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Collegiate Crossover inspires first-ever Canadian participants
-- By Matt Sanders & Doy Cave
ATLANTA, June 14 -- During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Team Canada won just 22 medals.
     Another team of Canadians is back in Atlanta, from June 11-17, working not for medals but for the souls of men, women and children.
     Of the 130 students ministering through the Collegiate Crossover evangelistic effort, 15 are from colleges and universities in Canada. Going door-to-door, conducting sports clinics, doing street evangelism and riding MARTA, Atlanta's rail system, these Canadian collegians came from north of the border to share the gospel with non-Christians in the Bible Belt.
     Collegiate Crossover is part of the June 6-19 Crossover Metro Atlanta that includes evangelistic efforts such as block parties, Prayer Journeys, a media campaign, free medical help and other special events.
     Randy Gallaway, a Baptist campus minister from Toronto, recruited most of the students and believes their experiences will pay eternal rewards for people in Atlanta and back home.
"I think these students are going to be so excited after a week of witnessing that it's going to help them overcome the cultural and social barriers against witnessing back in Canada," Gallaway said, noting the underlying British reserve of Canadian culture that discourages discussion of religion.
     "The students are already talking about ways we can share Christ more effectively back home, so that's a real jump start on our evangelism," Gallaway said.
     That's worth its weight in gold medals to Collegiate Crossover coordinator Rollin Delap of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
     "We're not here to do Crossover and that's all," Delap said. "We're trying to build the students' lives so that they will be faithful witnesses the rest of their lives."
     And the Canadians are not the only students learning the lesson.
     Penny Cruse, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky, who is from Atlanta, said her experience has increased her desire to witness wherever she is.
     "Being here in Atlanta and getting out and doing the confrontational style of evangelism has really fired in me a passion to make that a lifestyle when I get home," she said.
     Christine Saladino, a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from Melbourne, Fla., said her experience has "made me have more of a heart for New Orleans, the city, and wanting to go back and do more."
     Other students cited learning the importance of meeting people's needs through evangelism.
"It becomes easy in your churches to become comfortable with the people you're around and yet you're supposed to be out in the community, meeting the people and meeting their needs,"      Dale Loyd. a Southern Seminary student from Scottsburg, Va., said.
     Cruse said the hardest part so far has been witnessing to homeless people who are "very well-versed in Christian lingo." She said she knew most didn't stand a chance unless they could get into a rehabilitation program and off the streets.
     "I found myself planting some seeds but very heartbroken over their condition," she said.
This year's effort follows the pattern established by the first Collegiate Crossover held in 1999 in Salt Lake City. The strategy, according to Delap, is to give students a variety of witnessing experiences by training them and sending them out to use different methods of evangelism in venues throughout the city.
     The goals, he said, are to win people to Christ and equip students "to witness like they have never witnessed before."
     For those who have never been involved in evangelism, the most powerful lesson comes from experience, not training, Delap said.
     "A lot of them will go out and they'll lead somebody to Christ, and it's the first time in their lives," Delap said. "And they're just weeping and rejoicing in the experience."
     Many of the students are not waiting until they get home to begin to incorporate evangelism into their lives. A security guard at the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, where the students are staying, accepted Christ after they shared their faith with him. And the students and their leaders decided "on the fly" to add nightly evangelism efforts at Atlanta's Little Five Points, a gathering place for young people into alternative dress and lifestyles.
     Atlanta Collegiate Crossover coordinator Nathan Byrd, collegiate ministry consultant for the Georgia Baptist Convention, said Little Five Points is a great place to do evangelism because "people down there, they'll talk to you. They're really open. They're looking."
     Gallaway said he began sharing with two young men in the area Sunday night. He said he was called away for a moment, and two students "slipped in and picked up where I left off." One of the men accepted Christ.
     He added that Jeff Tweedle, a Canadian student who became a Christian just a couple of months ago, was "doing great last night with the punk rockers and different people hanging out in Little Five Points."
     Saladino and Christine Chan, a student from Humber College in Canada, said they shared with a man who had been a Hare Krishna for 11 years.
     Although she had taken a class on cults at seminary, Saladino said the experience has inspired her to study other religions even more.
     Chan also spoke to a woman who said she didn't believe in heaven and hell but wanted to raise her children with "some Christian faith." She allowed the students to pray for her and then "brushed them off," Chan said.
     But experiences like that haven't discouraged the young people from planning to return to Little Five Points every night during their stay in Atlanta.
     "The kids that went last night are ignited, and so there's going to be a lot of them that want to go [tonight]," Delap said Monday.
     While some of the students found door-to-door evangelism frustrating at times, they said it was not a waste.
     Cruse said she became discouraged after knocking on 15 doors and finding either that the people weren't home or didn't want to talk. At the 16th house, a man was home and Cruse and her team were able to lead him to Christ.
     "That made it worth it all," she said.
     John Vanderbrink, a student from Toronto, said that although his team wasn't able to lead anyone to Christ, their witness was an encouragement to Christians in the neighborhood.
"That gives them more encouragement to go out and witness to their neighbors," he said.
     John Gallman, a Southern Seminary student from Greenwood, S.C., said they ministered to an elderly woman who had just found out her daughter had cancer. He and his partners prayed with her and, when they found out it was her birthday, sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
     The Georgia Baptist Convention collegiate ministry and Baptist Student Unions were instrumental in planning Collegiate Crossover. Georgia BSU directors served as drivers transporting the students to and from the activities.
     Crossover Metro Atlanta is sponsored by the North American Mission Board, Georgia Baptist Convention and area Baptist associations.

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