Eastern New Mexico University senior Rachel Mariano became a Christian at 7 years old but admits that joining the school's Baptist Student Union Christian Challenge as a freshman strengthened her faith.
"It's a place where you can go on campus and meet with people your age who have the same beliefs," said Mariano, who is from San Angelo, Texas.
"We worship together and we fellowship together."
The Baptist Student Union Christian Challenge at ENMU primarily provides a ministry to ENMU students but welcomes other young people in the community who desire to learn about Christianity. The program is supported by many area churches and is geared toward educating the young community on the message of Jesus Christ.
"We try to emphasize what the Bible specifically addresses that college students are very concerned about," Program director Dag Sewell said. "We'll be more likely to talk about the importance of honesty in the classroom and purity and issues that are important to young people."
Sewell said visitors include Cannon Air Force Base personnel, local high school seniors, and young non-students from the community.
Sewell said the small congregation is filled with friendly students who eagerly introduce themselves to newcomers and visit. The program has small community groups that allow people to ask specific questions about Christianity in a small group setting, he said. Upperclassmen also provide one-on-one discipleship to underclassmen.
Mariano meets with a younger student named Nicole Jennings for an hour or two once a week to study scripture. As Jennings' mentor, Mariano listens to Jennings' life situations and provides consolation. She said their interactions help her grow spiritually.
"Being at the Baptist Student Union and being around all those other people who love Jesus and who love God is really encouraging," Mariano said.
Other activities being offered by the Baptist Student Union include a free lunch provided by a supporting church and a can food drive for the Portales Dream Center.
• What: Baptist Student Union Christian Challenge worship service
• Where: Eastern New Mexico University
• When: 7 p.m. Thursdays, ENMU spring semester
• Who can attend: Anyone but program is geared toward people high school and college age.
• Information: 356-4252