By Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – The girl opened the door. Her roommates lie strewn on the floor in drunken stupors.
Obviously stressed, she said one of her roommates didn't return from the previous night's partying. The roommate's cellphone didn't work, and her abandoned car was found at a nearby hotel.
"She seemed heartbroken, so we prayed with her," said Taylor Bowers, a student at Truett-McConnell (TMC) in Cleveland, Ga. "It just seemed like it encouraged her so much that we were there and prayed with her. She said she definitely wants to come to the church."
Bowers joined nearly four dozen college students -- some from TMC and some from Aloma Church (SBC) in Winter Park, Fla. -- who spent several hours Sept. 10 knocking on doors, meeting people and sharing the Gospel and information about Aloma Church on the University of Central Florida's campus and in surrounding neighborhoods.
Leon -- a German with numerous tattoos -- said that church wouldn't be for him. He believed he wouldn't fit in and that he wouldn't be welcome, recounted TMC student JC Hitzing, adding, "It broke my heart because so many people have that same mindset, that they're not welcome in the church."
Churches must be "intentional to foster an environment that welcomes those people, an environment that shows people that we care about them," Hitzing noted. "I was so encouraged by Aloma because that's what they're doing. They're reaching out to the community to let people know that people there are people who care about them. [Aloma Church] is a place where they can feel welcome."
TMC students spent the previous evening at Disney World's annual Night of Joy, which features contemporary Christian musicians.
Ed Pruitt, TMC's world missions director, knew the pastor of Aloma Church from his seminary days and helped arrange the evangelistic outreach.
"If the focus of our institution is missions and we really care about missions and evangelism, I thought we should take a Saturday morning, and instead of going to another water park, partner with a church and go out and do evangelism for three or four hours," said Pruitt. "I just happened to know of Aloma Church, so I called and told them about the idea, and they immediately said, 'Yeah, we want to do it.'"
Aloma's minister to single adults, David Barker, said the joint ministry provided "a great opportunity to foster a hunger in these students as they are being supported by other godly students to go out in what most times would not be a comfortable situation."
"This is just going to spark what needs to be taking place anyway. I want us to be known as a church that cares and wants to show the love of Christ and see people saved," Barker said.
TMC's Director of Student Life Jonathan Morris told TMCNews, "We're excited for this opportunity for our students to join other students from Orlando to spread the Gospel on one of the largest campuses in the nation."
Encouraged by cooperative evangelistic effort, both Pruitt and Barker are considering a similar venture next year in Fla., as well as a joint mission trip to New York City next spring.
Norm Miller is director of communications at Truett-McConnell College.
Vicky Kaniaru contributed to this story.