Taylor Hacmac thought she knew all about Christian ministry groups. They were a weird, pushy, hypocritical and condemning inside group — something that she had no desire to participate in. At least, that’s what she thought before she started college at the University of Oregon and discovered a network of friendship and support at the Collegiate Christian Fellowship, a student branch of the First Baptist Church of Eugene.
“This was one of the first campus ministries I gave a chance,” Hacmac said of CCF. “It wasn’t until I started talking to the people at church that I realized there was something different about their hearts. They wanted to get to know me, who I really was, and not just to convert me.”
Four years later, after graduating from the Family and Human Services department at the UO and becoming a Christian herself, Hacmac still actively participates in the group that changed her opinion of Christianity, hoping to help debunk the Christian stereotype for others skeptical of the religion as well. As co-director of the Fellowship’s Outreach Team, Hacmac and her team members work to spread love in the community around them, performing random acts of kindness, no strings attached.
“I was nervous at first because I didn’t want students to think I was trying to preach at them or push my beliefs down their throat,” Hacmac said about serving as part of the Outreach Team. “I just wanted to be an example of Jesus’ love without them feeling like there is a catch. I love the smaller outreach events because we get to love on people in practical ways, and if they are curious as to why, then I can talk about the God that sparked my curiosity years ago.”
Among the outreach efforts offered by CCF are collecting and making food for Eugene’s hungry neighborhood beautification and offering pick-me-ups for sleep-deprived students. Each Monday in an event called “Bikes and Burritos,” church members and community members gather at the Alpha Omega house (a live-in house for male members of the CCF) to assemble burritos and distribute them to Eugene’s homeless. Throughout the fall, the group hosts “Bake and Rake” volunteer days where they distribute baked goods to houses in surrounding neighborhoods and offer their yardwork services.
CCF’s ministry extends to campus as well. Each term on the Friday of architecture final review week, the outreach team invades Lawrence Hall with platters of brownies to cheer up overworked art and architecture students. In addition, every Friday the group stands outside the AO house (behind Taylor’s Bar on Kincaid Street) and offers free coffee, hot chocolate and tea to the passerby — a ritual they will extend to an everyday routine on Finals week in an attempt to help students finish the term strong.
For Keely O’Brien, a brownie recipient during architecture’s final review week, the CCF’s outreach efforts don’t seem like an overbearing attempt to convert, but just a friendly gesture from some strangers.
“It was awesome,” O’Brien said of receiving a free brownie after having spent 10 hours straight in her architecture studio. “I just thought it was cool that they were giving us food. It didn’t really seem like they had much of an agenda behind it.”
In addition to community outreach, the CCF hosts almost daily community get togethers and weekly Sunday night worship services. Although communal gatherings are geared specifically toward those looking to grow in the Christian faith, Outreach Team Co-Director Brandon Bray maintains that the CCF creates an atmosphere of acceptance, and that all events are open to absolutely anyone who wants to observe or participate.
“We’re open to anyone and everyone. We’re not Catholic, or Protestant … we’re nondenominational. There are no requirements to come check us out,” Bray said.
Students who stop by the AO house for a cup of coffee on their way to finals won’t get a lecture or a sermon — only a hot cup of caffeine and a friendly smile. It’s by serving the community with the intention of creating a better world — not for media attention or as a conversion effort — that Hacmac and the Outreach Team hope to create an alternative dialogue as to the nature of Christian ministry groups.
“A lot of stuff that the majority of Christians do goes unnoticed,” Bray said. “We’re kind of humbly serving people. We just want to help out and spread love.”