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Sharing Jesus One Pizza Slice at a Time

We are here because Jesus invites us to bring rest to the weary and food to the hungry. Both apply to SDSU students. 

College is a transformative time. College students navigate new challenges, forge new paths, and discover new facets of their identity. Amidst these changes, having a supportive community is crucial. At Agape San Diego, we provide that support, offering students a space to find rest, acceptance, and spiritual nourishment.

For over 70 years, Agape San Diego has been a cornerstone of support for students, faculty, and staff at San Diego State University. This ministry predates the founding of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and the unification of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, reflecting our long-standing dedication to the SDSU community.

This year’s graduating class had a unique collegiate journey. Their first two years of college were isolated. COVID-19 required social separation for safety during a time in life when socialization and independence often flourish. Conversely, the underclass spent the last two years of high school in isolation. These years, key to developing social confidence and interaction, make connecting with peers difficult and exhausting. 

Since returning to campus in Fall 2022, we’ve focused on offering a place for rest and connectivity. Every Wednesday, Agape provides shade, bean bag chairs, and Mexican blankets under banners that read “REST HERE” – “FREE PIZZA” in rainbow letters. Rose, a member of our community, beautifully describes the impact of this space, “It’s a safe space to express myself, where I know I am accepted, no matter the baggage I carry.” 

Agape is the only open and affirming Christian campus ministry at SDSU–we strive to make everyone feel welcomed and accepted regardless of their sexuality, background, or beliefs. All are welcome, period.

Acceptance and safety are at the heart of Agape’s mission. Many of our conversations about Jesus Christ begin with students sharing their experiences–both the destructive and uplifting journeys of faith. After lots and lots of listening, sometimes I find myself telling students, “Not all Christians are jerks. You are beautifully and wonderfully made and loved by God.” Distilling Jesus Christ with college students starts with presence. 

On Ash Wednesday, Pastor Darin Johnson, our Executive Director, and I set up a sandwich board with our typical greeting that read, “You Are Loved, Have Some Pizza.” The responses we received are touching and sometimes humorous:

“Free pizza, really?” – “Really,” we reply. “What do I have to do?” – “Nothing,” we respond. “What’s your deal?” – “Great question,” with a smile. And my favorite, “Dude?” – “Dude!”

Agape San Diego is known as the “Nice People with Free Pizza,” a title we wear with pride. Whether it’s Pizza on Wednesdays, Snow Cone Thursdays, or hosting events on and off campus like sailing on Mission Bay and weekend retreats at Camp Stevens–our ministry is one of presence. We meet students where they are, providing a supportive and accepting community.

Rose’s story is a testament to the lasting impact of our ministry. She discovered Agape in the final semester of her bachelor’s program and found a sense of belonging and support that carried her through her studies. Now, she is a program leader as she moves through her master’s program. 

These interactions highlight the essence of our ministry—offering love, support, and rest without any strings attached. Andrew, a political science major, said he won’t move home this summer because he’s “too tired.” This sentiment is common among students who feel worn out from years of intense academic pressure. Jane, a Sustainability major, echoed this feeling, saying she looks forward to a break to recharge.

Every Wednesday, rain or shine, Agape leaders like myself and Reverend Darin Johnson are there, offering a place of refuge for students from all walks of life.

Supporting student ministry is vital. College is a time of immense growth and change. Having a community like Agape San Diego can make a world of difference. We offer a space for rest, acceptance, and spiritual nourishment for students navigating their college years. As we continue this 70-year legacy, we invite you to join us in supporting the students of SDSU by emailing me at greg@agapesandiego.org. Together, we can make a meaningful impact in their lives, just as Agape has done for decades.

Jesus is present in every moment.  We’re known as the Nice People with Free Pizza, and I can’t think of a better way to share Jesus’ love.

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Category: #Evangelism, #Outreach

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2 replies to “Sharing Jesus One Pizza Slice at a Time

  1. Gary Chun | on May 22, 2024

    Thanks for the article, Greg. It is one of the best that I have read in this EDSD email periodical. God invented pizza and is using it to further his kingdom. — Gary Chun

  2. Amy Reams | on May 22, 2024

    Greg! Love this. Thanks for sharing!

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