2011-2012 marks the third year Southern students have worked with the West Side neighborhood of downtown Chattanooga and Andres Palacios, junior theology major and director of West Side 4 Jesus, still remembers his first encounter with the outreach ministry.
“To be honest, I didn’t like my first experience,” he says.
Like many students, Andres was very uncomfortable. He wasn’t used to going around strange neighborhoods knocking on doors. Yet the experience and the people he met left a mark.
“When I left I knew I got a blessing,” he says. “[Later that year] I told the Lord I wanted to serve him in any way possible.”
Soon after, Andres received a call from the West Side 4 Jesus director, asking if he’d be willing to take over the following year. He accepted.
A year later, Andres and 300 other students kicked off West Side 4 Jesus with a Back-to-School Drive in collaboration with the Student Ministerial Association and the Orchard Park Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The group received a bigger turnout than expected. Wal-Mart, Target, and the Collegedale Church donated crayons, folders, paper, pencils, and more. Besides school supplies, the event also featured free haircuts, a barbecue, and an inflatable bounce house.
The Back-to-School Drive, in addition to upcoming health expos and Bible studies, is part of a bigger plan to form relevant relationships with the West Side community. The highlight of the semester will be an evangelistic series starting October 28 at the Renaissance Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga.
“Christ didn’t just live out his 33 years waiting for the cross. He served,” says Morris Thompson, senior theology major and president of the Student Ministerial Association. “We have to be relevant to the community before we evangelize.”
The student-led evangelistic meetings will last for three weeks and hopes are high that these meetings will be the final push to lead people to accept Christ, says Morris.
As the date for the evangelistic series nears, student ministry leaders look for more volunteers.
“We need students to be committed to following up with these people,” Andres says.
If you would like to get involved with West Side 4 Jesus, simply e-mail Andres.