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CEF and Beyond

For many of our CEF family, leading a Good News Club or serving with Christian Youth in Action is just one step in the journey God is leading them on.
Over the several months, we’re going to check in with former and current CYIAers and volunteers to see how God has been leading them.

Naomi Brendsel

This time, we visited with Naomi Brendsel, a former CYIA student from Maxbass. Naomi also served as a Good News Club leader in Newburg one year.

Naomi Brendsel
Naomi Brendsel

How did you first get involved with CEF?   My church is a strong CEF supporter, so I had heard about it. Then, my cousins were involved with it, which made my sister be involved with it, and then I got involved with it because my sister was involved with it.

Why did you decide to work with CEF? I think it was probably because it made sense. I was like, “Oh! I probably should be doing this. I’m a Christian. I should be sharing my faith and I don’t know how to do that, but I guess I’ll learn.

During your time with CEF, what can you remember God teaching you? One thing I learned that carried with me was confidence in sharing the Gospel. I guess I hadn’t even realized before that I do have a level of confidence in sharing the Gospel. Then, when I went on Summer Mission in 2017, we went out to share the Gospel on the beach. The first time I did that with a partner, they looked at me afterwards and said, “That was really good!” In my mind, I had missed all these things. Here I was thinking I hadn’t done that great of a job and she was like, “That made sense.” Thank you, CEF!

What have you been doing since CYIA? I got a degree in accounting. I worked my way through school. Worked with Cru a lot. I did a year in Bismarck for school and then I transferred into Minot. I was involved with Cru in both places.

How did you get involved with Cru? Originally, I was sitting in my room at Bismarck State College, bored because I had no homework or anything to do. I knew that Jared went to school at Bismarck, and I asked him what he was doing, thinking he could introduce me to his friends and then I could meet other friends, and then have people. He said he was a t a Cru booth doing surveys. I was like, “Oh, I’ll come join.” So, I helped do surveys. I would say in Bismarck, I wasn’t seriously involved. It wasn’t like I was involved with Cru because I believe in this organization. It was like, “Oh, I want to make friends. I want it to be a group of people who cares about God.” It was more a way to find community. Then, when I transferred to Minot, it was more of a way to keep me accountable in my walk with God.

What is Cru?    Cru started as a college ministry. We were founded as Campus Crusade by Bill Bright. The vision with it was that college students are in this really unique stage of life where they’re leaving home and they now have a choice of “Am I going to make my faith my own or am I going to abandon it? What am I going to do?” And when they leave college, they’re going into different areas of the world –different jobs, living in different cities. They’re just really spread out every where. So, not only is it a great mission field, but it’s also a great launching point.

What campus ministry does is we go onto college campuses. We win, build, and send. Win is evangelism outreach. Build is discipleship, Bible Study, conferences. And then we also want to send our students. Part of that is the summer missions we have, but we also want to send them in whatever they’re doing—that they’re living on mission for God.

From there, we grew into multiple ministries, like Jesus Film is under the Cru umbrella. Family Life. We have something called Story Rummers, which I personally think is very similar to CEF is some ways. It’s for areas of the world which don’t have written language. So, they do oral story telling. The Bible is shared with them in that way, and then they are taught to share it in the same way and incorporate the Gospel into that. So, it makes me think of CEF.

What will your role be?  I have a fun support role. It’s called a capacity role. My job, because I have a degree in accounting is working in the finance office in Minneapolis. It’s still a little bit to be determined, because I’m still raising support, but there’s different areas of the finance team. There’s the summer mission, there’s campus direct, and two others.  It will depend on what the greatest need is when I report after I’m fully supported. Whatever I’m doing, my goal is still to win, build, and send students, but it will be through doing things like budgets, and contracts for things like housing for student missions. I’ll also have one day a week where I’m on campus doing, most likely, a combination of evangelism outreach and discipleship, and possibly leading a Bible study.

Why did you decide you wanted to do Cru full time? I just really saw the impact that it had on my life. I went to college as a Christian, so it wasn’t a life-changing thing of going from not knowing Christ to knowing Christ. But, it was still life changing in the sense that I had grown up in the church, I had grown up doing things like CEF, but Cru did a really good job of helping me learn how to better study my Bible and encouraging me to share my faith outside of a formal setting. I really saw the growth that God allowed into life through that. Also, I really saw the need. There was a girl in my college classes who got involved in the group that believes in the Mother God. That made me realize that even in the U.S., where we claim to be a Christian nation, and other countries think of us as a Christian nation, it’s very dark here still and very without God.

How can you see God working through your time in CEF to bring you to this point where you’re wanting to serve with Cru? I mentioned earlier how learning to share the Wordless Book really impacted my ability and confidence level in sharing the Gospel. It gave me the basic foundation of talking about God, sin, and Jesus. Also, speaking in general is a bit easier. I mean, it’s still terrifying. I’m not a great public speaker, but at least I know a little bit how to prep and how to do that. I think, also, the fact that in CEF, you take the Gospel and put it into a Bible story. I think that’s super beneficial, especially in what I do now in leading a Bible study. The whole Bible is pointing to Jesus and our Bible studies are open to people who aren’t Christians, too. So, I need to be incorporating the Gospel into Bible Study on a regular basis.

How did your time with CEF affect your view of Missions? Before, my view of missions was “it’s something people go do as a living.” Because of CEF, I realized it’s very much something everyone should be a part of in some capacity. I think CEF was my first tangible view of that. Some people, their job is to go and be a missionary. Some people’s job is to give. Some people, their job is to pray. Whatever your job is within missions, everybody is supposed to have some role in that. I think CEF was also my first tangible experience that missions is not just overseas. It’s also in your backyard or across the street. And it’s not just saying, “You need Jesus, let me share Him with you.” It’s also, “Hey, these people need Jesus. How do we show Him to them.”

How can we be praying for you? My first task before I can report for my assignment is raising support. Within that, it’s a lot of being secluded in some ways. My job is to reach out to people and share with them what I’m doing, which is great. But, my schedule is also so different than everyone else’s. So, hanging out with my friends is really hard because they have evenings free. I have mornings free, or mid-days free, or random times free. So, it can feel very lonely! Also, that I would stop getting sick with colds because that slows me down!

How can people contact you for more information or if they want to support you? They can call or text me at 701-263-1468 or email me at naomi.brendsel@cru.org.


Lexy Stavem

Lexy Stavem
Lexy Stavem

Our first volunteer interview is with Lexy Stavem, a 20-year-old former CYIA student from Minot. Lexy also served as a Good News Club leader at Edison Elementary her junior year of High School and helped with the start of Youth Challenge.

How did you first get involved with CEF?
My grandma, Maxine, worked with Mama Linda (Erickson), and Mama Linda invited us girls to come to Camp Good News. I was a camper for 4-5 years. CYIA just seemed like a natural next step. It was a good push to get myself out there a little more and I was interested in what CEF was doing. I loved going to 5-Day Clubs as a kid, too, and I wanted to see how I could be a bigger part of that.

In your 5 years of CYIA, what is something that God taught you?
I learned more to wait on God—waiting to see how He’s working and knowing that when we don’t see it, He’s still in action.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time in CYIA?
The total memories of staying with people when you’re away doing fairs and clubs. Getting to meet the people, spending time with them.

What are you doing now?
I’m taking online classes through Liberty Christian University and working at John Hoeven Elementary in Minot.

What’s next for you?
In May, I will leave for a three month internship with United World Mission in Ireland. I’ll be staying with the national directors and doing everything they do, from leading young adult Bible study groups, to helping put on youth events to bring more people ages 18-35 into church, helping out with children’s church, and helping support the different churches in the surrounding area.

Lexy hanging out with some campers at Camp Good News.
Lexy hanging out with some campers at Camp Good News.

Why did you decide to go to Ireland?
I was at a Youth Challenge meeting and one of the other leaders talked about the STEER conference in Bismarck. She took me to the conference, and while there, I met a representative from United World Mission. And now, a year and a half later, I’m going to Ireland! I’m excited to see ministry in different parts of the world and to see different types of ministry.

How can you see God working through your time with CEF to bring you here?
I was on a call last week with the director of United World Mission and they said for the first summer ever they’re going to be partnering with CEF of Ireland. I thought that was pretty wild and It was a pretty clear thing to me that God had been at work—that me going over to Ireland is no accident with my CEF experience. I feel like I’ve gotten more missions experience with CEF and have become more confident in the Word of God through that. I’m thankful for the experience CEF has provided me with working with people and working with the Gospel and how it will transfer over to what I will be doing there.

How has your time with CEF affected your view of missions?
Before knowing about CEF, I hadn’t thought about a lot of missions organizations. CEF was really the first missions organization I came in contact with. CEF is at work on a global scale and I was interested to see what other missions organizations are out there and how else God is working through these organizations to reach the nations. I definitely see CEF influencing me in that way, being more interested in what else is out there.

How can we be praying for you as you start your Ireland journey?
You can pray for the transition. It’s definitely going to be a different experience. But, I guess that’s what I like about it, too, is being stretched. Being uncomfortable is where I find myself growing the most. Pray for the people of Ireland. I pray that would be preparing them for whatever is going to happen this summer- however the Gospel is presented. Pray that they would be open to it. And that God is going to be at work before I’m there, while I’m there and after.