Russ and Jamie Collins operate The Mission House in their home near the University of New Mexico (UNM), a campus of approximately 30,000 students in Albuquerque. They hope to reach young people like Joe, a foreign exchange student who drops by to play video games and watch movies with residents at The Mission House and considers it a home away from the dorm.
“It’s all part of going where the students are and reaching out to the campus,” the couple says. Since the opening of The Mission House in July 2009, they have made personal contact with more than 600 students, 400 of whom have been to their home for one or more of a dozen events.
Russ and Jamie, who are in the process of applying for Foursquare ministerial credentials, started a Bible study for college students in 2009. Within a few months, they realized God had a bigger plan. Their home church, Faith Chapel (Albuquerque Netherwood Park Foursquare Church) helped them get established in a home closer to the UNM campus. The Mission House is large enough to accommodate groups of around 30 college students for the weekly Bible studies they host.
The couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Amelia, live in the house with Kristin, Bri and Kyle, student leaders who share responsibilities around the house and pay rent to live there. Russ and Jamie say the training and mentoring of these student leaders—and others like them—includes teaching and hands-on experience so they become whole, healthy people in Christ. The result is student leaders who “reach out to others out of a love and obedience to Christ,” they state.
Sarah, a frequent visitor to The Mission House, is a student who spent her whole life in church and is just now coming into a faith of her own. Russ and Jamie are excited to see Sarah growing in spiritual confidence as she shares her faith in Christ with other students on the campus of a very anti-religious university. Sarah says: “I am now not ashamed to tell people I am a Christian. It’s for real.”
While still in college at Oral Roberts University, Russ conducted research for his senior project on college students and their connection to the church. He discovered that U.S. churches were having a tough time connecting with college students and bridging a gap from the campus to the local church.
Russ visited Onyx House, the college-age ministry at Faith Center (Eugene Foursquare Church) in Eugene, Ore., and in time became intrigued at what God might do through a similar ministry in New Mexico.
During The Mission House’s first year, five students were freed from drug and alcohol addictions, 20 recommitted their lives to Christ, and three others professed faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.
Russ and Jamie have hosted 11 worship events and three themed parties for students, and welcomed countless young people into their home every night of the first week back to school in fall 2010. They also host a weekly Friday Tea and weekend social events throughout the school year to help engage students in healthy relationships.
They constantly look for opportunities to partner with other Christian ministries on campus, too. Brian and Marsha Ferguson of Young Life College, a predominately evangelistic ministry, have joined forces with Russ and Jamie and their discipleship ministry at The Mission House. The two couples seek out campus ministry leaders and local church college pastors to create what they call “a supportive community that works together to serve the vast needs of students on campus.”
Russ and Jamie say that when they started The Mission House, they “took hold” of Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (NIV).
People from Faith Chapel in Albuquerque help to financially subsidize The Mission House and the students who live there. They provide a home-cooked meal once a week and help maintain the physical needs of the house and property. Russ and Jamie focus their energy on building relationships with students and taking care of their family—admirable goals considering the responsibilities of Jamie’s graduate studies and Russ’ full-time job as a bank manager.
“We love what we get to do,” Russ and Jamie affirm. “The Mission House started as a project, but it is turning into a place where we are constantly challenged, broken and then put back together again, by God’s grace.”
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles