EDINBURG - On a sunny Friday afternoon, five freshmen students walked across campus at the University of Texas - Pan American pulling a wagon filled with lemonade, musical instruments and salvation tracks. Their destination was the courtyard in front of the campus library, where they set up tables and began serving drinks and playing worship music with the intention of reaching out to their fellow students.
These students were part of the Baptist Student Ministry at UTPA and are just a few of the many that reach out to fellow students on a daily basis to share the love of God across their campus. Outreach is the heart of the BSM at the University of Texas-Pan American, reaching an average of 600-800 students through activities hosted each week.
From Bible studies to coffee and conversations, students involved in the BSM are provided opportunities daily to reach out to their fellow students and engage in spiritual conversations.
One of those ways is through "Free Lunch" each Thursday. Dating back to 1960, the UTPA BSM hosts a free lunch for students on campus each week. They welcome around 250 students to the BSM building for a meal, live music and a devotional. BSM student leaders prepare the food and serve their fellow students, while others engage in conversation around tables while eating.
"While many of our programs are out on campus, reaching students, this is one where we bring them into our building and show them who we are and what we do," said Robert Rueda, BSM director.
A new outreach that began last year is an emphasis on freshmen discipleship and outreach.
"Our freshmen students are important because they will be the ones that continue the culture of being the presence of Christ on campus," Rueda said.
On Thursday evenings, campus missionary Tom Centrella leads a freshmen Bible study. During the lesson, he encourages the new students to grow deeper in their knowledge and understanding of the scripture. Then, on Friday mornings, the freshmen go out on campus and share the Gospel. First, they are poured into, as they grow in their faith through study. Then, they are given an opportunity to pour out through outreach.
"They have their own outreach because it came out of their own initiative," shared Damaris Martinez, campus missionary. "It is great to see they are wanting to share on their campus. They are wanting to share Christ."
Through all of the activities, bible studies, outreach events and work that occurs in the BSM at UTPA, the heart of the ministry is reaching others for Christ and training up Christian leaders on campus.
"The main thing we are trying to teach our students is 'God can use my life,'" Rueda said. "You have to believe it with all your heart. You have to wake up every day with the expectation that God is going to use your life."
For more information on Baptist Student Ministry, visit www.texasfreshmen.com.