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

Posted on September 16th, 2015

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:


How do you talk to people about Jesus?

Posted on March 18th, 2017

“How do you talk to students about Jesus?” That’s the question a friend of mine from church asked Malisa and me last weekend. As I told her some stories of God at work, she was in awe. But really, I told my friend, there’s nothing awesome about what I do when I talk with students about Jesus. All the awe goes to God that changes people’s lives.

But maybe it would help you if I walk through briefly how I talk to students about Jesus.

Where are you at in your thinking about Jesus?

A couple weeks ago, I asked you to pray for our “Luo Pad” event where we cut fabric for women’s personal hygiene products to be sent to refugees and others in North Africa and the Middle East. One of the students who came to help was named “Jim”.

Above: “Jim” traces fabric patterns for the Luo Pads

I sat down next to him and asked him his name, where he goes to school, and how he found out about our service project. That gave me enough information to learn that Jim had been coming to our friend Ying and James’ small group bible study at Boston University all year.

“Where are you at in your thinking about Jesus?” I asked Jim.

Jim told me he still wasn’t quite sure he believed the gospel.

So we spent the next hour talking about the gospel. Jim shared his story. I shared mine. I shared about Jesus story in Luke 15. I told stories about skiing. I talked about the Lord of the Rings. But at the end, I did my best to sum up the gospel and how we need to respond. I used a little outline called Two Ways to Live

Above: Here I am sharing the gospel with “Jim” using an app on my phone.

Jim wasn’t ready to put God in control during our conversation. But he left with real clarity: he knows how to start following Jesus if he wants to.

Thankfully, Jim is very involved with a small group bible study that meets in his dorm. And he just joined that group on a spring break service project in Lewiston Maine to serve refugees. That project, like our “Luo Pad” event, is designed not just to serve others with the love of Christ but also to give us a spot to come alongside like-minded friends who don’t yet know Christ.

So last week, Jim had more opportunities to start following Jesus. Would you pray for “Jim”? He’s so close.

There’s two things I’d like you to take from this story today:

  1.  I want you to know that your prayers and financial support make a huge difference.
  2. What I’m doing to share about Jesus isn’t super complicated. You don’t need to be a “professional Christian” to do it. In fact, I think you can have fun conversations just like this one. If you’d like more info about how to do it, e-mail me. If there’s a good amount of interest, I’ll share a series of e-mails that explain how we do it.

Above: some girls that Malisa helped train last night on campus in how to use the story of God currently working in their lives to get into great spiritual conversations with their friends. If you just ask one open-eded question at the end of a short conversation it can make all the difference.

We love each one of you and are so grateful for your partnership.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

“Jim” sees God’s light break through

Posted on March 17th, 2017

While visiting Hope House during a spring break service project, “Jim” shared about his experience that week.

Jim looked up at the stained glass window bringing light into a dark room. “God is at work in my life. Shining in.”

He sketched this picture to illustrate that his heart has been dark, but now God’s light is shining in. He held up his drawing to the stained glass window and then snapped this photo.

Would you pray that Jim does experience the light of Christ and start following Jesus?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Luo Pad Prayer

Posted on February 18th, 2017


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

Would you help us on Friday?

This Friday, as a part of Cru’s Justice Week, 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 Friday from 3-9pm, we’re hosting a drop-in service project at Park Street Church 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:

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 Friday at Park Street Church – If you’re in the Boston area and free anytime between 3 and 9 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 anytime to Park Street Church. 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,

What are we trying to do in Cru?

Posted on February 12th, 2017

What are we trying to do in Cru? “Oh, not very much…we’re only trying to change a person’s whole reason for existing.” That’s what my friend Bob Francis used to say.

In all the years Malisa and I have been working with Cru reaching college students, we’ve realized that there is a critical moment when a student or staff person gets to share the gospel and when we get to see students’ lives changed for all eternity across the table from us.

Everything we’re trying to do in Cru here in Boston revolves around helping our staff and students have more conversations that can change their whole reason for existing. We call these “Gospel Conversations,” and we want to have lots more of them.

As you may know one of the strategies we have used for a number of years to increase the chances of “gospel conversations” with freshmen is to have upperclassmen move back into freshmen dorms. It’s not a “cool” thing to do, but it’s so effective.

Above: Malisa – in the hat on the left – gathered with some of our key student leaders for an Insider Recruiting Dinner last week.
Last week, Malisa gathered a bunch of our students for an “Insider Recruiting Dinner.” We want them to consider living in community close to freshmen so that they can have opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and share the gospel with students.

A few years ago, my friend Nick was a freshman and lived down the hall from our “Insiders.” There were dozens of gospel conversations over the course of the year. The summer after his freshman year, Nick started following Jesus.

Now Nick is a senior and he told the group, “If you think this doesn’t work, you’re wrong. Look at me.”

At the dinner, we also got to see students like Grace who lived near the insider floor of her dorm her freshman year, became an insider her sophomore year, and has been an RA the last two years to stay close to freshmen and share with them the love of Christ. Last year she began to have gospel conversations with Briony (an international student from Asia) who lived on her floor. Briony is now living as an insider herself and helping introduce others to Christ.

We’re motivated to have dinners like this for one reason: We want to change students’ whole reason for being. We want students to know Jesus.

We love having gospel conversations and helping others have gospel conversations. How about you? Have you had any fun gospel conversations lately? Shoot us an e-mail, We’d love to hear your stories and pray for you.

Loving our adventurous Lord,

Bonus News: A bigger family…

Just a couple weeks ago, we got some donuts from a fun local donut shop to share some fun news with our staff team: we’re having a 3rd baby girl this summer (due on the 4th of July). Malisa and I are surprised, excited, and a little overwhelmed!

Would you pray with us:

  • For Sam, Christian, Hannah, Melyna, Briony, and the couple dozen students who are considering moving back into freshman dorms as insiders next fall
  • For our involved students to have gospel conversations with floormates, classmates, and friends this semester
  • For Malisa and me as we continue to lead our team here in Boston
  • For Malisa and me as we get ready to welcome baby #3 this summer


Posted on October 21st, 2016

grace |ɡrās| noun 1. An unmerited gift.

Well…this fall, a girl named Grace has been an unmerited gift to a so many, including me. I first heard of Grace from her older sister, Caitlyn, who was a student leader at Boston University. Grace quickly followed suit and found God leading her to Boston University to study advertising. Grace is tender, is warm, is vulnerable, and is a bold evangelist.


Grace (in the green dress) with me this summer

A few weeks ago, during our discipleship time, Grace shared this beautiful story with me. She had invited one of her fellow RA’s, Ryan, to come to a gathering we hold on Tuesday nights called LIVE. At LIVE, Ryan heard another student share about the purpose of life and so on the way home he opened up to Grace about what He thought the purpose of life might be. She listened, she responded with more questions, she prayed silently while they made the walk back to their dorm.

As they entered the dorm, a group of five other RA friends were standing in the office and quickly invited Grace and Ryan into the conversation. When asked where they were coming from, Ryan shared that they had just come from this great event that Cru put on called LIVE, where they get to talk about how spiritual things impact their lives. The conversation turned and the group of 5 RA’s started also talking about what they thought the purpose of life was.

Ryan turned to the group and said, “I think Grace has a great understanding of what the purpose of life is.” So, with her normal gentleness surrounded with clarity, Grace begin to share the Gospel with Ryan and the 5 other RA’s. That night, Grace was a gift to that group. She loved them by sharing the gift of the Gospel with them.

Grace told me today, “I just got a message from Ryan. He said ‘I have a big life question to discuss the next time we meet.’ He’s still open to talking and I can’t wait.”

I’m so grateful for the ways that YOU are an unmerited gift to Brian and me as we seek to trust Jesus with the Gospel being spread to students from all over America and all over the world as they come to Boston to study.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,


Would you pray:

  • For continued depth of relationships with the RA’s at Boston University so that they may come to understand the “unmerited gift” that Jesus is to us.
  • For Christian, Sam, Zach, Jason, Jake all guys that Brian is building a discipleship relationship with who live in the same dorm at Grace. That they would learn to be bold with the Gospel. Also for Grace to continue to be a bold witness for the Gospel.
  • For Brian and I to lean into the gift God has given of power, love and self-disciple rather than fear as we step foot on campuses daily across Boston.

Prayer for the start of the semester

Posted on August 28th, 2016

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August 28, 2016

Dear Friends,

Would you pray for us and for the students of Boston as they head back to campus? Over the next few weeks, over 250,000 students will move into dorms across the city. We’re praying that thousands of them would have a chance to hear the gospel and that many would choose to follow Christ. Because of you, students like Craig, Nestor, Julie, and Jocette have heard the gospel and started following him. Would you pray for our student leaders at Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Babson, Bentley, Wellesley, and schools across the city? That they would return to campus ready to connect with incoming freshmen. And would you pray for us and our family as Sydney and Eliza start Kindergarten and Preschool.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,



Middle East Trip

Posted on June 29th, 2016


Hi sweet friends.

We had this letter all ready to send yesterday morning, I just needed to make a few edits but in light of the events that happened in the Middle East yesterday we wanted to say that WE ARE SAFE (Brian and I returned a few weeks ago) and so are all of our teams that are located in Breakthrough.  Along with each of the friends that we know from that area.

Thanks so much for praying for our time in the Middle East – it could not have gone better. Our little girls did amazing with my parents. There was the usual adjustment when we got back: they could no longer have ice cream whenever they wanted. When I asked my mom whether she said “Yes” every time the girls asked for ice cream, a joyful smile stretched across her face, “Grandmas have to do that.”

We did two things in the Middle East: we connected with friends we have met over the past six years; we led a debrief for our team of 8 recent graduates who have just spent a year doing ministry in this place (we call it a “Stint Team” and it’s like the one I was a part of 15 years ago in Slovenia).

Go to to read more about our work with Syrian refugees and our sweet time leading the debrief. You’ll also be able to see a bunch of pictures of our trip.

I want to start by sharing a story of a friend in the Middle East who has been on a long journey towards Jesus.


A long awaited reunion with this friend from Breakthrough

Two summers ago, there was this bright-eyed full-of-smiles girl who seemed to show up everywhere our team gathered. She came to every picnic in the park. She came to all the crazy tea parties in our apartment. She even asked if she could come to our last team dinner together. Her name was Güzel and, although she was super fun-loving, we weren’t sure how interested she actually was in Jesus.

I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mark 4). We tossed the seeds of the Gospel widely that summer with university students and also refugees not being completely sure what type of soil they had landed on. With Güzel, we planted lots of gospel seeds in many hours of conversations over small cups of very strong tea.

Güzel represents so much of what is true about this Middle Eastern culture. First, she was committed to being friends over the long run. As we have travelled back to America, that has meant keeping up with us over social media. Secondly, God is working powerfully in the hearts of some of the 70 million people in this country. Güzel has continued to ask really good questions about Jesus and what His Word says.

This year’s Stint team formed something called, “The Society of Spiritual Women” for Güzel and a handful of other women who wanted to grow more in their understanding of Jesus. We got to see Güzel again the first night we arrived in the city (which we call “Breakthrough”). We went to a friend’s birthday party, and there she was – all full of smiles and joy but with a bit more maturity and a fierce heart and desire to continue to grow in her understanding of Jesus.

By our American standards, it might seem like a long time for someone to be growing in her understanding of who Jesus is and what the Gospel offers. But in this country, it takes an average of 2.5 years from the time someone first hears the Gospel to when they understand and grasp Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

As Jet-lag got the best of us, Brian and I walked to the subway to head back to our room for some sleep but had a really fun conversation reflecting on the sheer number of friends like Güzel who were at the birthday party surrounded by many friends who also believe in Jesus.

Brian and I  with the STINT Team during our morning of reflection in the middle of the desert.

A few more short stories to share

There’s lots more to say about our time in the Middle East. Go to to read more about our work with Syrian refugees and our sweet time leading the debrief. You’ll also be able to see a bunch of pictures of our trip.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

signature-s-thnw-4 family2

Sydney our oldest at her preschool “moving on” celebration. We loved her little preschool and are looking forward to Eliza attending in the Fall.

  • For all our Friends in the Middle East that the Peace of Christ will rule in their hearts, minds, and souls. He is the only one to offer true Peace.
  • For the Breakthrough STINT team that has just returned to the US for the summer.  To have strong community and encouragement as they transition to next year (most will return to Breakthrough for a second year).
  • For our summer team that has a week left in country.
  • Güzel and her friends in the “Society of Spiritual Women” to embrace Jesus.
  • For our Refugee friends in the Middle East who are growing in their understanding of Jesus.
  • For our Family as we are in Boston and DC this summer connecting with Ministry Partners.  We would love to see you if you are in the DC area (we will be there the end of July/Beginning of August).

Pray for our Middle East Trip

Posted on May 24th, 2016

IMG_6856Malisa and I are headed to the Middle East from 5/26-6/6. We are excited to connect with our summer team, facilitate a debrief for our team that has spent a year there, and connect with leaders from the refuge ministry we’ve worked with for the last 6 years as well as other organizations who are looking to start similar ministries. Would you pray for us?

  • For our Family – this is the first time we’re leaving our kids for this long (they’ll be in great hands with Malisa’s parents).
  • For us as we debrief our team that has spent a year there. We love this team – 3 of them have spent previous summers with us in the Middle East. They’re headed back for another year. Pray that we would be beacons of hope and encouragement.
  • For wisdom and discernment as we connect with leaders from the refugee ministry that we have partnered with over the last 6 years and other organizations starting similar ministries.
  • For connections with our friends in the city – that Jesus would be more and more real to them.

A View from Above Boston

Posted on May 24th, 2016

Would you come with me as we take the elevator to the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower in Downtown Boston? I love getting up above the city because it gives me vision.


Last week, I hosted a group of Cru directors from across the country to share some of what I’ve learned in the last 10 years directing our ministry here in Boston, particularly leading operationally. I took the directors to the top of the Prudential Center to do something I love to do – share the story of God at work in Boston.

Can you imagine the view with me? From this vantage point, you can look North and see all the way up the Coast to Gloucester, my hometown. You can see all sorts of Revolutionary war sites – from the Bunker Hill monument to Old North Church (Paul Revere and “One if By Land, Two if By Sea”). And I showed my friends all of those things. But I really wanted to show them two things: All the colleges, and Fenway Park.

All the Colleges

Looking Northwest, across the Charles River, you see MIT with Harvard, Cambridge College, Bunker Hill Community College, and Tufts all arrayed beyond it. To the West, you can make out Bentley and Brandeis Universities – both on top of hills. You can also see Babson and Wellesley (Hillary Clinton’s alma mater). Much closer in you can see Boston University right on the Charles River. Across the city, you can look out over 250,000 students. Truly there is no bigger college town in the world. And the world comes to Boston – there are over 50,000 international students that study here.

We long for the day when every student on every campus in Boston hears the gospel because we know that if that happened, the whole world would be changed. Coming up to the top of the Prudential Center also gives us a vision of how God might get us there.


Yellow Shirts at Fenway Park

fenwayIf you look out the window directly west, you can see Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Have you ever been to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park? Watching the Red Sox is pretty much the state religion here in Boston. There are billboards that say “Keep the Faith” and “Believe.” Every home game, 37,949 fans make a pilgrimage to Fenway Park.

One thing we’ve started looking at when we go to Red Sox games is the food vendors. You know, the guys selling Fenway Franks and Diet Coke and Cracker Jacks.

At Fenway, they all wear bright yellow shirts. That works really well because they stand out against all the Red, Blue, and White that everyone else wears.

So as you look at the opposite grandstand, you see these Yellow Shirts perfectly spaced out around the stands. Everyone in the stadium is within a hand’s toss of physical refreshment.

brian-and-Malisa-at-fenwayWe long for the day when on every campus, on every dorm floor, in every sorority or fraternity, and on every sports team, there is a team of yellow shirts – a group of students whose lives are so transformed by the Holy Spirit that they can’t help but tell other people about Jesus and bring other people to do the same. So that every student in the city of Boston is within hand’s toss of spiritual refreshment.

Would you pray with us?

We can end our time at the top of the city like I did the other night with my Cru friends – by praying for God’s compassion for this great city. Let’s celebrate what God is doing through “yellow shirts” like Craig on the BU Lacrosse team, Guy and Ja-Hon and Nick in Warren Towers, Matt, Tommy, and Tim reaching their friends at Northeastern, and Eric and Luke at Emerson. Let’s also celebrate what God has done bringing 36 students into relationship with Him this year.

We long for the day when there are yellow shirts in every pocket across the city, but we’re not there yet. Would you pray alongside us for this vision?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Posted on April 16th, 2016

A Middle Eastern Family

When I got together for tea with my friend “Sarah” at the beginning of March, I met her mom and sister-in-law visiting from the Middle East. We had a great time together talking about life and spiritual things. At the end of our time, Sarah’s mom invited me to visit their home in the Middle East. Because I am Sarah’s friend, I am her mom’s friend. What a powerful picture. I pray that one day Sarah and her mother will be part of God’s family. Please pray with us for that.


Malisa with “Sarah”, her mom, and sister-in-law hanging out with me on campus.

God’s Family Caring for Our Family

Less than 24 hours later my mother-in-law passed away. Over the course of the last few weeks, Brian and I have been overwhelmed with gratefulness. So many of you rallied around us. I was struck by the power of family and the body of Christ to help us keep moving forward when we were weak. Meals showed up at our house; care packages and gift cards arrived from my dear friends in the Northwest; someone cleaned our house; my mom and dad came to help with the day-to-day; our staff team dropped off groceries; so many helped with our kids. Isn’t that another beautiful picture of God’s family? Thank you for your care, prayers, and love towards us.


Rikka, Malisa, Rose, Ari, and Juliana at Simmons College.

Christ is our Anchor and Family

As a new month begins, I was reminded of this strong theme for the month. In all our discipleship groups this year across Boston, we have been studying the book of Colossians. It is such a rich, rich book. Yesterday afternoon I was huddled into a small study area at Simmons College with a group of 7 other students and a rock-star volunteer, Ari.

We were looking at Colossians 3. Rikka, a new believer, spoke up after we read, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:4).

“What does ‘Hidden in Christ’ mean?” she asked.

I explained that when we become followers of Christ, we find refuge, shelter, and security in Him. He is our anchor and family.

She looked at the group with a huge smile spread across her face. She got it. She has security because of her new identity in Christ.

It was one of those very holy moments.

Thank you for being a part of our family.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,


Prayer Requests

  • For us as we take a group of student leaders on a day long retreat this weekend to help celebrate and remember what God has done this year and plan for the next school year.
  • For the 33 new believers in Boston that their faith would be deep.
  • For our staff team who has experienced a lot of loss in the last 5 weeks. Pray that we will each cling to Jesus during this season.