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Ray and Vera Treese
Ray and Vera Treese

Ray Treese had his life planned out — he knew well in advance that all his hard work would allow him to spend his retirement years on the local golf courses. And at first, everything was going according to plan, but then . . . .

"The current Chi Alpha campus pastor [supported by the church] at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) resigned," recalls Treese. "The next day, I met with the pastor and we decided that this was too important of a ministry to let slide, so I volunteered to go out and temporarily head up the program."

That was in 1998. Treese, with his wife of 58 years, Vera, supporting his efforts, is still leading the Chi Alpha program ministering to EKU students. He turned 80 in April and is officially the oldest Chi Alpha campus minister in the nation.

Chi Alpha is the Assemblies of God ministry to students attending secular colleges and universities. Treese's continuing ministry on the EKU campus might be easier to understand if he had walked into a "turn-key" operation, had years of experience in ministry to college students, or at least was a credentialed minister - but that wasn't the case.

Instead, the truth was the Chi Alpha group was essentially non-existent, Treese had attended college in his mid-30s and had no familiarity with campus life, and only recently he had taken a few distance education Bible courses.

From the outside looking in, he was not what one might call "the ideal" candidate. Not even close. But God was looking at Treese from the inside out.

"Sometimes people think that God has a checklist of criteria a person has to meet before he or she can serve Him," says E. Scott Martin, national director for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. "I've come to believe it's often more about the willingness of the heart."

For Treese, an unexpected and unknown world of ministry suddenly was placed before him. He may have been unqualified, but he was willing to allow God to use him.

Once again, if instant success had greeted Treese, his continuing presence at EKU may be easier to understand. But his first year ended with no active Chi Alpha members at EKU.

Year two, Treese saw eight students start attending Chi Alpha, but by year's end the group was once again down to zero. Striking out two consecutive years might have been enough to end any Chi Alpha leader's efforts, but during that second year, he had the opportunity to lead a young man to Christ, bolstering his resolve.

"I still felt that I was where God wanted me to be," he says. "I was determined to stay the course or until God told me to quit."

In his third year (2001-2002), things finally began to turn around. The group finished the year with 10 people in it. Treese says that from that first group of 10, 3 of those students went into full-time ministry. Then in his fourth year at EKU, the group became firmly established with an average attendance of 20 students.

Since then, Treese has seen the EKU Chi Alpha grow to as many as 40 students, but with total turnover taking place every four years, the size of the group fluctuates from year to year, ranging between 20 and 40 students.

"Although Ray didn't see many visible signs of growth those first two years, I believe his commitment to God's call resulted in seeds being planted," Martin says. "And as a result of his determination, he not only planted seeds, but has come to see the results as well."

In his attire of shorts, T-shirt and a baseball cap, Treese makes himself available around campus; holds events such as passing out grilled cheese sandwiches, hosting a movie night, or conducting a weekend retreat; or simply visits with a student over a cup of coffee. As a result, many of the 17,000 EKU students have come to view him as the campus grandfather.

Ray Treese at Lake Reba
Ray Treese, center, hamming it up with his Chi Alpha group on a retreat at Lake Reba.

"As students see me as a grandfather, I have an immediate rapport with them," he says. "Students will talk to me about things they may not even discuss with their own parents."

Treese, who attends Faith Created Assembly in Richmond, also works hard to help his Chi Alpha students develop the Christian life skills they will need once they graduate, having them lead in many areas of ministry and in services. As an example, he tells how there used to be 15 bars in relatively small area of town, frequented by thousands of students.

"Our students would go downtown about the time the bars closed and pass out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and witness to students," he recalls. "They would witness to students and offer them free rides back to campus. Students and ministers would also do prayer walks where the bars were...within three years, there were only two or three bars left and only a relative handful of students frequenting them."

Treese explains that although retirees may not initially consider Chi Alpha as a ministry for them, he is living proof that age is not a limitation. However, he says the first step is to educate the local pastor so the door can be opened to seniors.

"A church may not be able to afford to hire a full-time minister to head up a Chi Alpha group on a local college campus, but there are seniors who would be happy to take over a ministry like that — as many are self-supporting with their retirement income and as they would be district appointed missionaries, they could also receive funding from programs such as Speed the Light," Treese says. "But, the problem is, they don't know how to get it started. If the church would join with district and national Chi Alpha leaders to present the opportunity, perhaps conduct a workshop, I think there would be seniors who would really enjoy this."

"Ray took the required courses through Global University to earn his credentials," Martin says. "Retirees or those who are about to retire can start taking these distance education courses now and see the doors to ministry in all kinds of fields — including Chi Alpha — become open to them. Retiring may signal the end of one part of a person's life, but it could also signal the beginning of a whole new life of fulfillment in ministry!"

"The first time I led someone to Christ on campus . . . that's what really turned me on to campus ministry," Treese says. "Students from broken families, students with disruptive parents, students from better parts of town — it doesn't matter the background — if you need Christ you need Christ. To see them turned on to Jesus makes it all worth while."

 


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Pentecostal church wins big with 'Sin City' revival

Tue, 17 Apr 2001 - 12:00 AM CST

A Las Vegas church is on a roll. In the gambling capital of the world, hundreds of people have come to Christ through a dramatic move of God in a congregation where revival has been aggressively linked to evangelism.

Attendance at the International Church of Las Vegas A/G (ICLV) grew tenfold in just four years, with up to 50 people typically responding to the altar call during Sunday services. But the growth has not come without a price. Senior pastor Paul Goulet's family has faced a string of car accidents and two daughters' serious sickness.

"If I had known what it would take, I would have gone back to being a therapist," said Goulet, who arrived at ICLV--formerly West Valley Assembly of God--in 1992 with a background in pastoral counseling and psychology. "But at some point you are called to give your life to something, and we are called to give our lives to this city. People are getting saved and delivered. I really think we are a threat to the demonic powers here."

John Mazur is one of those whose life has been transformed by ICLV. A "die-hard drug user," the New Jersey native "would rather have been dead than alive." Then he met a man who gave him a card for the church and told him: "These people will love you."

Mazur attended the church, and God turned his life around. But then he discovered that his years of abuse had left him with liver disease and possibly cancer. After prayer for healing, further tests showed a completely healthy liver. "The Lord never gave up on me," Mazur said. "That's the love of Christ I found here. My whole family is saved now."

The church's impact on the city is anchored in its focus on prayer and evangelism. "Paul started preaching that it wasn't about blessings or falling down or goose bumps or manifestations, but about winning the lost," said his wife, Denise. "We were going to take what He had given us, the power of the Holy Spirit, out into the world and give it to people. That is what it's for."

Goulet himself said that "the more the power flows, the more I have to focus people on the lost. When we have a blowout service, I have to emphasize what it's for. That is the responsibility of pastors and leaders. We don't want to become introverted or people [will] get jealous of each other, and it becomes about going to the altar for the next experience, not winning people to the Lord."

In the midst of ICLV's growth, Goulet survived a snowmobile wreck that left him unable to walk for several months. One daughter came down with seizures and another was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Both girls were healed.

"This city will devour you unless you fast and pray," Goulet said. "If I want to take Las Vegas like God wants to take Las Vegas, and I partner with Jesus Christ, then I will partner in His sufferings. Most people want to know Him in power, but they don't want to walk through 'Door No. 3': the fellowship of His sufferings...But if you [do], you reap a rich harvest."


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