Though COVID-19 has changed life on the campus of The University of Texas (UT) at Austin, the Longhorn Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) has found many opportunities to reach students. Marcy Martinez, associate director of the BSM, explained that though the pandemic has changed daily life on campus, it has not changed the need for ministry like BSM.
“There’s a ton of spiritual need. We just put out a sign that said ‘free Bibles and prayer’ and people come walking in,” she said. “The need is there.”
Utilizing a new building
Due to COVID-19, many classes are online or partially online, meaning that the center of campus is no longer the centerpoint of student life. Instead, it has become centered around West Campus, an area of off-campus housing popular with many upperclassmen. West Campus is also where the BSM’s new building is located. They moved in August 2020 and have been busy since, connecting with the residents in the complex and in nearby buildings.
“Before, the middle of campus would be the hub where you would find students, but now, West Campus has become the hub and you can find more students there than on campus because they’re staying in their apartments,” Martinez explained. “So our building is right in the middle of where students are right now, which is exciting.”
The new building is a unique collaboration with an apartment complex. In the sale of the land from the BSM property, Texas Baptists were able to secure the first two floors of the new 18-story apartment building for meeting and ministry space. This has allowed the BSM staff and students to interact with and encounter the student residents daily.
This unique situation has already opened the doors for students to, literally, walk into the BSM. Martinez shared that a male student who lived in the apartment complex and walked by the BSM every day on the way to his apartment came in one day. He said that he was involved in church when he was in high school, but he had not been active in his faith since coming to college. After hearing more about the BSM, the student signed up for a small group, where he is now being discipled and encouraged in his faith.
Creating a space for prayer
The BSM’s 48-hour prayer tent also drew students closer to the Lord this semester. The event, which takes place annually, is usually held in the center of UT’s campus. However, due to the pandemic, the majority of the event took place in the BSM building, where students were able to socially distance themselves as they went through the different prayer stations.
“I think creating a space in the middle of semester for students to intentionally seek God and petition God for their campus and their neighbors is really pivotal,” Martinez said of the event.
Among the event’s participants were two girls who had been reading the Bible with a BSM student. The girls, who were not Christians, were invited to pray, and after a few minutes of praying with BSM members, Martinez said the girls went off on their own and each prayed for a few hours.
“It was the first time either of them, I think, intentionally prayed on their own. So that was a really cool experience,” she said.
The event was mostly student-led, explained Jamie Richardson, an assistant at the BSM. Small groups, called “family groups” each prayerfully considered and planned the stations of the prayer tent.
“We’ve been praying that our students would think outwardly and missionally during these challenging times,” Richardson said. “It was cool to see them notice the needs around them. They saw that students were, for example, lonely and anxious, so they set up stations to address those things.”
As the semester continues, Martinez prays that BSM students will continue to be bold and share their faith. With students spending long hours in their apartments and online classes, there is an increasing feeling of isolation for these students. The BSM students need boldness to reach out to their neighbors and share the love of Christ with them.
The Longhorn BSM is part of a network of collegiate ministry that reaches over 110 college campuses in Texas. These ministry leaders disciple the next generation and provide opportunities for spiritual growth, making friends, leadership, service and missions. To learn more about BSM, go to txbsm.org.