need students who come with a hunger for God and a desire to be equipped to make an impact.” He said one remarkable thing about the freshmen he is meeting is that they have this hunger for the Lord and this desire to contribute, complementing the outstanding students already involved at CU Vita.

Liz pointed to two students who are currently demonstrating this type of dedication: Ashley Prentice, ‘26, and Alexandra LaDuca, ‘26. These students have selflessly given of themselves and their time to help build a beautiful community of faith that welcomes, encourages, and develops the underclassmen. These students’ actions will surely impact this ministry for years to come.

The University’s founder, Ezra Cornell, understood that “to educate one student means to reach generations of future students, so the best way to build a better future is to invest in the people with the potential to build it.”

Marcus Buckley and the team of ministry fellows and student leaders at CU Vita understand Ezra’s principle. They serve because they know that an investment in students who can transform culture will reach generations to come for the kingdom, glory, and honor of God.