Malisa, Brian, Sydney, Eliza & Genevieve Ellis, Serving with Cru in Boston

Posted on October 16th, 2017

Can you imagine a day when every one of the 250,000 students in Boston heard the good news of Jesus Christ in the most relevant and personal way? We can. And we think we even know how it could happen.

Malisa and I bring over 20 years of campus ministry experience to our roles on the Boston Metro Cru team. We’d love to talk to you more about our ministry with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) here in Boston.

You can:

 

#GoodStartBoston (or how not to be #SocialMediaStupid)

Posted on October 3rd, 2018

#GoodStartBoston

We’re trying new things to reach college students with the gospel. Part of being a missionary is to become a student of the culture of those we’re trying to reach. For me, that means not being #SocialMediaStupid anymore.

I used to think, “College students in Boston think and act like me.” After all, I was a college student in Boston not that long ago. But my freshman year was 21 years ago, and so it’s increasingly clear that there’s a new generation of students on campus.

Let me give you an example:

As the guys stood around eating their big roast beef sandwiches last week, Joel was on his phone snapping the scene.

“Are you snapping our meal?”

“yep”

“OK. Here’s my snap code so you can add me as a friend,” I said.
He looked at my profile for a moment. “51?”

“What’s 51?” I asked.

“That’s the total number of messages you’ve ever sent or received.”

“How many do you have?”

“29,114.”

Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do!

I’m working to not be #SocialMediaStupid anymore.

Paul talks about becoming all things to all people: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9:22-23). I think the 2018 version of that for me is that I need to become a digital native to win more college men to the cause of Christ.

Part of my job now includes coaching team leaders across the country and one of the delights is finding leaders who are innovative and creative and then replicating what they’re doing in Boston with students here. No sense reinventing the wheel. My friend Josh and his team in San Diego built a social media campaign to give students a good start to their year.

I took the best of what Josh was doing and invented #GoodStartBoston.

In addition to tagging posts online with #GoodstartBoston, we set up tables to give out Iced Coffee and Lemonade in front of freshmen dorms.

What we said to students: “Here at Cru, we’re all about giving students in Boston a Good Start to their year. That includes recommendations of restaurants near campus [thanks to all of you who made suggestions on facebook, by the way]. It includes giving out free iced coffee and lemonade on campus on hot afternoons. And it also includes the ultimate good start – connecting with a group of followers of Jesus who can help new students on their spiritual journeys.

“In addition to giving you a good start to your school year, we’d like to help give a good start to someone else. So if you fill out our quiz, at the end you’ll get a choice of charities to give a dollar to.”

The response (even from non-Christians) has been rewarding. “I’m so glad you guys are giving to charity instead of giving me some junk that I would throw away anyway. That’s so great.”

You can see what we’ve been working on by following me or Malisa on Instagram @BrianEllis or @MalisaEllis. You can search for #GoodStartBoston and you can go to www.cruboston.com/goodstart to see our “Buzzfeed Quiz.” (though the dollar for charity is only for current students).

Anyway… that’s what I’ve been doing to try to go where the students are, learn a new culture, and try to find ways to give students the Ultimate Good Start (a relationship with Jesus Christ).

Next week, we’ll be pouring hot apple cider and passing out cider donuts to start up some more #GoodStartBoston conversations. We’ll also be inviting students to pile into a bus on Columbus day to go apple picking, eat chili, and make pies.

Want to come with us? If you live in the Boston area, we’d love to have you and your families join us  on October 8 for apple picking or for chili and baking. Let me know if you’re interested.

What about you? What have you done to learn a new culture? Got any tips for me to be more effective in the social media space?

Loving our adventurous Lord,

How to Pray

  • For Joel, Andrew, Andrew, Pieter, Max and all the freshmen guys that we have been connecting with the last few weeks – that they would stick with us
  • For our Fall Retreat this weekend – Over 200 Students from across Boston, many not-yet Christians. That they would have an incredible weekend
  • For our Apple Picking trip on Columbus Day – that many non-Christians would have great gospel conversations with our staff and students.

Join us for a prayer walk

Posted on September 3rd, 2018

What I love about prayer walks is that they remind me that I have no control of the results in our ministry here in Boston. I can’t change students’ lives for all eternity. Only God can do that. And so we pray.

Going for a prayer walk lets me look around and pray with my eyes open. It lets me pray for much longer without distraction. And as I look around at all the students (and buildings they live and study in), I can focus my prayers on them.

Would you join us this month as the school year starts to pray for Boston? That God would have compassion on this great city like he did for Nineveh? And that thousands of students across the city would hear the gospel in the coming weeks?

Thank you!


Here is our family on a night-time prayer walk in front of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now part of Tufts University).


Prayer Walk 1: Fenway, Northeastern, and Art Schools

  1. Northeastern: For fast connections with freshmen who are believers and have a heart for the lost | For International students – particularly south Asians (India, etc.) as we seek to launch a new bridges movement to this group | For some undergrad international students who are believers to surface in the first few weeks and that the Lord would build a movement around them | For Athletes that we’re connected to – for relationships to solidify and for the gospel to go out
  2. NEC: For student and faculty connections and creativity to know how to reach this campus with the gospel
  3. Berklee/BoCo: For freshmen who are not just Christians but who are excited to share Christ with their classmates and bandmates
  4. Emerson: That Albany would desire to be connected with other athletes who are walking with Jesus | For the all new group of Cru staff that will be working on campus – that they would move toward making headway especially with a challenging administration | For incoming freshmen – that we would be able to find incoming freshmen quickly
  5. Bonus: Pray for our team as we seek to launch at Roxbury Community College through their activities fair
  6. WIT: For younger student leaders to link arms with Noah, our key upperclassman leader | For a core group of strong believing women.
  7. SMFA: For Sephora, an alum who now works at SMFA, that she would be successful in launching a discussion group on art and faith
  8. Mass Art: For our student leader Jillian as she starts the first small group in 10 years | That her connections with incoming freshmen and new students would be rich and that the gospel would go out in this community
  9. Simmons: Pray for the 6 involved graduate students that they would make inroads in gospel conversations with classmates | for our student leaders – though young they would be deeply connected with Jesus | for continued strong relationships with the administration | for continued connection with Islamic student association and continued opportunities for conversation about Jesus | for epic (Asian American) to have 5 student leaders by end of semester.
  10. Emmanuel: Pray for the newly formed leadership team – 5 student leaders that they would be connected together and bold in sharing the gospel | inroads among those who already think their faith is important, but aren’t connected to community yet


Groups of our staff broke up to cover Boston University in prayer too.

Prayer Walk 2: Boston University

  1. West Campus and Student Leaders: for the freshmen about to move into West – that many would come to know Christ. For our student leaders to be full of faith as they share how Jesus is at work in their life today. That our student leaders would experience spiritual multiplication as they step out in faith to shepherd younger students and make friendships with freshmen
  2. AIA and Valor: For # women athlete leaders to double (from 5-10) by the end of the year. For men on the Lacrosse, Hockey, and XC teams to grow in owning their faith and demonstrating it to other guys on their teams. For our Valor student leaders to pour into a new generation of ROTC cadets and midshipmen.
  3. Launching: This fall, we’re looking to launch new movements for African American students (Impact), around Social Justice issues, to international graduate students. Pray for favor and opportunity in each of these areas. Pray for key relationships to develop (e.g. with student leaders and others in the Howard Thurman Center).
  4. Bridges: Spiritual strength for student leaders. That they would multiply their lives. | That we meet incoming Christian international students who can catch a vision for reaching out to others | For wisdom and favor with Warren & West as we reach out to intl students there | For transfer students in Danielsen & language students in CELOP who are often lonely and disconnected from campus life
  5. Whole campus vision team – for the students and staff who have committed to dreaming about reaching every student on campus with the gospel – that the vision would stay alive and catch on with all our students. We also pray that dozens (actually 27 is our goal) would join us in going to the world this year.
  6. Freshmen: That freshmen would make friends with others in Cru and that many would come to the Fall Retreat.
  7. Warren Towers: For the 1.700 freshmen in this dorm – that the gospel would spread from person to person and that one day, every student would hear about Jesus. That the Cru community as a whole would be a place where people could experience Jesus and that they couldn’t help but falling for him and following Him.
  8. False “gods”: Pray against idols of performance, acceptance, striving, etc. Pray for healing from the anxiety and depression that are on the rise among our students.

Thanks for praying with us!

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”

Posted on August 6th, 2018

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”
When we first started doing ministry in the Middle East, that was what our long-term teammates told us.

“For the average person from this country who becomes a follower of Jesus, it’s about 2 and a half years from when they first meet a Christian to when they start following Jesus themselves. So really, it doesn’t matter to us how many people you share the gospel with. But what we do care about is whether you make friends with spiritually interested people here. We measure success like this: At the end of the summer, you’ll leave a note and a gift for your friends. The team that follows you will contact your friend and set up a time to give them your gift. That’ll be the way we can continue building those friendships. And those relationships will be handed off from summer team to long term team and back to summer team. So that each of us can journey together with these friends toward Christ.


Here I am with Mike, one of the students who joined us this summer. I loved getting to meet with him every week. Pray for him as he figures out whether God would have him come back long-term to this city.

“Lasting friendships. That’s your measure of success.”

Malisa and I love that ministry philosophy. We think it transfers really well back to our ministry in Boston and what we’re trusting God for here. And we think this style of ministry will work well for our students for the rest of their lives. Because if they can learn to share the gospel in the context of building spiritual friendships with others around them – classmates, neighbors, co-workers, they can be prepared for a lifetime of fruitful ministry.

And so that’s the ministry you were involved with this summer (by praying and giving). It is a delight for us to get back together with former students that we met years earlier (like this friend “Denise” with Malisa and Kelsey). We built a relationship with her four years ago and another team picked up the relationship after we left.


Now, “Denise” is married, has a baby, and is a professor and so has the potential to influence the next generation. Would you pray for her?


Malisa and some of our students got to have a series of significant conversations with “Görme” this summer. They talked about fasting during Ramadan, why we fast as Christians, who Jesus is, and more. Would you pray for next year’s team? That like the other team did with “Denise,” they would continue befriending “Görme”?

By the numbers:

  • We initiated 276 conversations.
  • We journeyed with 53 new friends.
  • We left gifts for 40 friends to follow up.
  • Each has a story. Would you thank the Lord for each of these friends?

Because you’ve been sending us back to the same location now every couple summers for eight years, we get lots of chances to see how our friends in the Middle East are journeying toward Jesus.

But the same thing happens in Boston – we get to join students on their spiritual journeys for a little window (their time in college) and then send them off to be lifelong laborers for God’s kingdom. Thank you for enabling that work.

Have you ever thought about journeying spiritually with friends at work or neighbors? We’d love to be praying for you. Shoot us an e-mail: brian.ellis@cru.org or malisa.ellis@cru.org

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

 

Prayer Requests:

  • For “Denise” – that she would influence the next generation in her country for Christ
  • For “Gorme” – that next year’s team would become friends with her and point her to Jesus
  • For Mike and others who might return for another year or more to this city
  • For all of our soon to be friends – the thousands of students about to arrive in Boston – that many would walk with Jesus.

She looked up at me with kind, tired eyes

Posted on July 17th, 2018

We’ve just got back to Boston after our summer in the Middle East. And, of course, we wish each one of you were there with us in person, to experience some of the amazing ways the Lord moved. The best we can do today is an audio diary. Here’s a short clip of me (Malisa) sharing with our students one morning to help refresh the vision for why we were helping serve our new refugee friends in the Middle East. I wanted our students to see how significant their presence was this summer.

If you’d like to hear the audio of me sharing, send me an e-mail and I’ll send you the password.

She looked up at me with kind, tired eyes as the tea was being passed around the room at the moms and tots program. It was very Afghani: she had darker colored skin but lighter colored eyes. I sat by her and, with a translator, we started talking and I got to hear this women’s story.

“How many kids do you have?” “Ten,” she said, and then opened her purse and pulled out a stack of identification cards, one for each child.  She went on to share that she actually has 13 kids, but 3 of them had died in the war in Afghanistan: an 18-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old were all killed in the war. She started tearing up as she was talking, “I miss them. I miss them so much” she said over and over very slowly.

I started tearing up just thinking about the pain this mother was experiencing after losing 3 kids in Afghanistan.

“Three of my daughters are still in Kabul.  Two are married. One is a veterinarian, one is a dentist, and one is a lawyer. The other seven are here with me.”

“You should be very proud. You raised very strong daughters,” I said, which obviously in that culture is a big thing.

“Yes, I really pushed school so that they could be educated and have a good career but now, my kids cannot go to school.”

“Why not?”  “Well, because they have to work to help pay for living expenses, so they can’t go to school. My older girls have to work because it is so expensive in this city.” She and her kids left Afghanistan because it was a hard and awful life to move to the city which was better for her even as a refugee than it was at home in Kabul.

Almost as a P.S. in our conversation, I found out that her husband was killed in the war in Afghanistan too. She is here in this city by herself with seven kids. I couldn’t absorb any more pain or hard things from her life. My heart was breaking.

The translator got pulled away, but at the end, I said, “Will you be at the picnic?” “Yes,” she said as I pointed to the paper invitation at our table. There are these powerful, really hard stories as we enter in to serve in the refugee program this summer.

I reminded our team of students as we gathered the morning following my time with this dear Afghani woman: “Maybe you are just pouring tea, or building blocks with little kids, or trying to keep them quiet while the bible story is happening. But this is one of the only times this mom gets a break all week long. She comes and just sits, we pour tea, and her kids get both physical and spiritual food. So, as the tea and wafer cookies were offered that morning my new friends passed on the tea but grabbed a huge handful of the wafer cookies. Honestly, I was a little bit surprised at how many she grabbed but she looked shyly at me and then walked over to her children who were sitting on the rug. She didn’t eat any of them. Maybe it was because she was fasting for Ramazan or maybe not. Either way her kids were hungry and so she did what any mom would do and found her children food.”

I think it’s significant just the ministry of being present with our refugee friends even if we don’t get to hear more stories, just literally being present as a team sitting at the table and holding their babies, playing with their kids, and offering a cup of tea. I think it’s a really significant part of what we’re doing in the city this summer.  So that’s the story. I wanted to tell you guys because that’s one of 40 Afghani stories we could tell but this one grabbed my heart.

Will you pray for my friend and her 10 children?   Will you especially pray for her two teenage daughters who are not in school but working in order to help provide for her family’s needs. I met them at the picnic we helped put on – at the face painting station of all places.  I spent a good chunk of time at that picnic painting wild designs on sun kissed skin which meant I was able to hold the faces of these refugee kids and pray that in the midst of all the brokenness in their worlds that the security of Jesus would begin to take root.

 

Vidoes of our Students

Posted on June 1st, 2018

Recently, we have been sharing some videos of our students. Here they are:

Magic Moments

Posted on March 15th, 2018

My friend Sam is in Navy ROTC. He’s now a Junior and for the past couple years I’ve been encouraging him to reach out to other midshipmen in his ROTC Squad.

Now, two seniors: Alex and Fiona are starting Valor (a Cru military movement) and it was just the push Sam needed to invite his friends to talk about Jesus.

Sam invited four of his classmates to come with him to Valor. And we’ve been praying for them each week.
A couple weeks ago, Sam and I exchanged this little text message chain. And I thought you would like to see it.

These are the magic moments when students take the risk: to invite, to ask, but then to share about Jesus.

Malisa and I are praying for Julia and others on Sam’s ROTC squad. Will you pray?

What about you? Who are 2 people we should pray for? Think about:

  • Co-workers
  • Neighbors
  • Friends from college
  • Parents of your kids’ friends

Would you reply to this e-mail with the names of 2 people to pray for? We would love to pray for opportunities for you like Sam.

E-mail now

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Prayer Requests

  • Malisa continues to recover from ACL surgery. She’s down to just one crutch, but still has a month or 2 of PT ahead.
  • We’re planning to head back to the Middle East this summer. Pray for the team to come together

Luo Pad Prayer

Posted on March 15th, 2018

Update:

Here’s a short video of our students at work at the LuoPad event

Would you help us next Tuesday?

Next Tuesday, we’re going to help make re-useable feminine pads to distribute to refugees in the Middle East and beyond. If you’re in Boston on Friday, we’d love to have you join us. If not, we’d love you to pray for this outreach.

On Tuesday from 2-5pm, we’re hosting a drop-in service project at Boston University where students (and you if you’re interested) can come and cut out the pieces of “LuoPads.”

LuoPads are washable feminine pads that are part of a “LuoPack” of women’s hygiene items (6 LuoPads, 2 pair of underwear, a washcloth, washing instructions, a waterproof bag, all in a privacy bag).

These meet a huge need for women and girls in refugee camps and remote areas who, because they lack access to hygiene items, must stay home from work or school for up to 20% of each month, significantly limiting their opportunities.

You can read more here: https://www.facebook.com/LuoPadConnection/

Or watch this quick video:

The outreach is an opportunity for Cru students to invite their friends who might not share our love for Jesus, but who do share a love for the vulnerable across the world. Serving together in a tangible way can build relationships and provide bridges for the gospel.

3 Ways to help:

  1. Join us on Tuesday – If you’re in the Boston area and free anytime between 2 and 5 for a half hour, come say hi. Send me a text 978-828-8024 to confirm that you’re coming so I know to be looking for you.
  2. Donate used terrycloth towels or flannel. If you’re in the Boston area, it can be dropped off this week to our house in Arlington. If you’re outside the Boston area, and think this is something you’d like to participate in, let me know and I can connect you with our friends at Gain, Cru’s humanitarian arm.
  3. Pray. Would you pray that we would be able to have some great conversations around God’s heart for justice this week.

Thank you all so much for your partnership with us in ministry.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Look inside this restaurant

Posted on February 15th, 2018

Nud Pob Thai food is a hole in the wall joint. There are half a dozen tables and there’s usually a line. The food isn’t going to get any Michelin stars, but the audience is college students so that’s just fine.

On February 8, in the center of the restaurant, around a couple pulled together tables is an amazing group of freshman women. They’re eating dinner and talking about Jesus with my wife Malisa.

I (Brian) got to see the beginning of the dinner from the car window before I watched a movie with my little girls so that Malisa could engage with these women. And so I couldn’t hear the conversation. But I could see their smiles and I knew that when we debriefed later in the evening, I would hear some amazing stories.

The 2nd girl from the left in this photo is a freshman named Julianna. Her parents decided to let her choose what she believed and not force her to believe something. But when Malisa asked her to describe her spiritual life, she said, “basically, I’m really confused in what I think and believe but I think Cru will be a good place to explore and figure it out.”

And so Julianna has been getting involved. She sought out Cru and connected with Malisa last semester. She comes to my (Brian’s) lifegroup on Thursday evenings. She came to our house for our woman’s Christmas Brunch. And she’s become good friends with another freshman named Ashley who is a strong believer.

But the other night at the Thai restaurant, she shared how hard it has been to make good friendships at BU. She has friends, but it’s been harder than she expected.

Why do we host dinners in hole in the wall Thai restaurants? We do it for girls like Julianna – so they can have opportunities to make lasting friendships with other students and spur each other on in their spiritual journeys.

These are crucial conversations. They are critical moments. And they are only possible with your help and support. Thanks for being a part of it.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Gospel Doodles

Posted on October 25th, 2017

Gospel Doodles

Can you follow this diagram? It’s a bit complicated, and that’s the idea…

Malisa spent the last four years pouring into Grace who spent her senior year as an RA on Hannah’s floor.

 

Hannah committed her life to Christ at Fall Retreat last year. Malisa and Grace met up with her and helped her grow in her faith. This year she encouraged others to make that same commitment.

 

Jason, one of the guys in her small group committed his life to Christ at our Fall Retreat this year. Jason has been involved in our movement all his years of college. But he thought the Fall Retreat during his senior year would be a great place to commit his life to Christ. Hannah now lives on the same floor as Sam.

 

Sam (Sam #1) has been praying for opportunities to share with a freshman who is also named Sam (Sam #2). But Sam 2 e-mailed me to see if I could share the gospel with him. And so I took my friend Aldar from Asia with me to share with Sam 2. Later that day, talking to Sam 1, I realized Sam 2 is the same guy we’ve been praying for.

 

I meet up weekly with Sam 1, Christian, and Joseph to help them learn how to share the gospel with people. Joseph heard the gospel dozens of times from many different students and Cru staff. It took a while for the gospel to click. He totally belonged before he believed. But now that he does, it’s totally contagious.

 

So he’s been sharing with Vincent from Babson and Bob from BU (all three are international students from Asia). Bob says that he thinks Christianity is a fairy tale, but when he sees how happy Joseph is, he knows he wants what Joseph has. Joy is attractive.

 

That’s the same story for Graham, who is Jason’s roommate. Now that Jason has come to follow Christ, Graham is coming to our small groups too.

 

OK… I take it back… this diagram is really complicated. It’s messy. And it’s beautiful. This is a picture of how the Kingdom of God advances.

 

But in truth, this diagram leaves out two important people. It leaves out the Holy Spirit who has gone before Malisa and me to prepare these students to hear about Christ. And it leaves out you – our faithful partners who have been praying for each of these students.

Thank you!

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Prayer Requests

  • Praise God for Hannah, Joseph, and Jason who now have fellowship with Christ.
  • Please pray opportunities for us to share more with Vincent, Graham, Bob, and Sam 2.
  • Pray for Malisa and Brian as we raise our 3 girls to know and follow Jesus.