By Lonnie Wilkey & David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
JOHNSON CITY — In the nearly three years Jonathan Chapman has served as Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) director at East Tennessee State University he has worked hard to gain credibility among administration and staff.
Shortly after he arrived, he learned that some people even thought the BCM had closed. One administrator said “we didn’t know you were still around,” Chapman recalled.
Since that day the BCM “has been pouring” itself into the campus, Chapman said.
The freshmen “move-in” day at ETSU on Aug. 24 has possibly cemented the BCM’s reputation on campus.
BCM members not only assisted freshmen and their parents who moved them into their dorms, the BCM joined hands with disaster relief volunteers to provide a free meal.
Chapman noted the BCM helped move students into dorms last year, but this was the first time they have been able to get permission to have volunteers from churches actually on campus to serve.
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He pitched the idea to Jim Ramey, DR director for Sullivan Baptist Association, who agreed to help. Ramey used it as a training event for volunteers while the BCM used it as an opportunity for a positive witness on campus. “It was a win-win situation,” Chapman said.
The Sullivan DR team not only provided the volunteers, they also absorbed a large portion of the cost, along with the Holston Baptist Association Disaster Relief.
Ramey said they thought about the idea last year but it takes a lot of planning to pull off a feeding event. “When you plan and pray it falls into place,” he said.
Fourteen volunteers from Sullivan Association joined the effort with help from other local volunteers and BCM students. They fed nearly 1,500 people.
“We are excited to (be a part of this) and excited to help grow this mission,” Ramey said, adding that they hope it becomes an annual event.
Both Chapman and Ramey were pleased that the event had approval from all levels, beginning with ETSU president Brian Noland who came by and met the volunteers. “He (Noland) said he really appreciated us serving the campus,” Chapman said.
Though the volunteers could not openly share the gospel, they were able to demonstrate the love of Christ through their actions, the two men agreed.
“I think one of the most important things is that we are not beating them over the head with the gospel. We are just showing them that we care,” Ramey said.
BCM student Jamie Wilson, a sophomore from Livingston, agreed.
“I think this gives us a chance to show people that we love them,” said Wilson, who volunteered to work at the BCM’s move-in event along with her friends Abigail Reece, a senior from Johnson County, and Makala Carr, a junior from Rickman.
“My hope is that they will see us out here and will understand that we care about them. And from that, maybe they will be interested in seeing what the BCM is about,” she said.
Wilson, who attends First Baptist Church, Livingston, said she first came in contact with the BCM during her freshman orientation last year, and has continued to be active with the group.
She, like the other BCM volunteers, spent Thursday morning carrying furniture, TVs, and other items into dorm rooms to help the incoming freshmen and their families get acclimated.
Shannon Pardue of Cleveland was a parent who was very appreciative of the unexpected help.
“It was great to see the BCM volunteers here to help. We appreciated it very much,” said Pardue who was helping to move her son Jared into a dormitory.
Chapman was pleased with the effort. “It was amazing,” he said.