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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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Christmas Project 5 - inspiring efforts meet needs

Fri, 21 Dec 2012 - 9:56 AM CST

Christmas project logo

Several weeks ago, AG Churches, ministries and schools were asked to share what they were doing this Christmas season to help the needy in their communities as part of the fifth annual Christmas Project conducted by AG News. The inspirational responses ranged from the practical to the creative, and are featured below.

"I enjoy this time of year and hearing about the compassion being invested in communities in the name of Christ," says Dan Van Veen, AG News editor. "Some ministries have done some incredible things and touched hundreds and hundreds of lives, but even if a ministry only has the ability to help one family, or just one person, to that family or person, that ministry has become Christ's hand extended and He has been glorified."

Van Veen also salutes the Michigan District Council, churches and ministries for their unprecedented participation in this year's Christmas Project. More than half of the responses received were from the Michigan District.

The staff at AG News would like to wish all AG News readers a wonderful Christmas, a joyous New Year and offer the encouragement to continue to live lives filled with Christ's love and compassion. AG News will return on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

--AG News staff

 

Strasburg Assembly of God, Strasburg, Virginia - is sending Christmas card with a message of salvation as well as stockings to our troops in Afghanistan.

Clute First Assembly of God, Clute, Texas, and Brazoria County Dream Center - is encouraging everyone to spend less on themselves and give the extra to help those in need. The church is also partnering with Brazoria County Dream Center to help provide food and gifts to at risk families in its area.

Calvary Assembly of God, Elkhart, Indiana - for the second year, Calvary served a sit-down Thanksgiving meal to approximately 200 people in our community. The church's desire is to provide a Thanksgiving meal plus a dinner experience for the entire family.

New Destiny Community Church, Stanley, North Carolina - teamed up with other churches to hold a holiday dinner and Christmas program for 200 men at a local prison.        

Eastside Assembly of God in Tucson, Arizona - is partnering with White River (Arizona) Assembly of God to provide toys to the children of the Apache Indian Reservation. Church members are providing new toys, with age appropriate labels, for the reservation children.

The City Limits Assembly of God, Allentown, Pennsylvania - gave away more than 1,000 live Christmas trees in a December event, which also offered live Christmas music, free hot dogs and hot chocolate.

Central Assembly of God, Springfield, Missouri - delivered grocery bags filled with all the menu items for a Thanksgiving meal to more than 250 needy families and presented more than 1,300 Christmas gifts to the children of nearby elementary schools - schools located in a low-income portion of the city.

Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri - raised more than $2,600 and collected more than 1,800 pounds of food through its annual Christmas concert, benefiting the Salvation Army. Student athletes and faculty also volunteered as bell ringers for the local Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas - the women's basketball team provided gifts for the children of the White Mountain Apache tribe in Whiteriver, Arizona; the men's and women's basketball team rang bells for the local Salvation Army; and the school is encouraging staff and faculty to give to the local United Way.

Central Bible College, Springfield, Missouri - students shared Christmas with the community by going out to different locations and singing Christmas carols.

Shekinah Temple Assembly of God, Waterford, Michigan - the church has obtained an "urgent needs list" from a local faith-based pregnancy center and many in the congregation have purchased items or donated funds for the needs on the list.

The Flint Dream Center, Flint, Michigan - will continue to pass out clothes such as new jeans, new coats and hats as well as $25 gift cards for the kids.

Central Assembly of God in Muskegon, Michigan - is reaching out to supply 42 families with Christmas dinner and presents for their children. The church will also provide gifts for 30 Teen Challenge children as well as widows and their children in the church who have need.

Christian Trinity Church, Eastpointe, Michigan - is hosting the Macomb County Homeless Warming Center the week of Christmas for around 80 guests to enjoy seven nights of warmth. Around 1,120 home-cooked meals will be served. Money donations have provided gifts of personal items, bus passes and gift cards to McDonalds.

Eaglevision Ministries/International Dream Center of Lansing, Michigan - is again distributing more than 1,000 toys and other items to ex-offenders and others for their children's Christmas experience.

Troy Assembly of God, Troy, Michigan - is reaching out to eight needy families with children both in the church and community with Walmart gift certificates to help purchase Christmas gifts.

First Assembly of God, Saline, Michigan - is participating in Baskets of Blessings, a compassion outreach ministry that collects food in baskets for those in need during the holiday season. Along with a Bible, the church delivers the food to families with whom they also have prayer with before leaving.

Northville Christian Assembly, Northville, Michigan - purchased more than 160 gifts for five needy families with 25 children and helped to feed the homeless.

Grass Lake Assembly of God, Grass Lake, Michigan - held a food drive to stock the local food pantry, and partnered with the Grass Lake Ministerial Association Angel Tree project to provide food, utility credits and Christmas gifts to local families in need.

Oasis Community Church Assembly of God, Ithaca, Michigan - sent 70 Christmas Shoe Boxes to Samaritan Purse Project; chose eight families within its community to have a Christmas dinner, games and inflatables for the (25) kids and gave gifts to the families. Also has a tree set up that's now filled with mittens, scarves, hats and gloves to take to a local agency to distribute and provided 25 fruit baskets to the elderly in need.     

Lake City Assembly of God, Lake City, Michigan - is handing out 40 bags of candy to its immediate neighborhood, inviting their neighbors to Christmas services.

Rochester Assembly of God, Rochester, Michigan - gave 130 bags of groceries to bless several families in the area and the Lighthouse in Pontiac for their Thanksgiving Food Drive. Collected toys to bless Courage Church in Detroit with their Holiday Outreach to the children of Detroit. Organized a Giving Tree to bless three families from the area.  Gave $1,000 each to Power Kid's Co. and Salvation Army over and above monthly giving for their Christmas Projects. And the church's children raised money to purchase Christmas presents for their adopted child from Compassion International.

Beaver Lake Community Church, Lachine, Michigan - "Pickin' For People"  (Bluegrass/Country/Gospel musicians who donate their time, travel and talent), a ministry of the church, is raising money for the church's food pantry as well as several other pantries and food distribution services throughout Northeast Michigan. The musicians are also performing at several nursing homes.

The Gateway Church, Spring Lake, Michigan - is hosting a Personal Care Product Giveaway to provide families in need with one month's supply of personal care items that include shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toilet paper, cleaning products and more. More than 5,000 items will be given away.

Dearborn Heights First Assembly of God, Dearborn Heights, Michigan - its "Bread of Life Food Bank" ministry, which feeds over 200 families weekly, is having a toy drive to give as many gifts to the children of these families as there are donations.

Auburn Hills Christian Center, Auburn Hills, Michigan - has given $1,000 to a ministry that gives baby showers for women in shelters; has sent a $50 Christmas gift sent to each missionary supported by AHCC; delivered a hot meal, jeans, thermal undergarments and socks to residents of a homeless shelter; received a Christmas benevolence offering for those in the church struggling financially during the Christmas season; held a winter coat drive to benefit those in the community; and is receiving a love offering to bless Hurricane Sandy victims at Christmas.

Authors: AG News

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