by Abigail Sawczak
A Chi Alpha Story from the University of Wisconsin Madison
It’s amazing what God can do with a simple yes. I grew up in Northwest Indiana and, from a young age, felt drawn to missions and ministry. Yet when it came time for me to graduate from North Central University with my degree in Pastoral Studies, I had no clue what I wanted to do next. All I knew was that I wanted to help people far from Jesus draw close to Him again. During this season I heard about Madison, Wisconsin, and a team going there to re pioneer a Chi Alpha. I knew very little about Chi Alpha, but when I heard about how many students were at the university that didn’t know Jesus and how unreached the city was, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. So, at 21, I packed up my car, signed a lease without visiting, and moved in August 2016 just weeks before school started. I didn’t have the experience or qualifications. All I had was my yes. I have learned so much about campus ministry through attending the Chi Alpha’s annual Reach the University Institute and the Great Lakes regional student and staff gatherings.
After just one year on campus, I knew that this was what I wanted to give my life to. Every year it got better. Hundreds of students were coming through our doors and many decided to follow Jesus, get baptized, and follow Him all the days of their lives. Since re pioneering in 2016, students have started bible studies in their workplace, lead family members to the Lord, and even go into ministry themselves. However, saying yes to help re pioneer at UW Madison was the first of many yeses I would be saying.
In 2018, I planted New Culture Church to continue to reach the downtown and university community in Madison. New culture has created a space for nontraditional students, such as grad or PhD students, to plugin, as well as help students fall in love with the local church. Proximity to the campus was important, so I commit us to having the church close enough for students to walk or take campus transportation. We started the church in one of the biggest nightclubs in Madison and signed a lease for two large spaces, one for The Sanctuary and the other for a community/ student center next to campus.
In 2020, during a global pandemic, we pioneered at Edgewood College, and even through following all the COVID guidelines, we have seen the group grow every semester. Finally, in 2021, in partnership with our church plant, we opened “The Living Room”, a community/ student center. We opened this past fall, after raising $50,000 to renovate and getting the place ready to open to the community. We have hosted worship nights, prayer groups, small groups, international student events, and we open the student center daily so students can study during the week.
If you would have told me that five years in, we would be on two campuses, have a church plant, and a large gathering place for students, I wouldn’t have believed you. Or, I wouldn’t have said yes. The story of Chi Alpha Madison is a story that only Jesus can write. And it has been the honor of my life to continue to say yes to that story. One person, one place at a time. I can’t wait to see what He will do in the next five years and the people He will use to do it.