EDITOR’S NOTE: Royal Scribe reporters visited with some of the people helping and being helped by the organizations students interacted with on K-15. This is the story of one such family.
On Sept. 30, groups of students from Johnson University set out to various Knoxville locations with a mission of spreading love to the community. One group made its way to serve at an organization which in turn meets the needs of local college students.
About three hundred feet south of the popular Cumberland Strip, Christian Student Fellowship’s campus house sits within the borders of the University of Tennessee, one of the biggest party schools in the area.
Just inside the two-level brick building, associate campus minister Patrick Willis sits at a double-tiered desk topped with various Star-Trek and movie memorabilia. He admits to having a particular affinity for superheroes, indicating the significance of each item in his collection.
“Everything on the desk that is geeky or nerdy are the things my wife wouldn’t let me display at home,” Patrick points out jokingly.
Patrick met his wife Emily at Kentucky Christian University where he graduated in 2011 with degrees in Bible and Youth and Family Ministries and a minor in Worship Arts.
“I went to KCU, so don’t stone me,” he quips, referring to a friendly rivalry between the school and Johnson University.
As far as rivalries go, living in the midst of a loyal fan base heavily biased toward the color orange has also proven somewhat challenging for Patrick. Since coming to serve at Christian Student Fellowship earlier this year, he has yet to completely jump on-board with the Volunteers.
Along with his collection of superheroes, he proudly displays Wake Forest merchandise from his native North Carolina. The locals, though initially hesitant, have come to tolerate the innocuous tribute.
When interviewing for a position at CSF this spring, Patrick says the staff good-naturedly chastised him, but eventually conceded that it could be worse. He could be a Florida fan.
Patrick has only worked at Christian Student Fellowship for a few months, but he is no stranger to campus ministry. God began calling him to work in the university setting his junior year of college through the direction of mentor, Brian Baldwin.
After a good deal of prayer, Patrick eventually saw the door open to serve for four years as the campus minister at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, PA. That experience has given him the necessary preparation to minister to students here in Knoxville. At CSF, he unofficially fills the roles of associate minister and worship leader.
While Patrick discusses his role at the organization, Glen, the director, takes a break from watching a Clint Eastwood movie and pops his head into the room.
“Well, Glen doesn’t do anything around here,” Patrick laughs. “Go watch your movie!”
Although he enjoys joking around and having a good time, Patrick shows serious passion for the ministry that takes place at Christian Student Fellowship. CSF has operated on the UT campus since 1973, providing Sunday morning services, outreach and Christian fellowship to a debauchery prone student body.
“The best way to describe it is we’re missionaries to the college campus,” Patrick says. “We try to put a footprint on the campus so that students know that ‘Hey, if you have questions about faith, or you’re trying to find a place and already know about your faith, but want to get plugged in and surrounded by positive influences, we’re here.’”