In 2009, just months after our wedding, my wife Jordan and I left our jobs at a large local church in Indianapolis to begin the process of pioneering Chi Alpha (XA) at Indiana University. At the time it seemed like a big risk and a huge undertaking to leave that kind of security, but we knew for certain that we had discovered our calling as missionaries on the college campus.
Derek and Jordan Britt
Jordan and I had a strong foundation theologically (I graduated from Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL with a degree in Pastoral Ministry). We also had a strong foundation missionally as we came into XA from a church with a huge heart for missions and a passion for evangelism. Much of what Chi Alpha valued felt familiar. But as we went deeper and deeper into the community we realized we had a lot to learn.
It’s always a little awkward for staff coming into Chi Alpha without being Chi Alpha students and we definitely felt a bit like fish out of water at first. However, at every turn we felt the love of the community and in time it transformed us. Whether it was Jeff Alexander (our district director in Indiana fighting for us and loving us so well), Steve Lehmann (our area director in the Great Lakes who saw something in us that pushed him to pursue us from the very start), or Mario Solari (our CMIT director who took us in at a difficult time and showed us what a healthy Chi Alpha discipleship community looked like), every staff member we interacted with gave us a window into the loving community we hoped to eventually replicate at Indiana University.
As we met students during our internship at Florida State and then at Purdue University as we started to raise funds for planting at Indiana University, we realized more and more how much had been missing from our lives before this point. These students were passionate about Jesus in a place where that seemed rare. Not only that, they talked about Jesus all the time, not just at an altar call or in a Bible study. As healthy as a community as we came from, I had never personally experienced that in the ministry that I led before Chi Alpha.
When we pioneered Indiana University we set out to create a community as we had experienced. A place that didn’t just value services and weekend experiences, but one that was committed to every student being truly devoted to Jesus, committed to being a community that cares deeply for each other, and was committed to every student taking real responsibility for their campus. We had so much help over the years in creating that from amazing people that came alongside us and fought for students at Indiana University. Kenji Kuriyama, a Chi Alpha student from Louisiana and a godsend from Chi Alpha to us was a huge part of that, but also our early staff members like Luke and Nicole Furr and others who committed for the long haul and have been fighting with us since the beginning. In these last ten years, we’ve seen God use so many people to take us from discipling 15 students in small groups and at our weekly large group gathering in 2011 to a few hundred students in 2021.
This past August was ten years since we moved to Bloomington, we have two other family members now that are helping us reach the campus (Davis – 7, Jonas – 5) and we have an alumni base and a student community that embody the ideals we have learned from so many in XA over the years.
In these last five years we have seen the fruit of what communities like that produce, namely missionaries and new ministries. We now have the privilege of being a campus missionary-in-training site where new workers just like us back in 2009 come to be trained. And we get to watch these missionaries set out from Bloomington, just like we did from Florida State, to pioneer new communities of real devotion, real community and responsibility across the Midwest.
We are forever grateful for the impact of Chi Alpha on our lives and are honored that our story is a Chi Alpha story, even though we didn’t come from Chi Alpha. And we can’t wait to see what God does next.
Derek Britt serves as the Chi Alpha director at Indiana University, and as the Chi Alpha director for the state of Indiana.
chialphaiu.com and xaindiana.org