SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP) -- Mike McQuitty has almost always seen himself as a missionary. He gave his life to Christ at the age of 6 and in high school realized he loved ministry work and especially missions.
"In college I served as a summer missionary in Colorado and Russia. And while in seminary at Southwestern, I served in youth ministry and then collegiate work for three years at University Baptist Church in Fort Worth," McQuitty said. "Through these experiences, my heart for missions and college students continued to grow."
As McQuitty considered ministry career options, he was drawn to campus ministry because he sees it as missions work.
"The college years are a time when young people are making the decisions that will shape the rest of their lives, yet often it is a time when faith is put on a shelf," he said.
NAMB Week of Prayer missionary Mike McQuitty (right) spends time with students on the campus of Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., sharing the Gospel with those who don't know Christ and discipling those who do. Photo by Peter Field Peck. © Copyright 2010 Baptist Press.
"You have literally thousands of students gathered in one place where we're able to repeatedly expose them to the Gospel and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that comes through a relationship with Jesus. That's an amazing opportunity."
McQuitty is one of more than 5,300 missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Cooperative Program. He is among the North American Mission Board workers featured as part of the annual Week of Prayer, March 7-14. This year's theme is "Live with Urgency: Share God's Transforming Power." The 2010 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering's goal is $70 million, 100 percent of which benefits missionaries like McQuitty.
When McQuitty graduated from seminary, he and his wife Vicki began looking for the place where God would have them invest their lives.
"We began looking for needs and saw an urgent NAMB Mission Service Corps request to come to the Northeast," he said. "There were a variety of universities looking for campus ministers and Syracuse University was on the list.
"We flew up and investigated, prayed and began to feel God calling us here, to central New York, to invest our lives."
There had been some campus ministry at Syracuse in the past, but when the McQuittys arrived there was just one student left from the former ministry.
"Her name was Alaya," McQuitty said. "She had a great heart for God and wanted to see Him do great things on this campus."
Mike, Vicki and Alaya began with some simple steps -- Bible study, discipleship and outreach activities.
"A few students began to come and we began to invest our lives in them, and they began to catch a vision for how God could use them to reach not only their peers but the world with the good news of Christ," McQuitty said.
Today, Baptist Campus Ministries at Syracuse is thriving. In addition to the original activities, the BCM has added a large group gathering and free lunch on Tuesdays. McQuitty and the students also go out each week to share their faith. They hold a prayer meeting every morning plus a worship service on Sundays.
Mike McQuitty (second from right) leads a Bible study for Baptist Campus Ministries students at Syracuse University. Photo by Peter Field Peck. © Copyright 2010 Baptist Press.
"God is moving here," McQuitty said. "A lot of students are beginning to get involved in ministry and we are seeing lives changed."
One of those changed lives is Mayelin Nolasco, who began coming to the BCM with her roommate.
"My first impression was that these people were very serious about their faith," Nolasco said. "They weren't in it just for show -- they were earnestly seeking God. I'd never experienced anything like that before.
"It took about a year, but I'd gotten to know Christ pretty well and I knew I wanted to pursue a relationship with Him," she said.
Through the church that was born out of the BCM, Nolasco gave her life to Christ.
"I enjoy worship and I feel like I can go on campus and speak to my pastor," she said. "That's something that's really made a difference for me. With all the stress from work and classes, it's good to have a Christian support system on campus."
The birth of a church was something McQuitty never expected.
"There was a great hesitancy," he said, "because it's not like any church I've ever been a part of."
After much prayer and consultation with area pastors, McQuitty and the students felt God confirm they should become a church. Many of the students became members and the church has begun to flourish and grow.
"It's a bit peculiar," McQuitty said. "Most of the members are between 18 and 22 years old. Yet, it's exciting. The students serve in all the roles of the church. They have a great passion to both know God and make Him known."
NAMB missionary Mike McQuitty preaches on the theme "What's Your Passion?" McQuitty is pastor of University Baptist Church, a collegiate church plant he started at Syracuse University. McQuitty also has helped start collegiate churches at Cortland State and Oswego State colleges. Photo by Peter Field Peck. © Copyright 2010 Baptist Press.
McQuitty believes a church on campus is important because a college campus is much like a mission field. Students have their own culture and lifestyle isolated around the university. Students feel comfortable coming to a church on campus and bringing their lost friends.
"So many of these students have never heard about a God who loves them and sent His Son to be the sacrifice for their sins," McQuitty said. "They don't know that they can have a meaningful relationship with God now and for eternity, but they're usually pretty open to hearing about that.
"I just really believe that if God would grab hold of one generation, that set of students would be able to reach their parents, grandparents and their children and grandchildren. And the entire northeast region of the nation would be changed."
Jami Becher writes for the North American Mission Board.