As night descends on the campus of Drexel University in Philadelphia, during the summer months, one finds colorful lights slashing through the dark behind the athletic center. Cue a slow text crawl and John Williams’ iconic “Star Wars” score, because a galaxy far, far away has arrived in the form of Drexel Dragon Jedi.
This student organization choreographs high performance lightsaber fights, complete with “the Force,” mild acrobatics, Jedi and Sith costumes and storytelling — all as a way to give back to the community.
This is no joke.
This was the first club I joined at my alma mater, and I stayed with it my entire five years of college.
Returning to the club four years later, with the intent of being a ministerial presence, was surreal.
Connecting with new faces
The club had grown significantly in size. I carried the weight of an alumni and had to figure out how to connect with new faces on my own.
It was not a comfortable space.
Between moments of jokingly being called the club’s chaplain and sometimes being a sounding board for the struggles of Drexel life, I wondered about any purpose or impact I might be having on these students.
A few weeks after club officers asked if I could help by dying on stage in a character-driven performance (fun metaphors there), I had the opportunity to facilitate an after-practice hangout for the club.
It was a normal activity for members to meet at a local spot and relax with conversation and maybe a game. With funds from an evangelism grant through Baptist Campus Ministries, I provided pizza and was given a chance to explain the reasons I came back to the club.
One was to help it thrive, and that often meant training new members and providing feedback on performances. Another was to help students navigate college ups and downs while they were involved in the club, something I take seriously given my own bittersweet past with the university.
Safe place for spiritual conversations
And the final, but certainly not least, reason, is to be a safe place to have spiritual conversations and talk about the gospel.
The night I spoke at this hangout I did not (explicitly) share the gospel. Some of the club members have a difficult history with Christianity, so I must be extremely gentle with how I approach sharing the gospel. My promise to not ambush them with it got a chuckle.
But what I did say, sincerely and openly, was how coming to faith in Jesus was a critical part of my journey — and even survival — at Drexel. I remain thankful for the Christians who talked to me about Him.
Then I made it clear that I am available to talk about spiritual matters and be a safe place for them.
At the end I received an unexpected, “We love you, Jon!” from one of the members, which warmed my heart.
Perhaps I have made a little impact in the galaxy far, far away.
Continuing to ‘show up’
So I continue to show up at least once a week, practicing and conversating with Jedi and Sith, hoping one day some of them will ask about “the Force” of this world — if it’s real and can be known; if there can be a balance to the craziness of this world.
Jesus can be, and I pray each of the members that pass through this club would consider Him.
Until then, I seek to be a safe place for these students in need of the gospel, and at the very least, a friend willing to talk with them about it and the everyday hard knocks of life, in the hard truths and the good.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Jon Rice and originally published by the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.