Pioneering XA at the U of Nebraska Omaha Samuel Gingerich


I always chuckle when asked how I came to Chi Alpha (XA) because my route has been anything but normal. In 2014, I first experienced the transformative community of XA while serving a three-month summer internship with Kelly Brown, campus minister, at the University of Texas at Austin. I was a fish out of water: a Nebraska boy, bible college student, with plans to pursue a church pastorate (not a missionary). I don’t know how I ended up spending that fateful summer at UT Austin, but needless to say, experiencing the Gospel in the frontlines of “being on mission” stirred a deep longing in my heart the likes of which I have never been able to shake. 

Who are these people?

Fast forward to 2016 I graduated from Evangel University with a Biblical Studies degree. I began working for National XA with Severin Lwali, national director of XAi  and Gary Paschal, national specialist, Conference and Events. As an outsider to the XA movement, I was shocked at how the excellence of leadership, character, and passion was ubiquitous through every level of this organization. The more I experienced, the more it stirred that aforementioned longing. I was embraced, given responsibilities and a voice, fought for, and (for the first time) discipled. 

Preparation for Pioneering   

 It was in the hallways of National XA (or maybe Gary’s hot tub) that I first felt the tug towards long-term XA and pioneering. I saw the unmatched passion of XA’s top leadership and realized that they had found it on the secular university campus. A daunting realization for one that had never experienced the secular university as a student. So, I left National XA to go to study at Missouri State University. On the outside I was going for my Masters in Religious Studies, which I completed in 2018,  but on the inside, I knew I was going for a bigger reason: to taste and see what had impacted those that had invested in me so much. 

A Lifetime of Reaching and Pouring Into University Students

God got a hold of my heart as I lived and breathed amongst my new found peers. The need was overwhelming and the workers oh so few. So, while all of my peers were getting established in their careers, taking on churches, and moving on in life: without reservation I signed up for MSU XA’s two year Campus Ministers-in-Training program with campus director, Andy Estrella. I never looked back. Those two years have now turned into what I pray is a lifetime of reaching and pouring into university students. 

“They are ready”

In 2019, God began moving my heart back towards Nebraska. There was only one XA in Nebraska at Chadron State College. And there was over 85 thousand university students between Omaha and Lincoln without a single XA representation. So, while prayer walking these Nebraska campuses, the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me that  “They are ready.” at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). How could anyone say no to that? In March 2020, I was named the new director of UNO XA and began strategizing and leaning into what God was going to do at UNO. Long story short, it would be a lot! 

Five months In

As I write, we are five months into pioneering and about to complete the first fall semester 2021 on campus. Already, we have an incredible core of students, a staff team of committed volunteers, and a community that cannot get enough of being with each other. Don’t get me wrong, there are many. . . many hard days and weeks. Learning the nuances of UNO is a daily challenge: covid-19, commuter school, located in a major city, 1/3rd are first generation students, highly secular environment, etc. Our team is constantly adapting, being creative, and learning from our failures (which are many). Despite all these things, I am reminded that “it all grows strangely dim” in the light of my house being daily filled with laughter, tears, and divine moments of authentic transformation. How thankful I am to have listened to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit and to be a part of this exciting new move of God in Nebraska. As the lead on a pioneering team, I daily learn, wrestle, and grow in ways I cannot recount in this short retelling. Yet how might I summarize what pioneering looks and feels like? I reap what I have not sown, and sow what I will not reap. To God be the glory!

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