Lanny Kampfe and his wife, Jann, love the community that Alpha helps to create for the students at the University of Iowa. “They get more into Alpha each week and start building such good friendships,” says Lanny, who is actually about to go trout fishing with one of the university graduates who went on Alpha. The Kampfes offer Alpha at the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa, drawing a great mixture of international and Catholic students to a place where they can openly explore their questions about life.
It didn’t start off easy. When Lanny first approached the Newman Center about Alpha, the priest in charge of student programs at that time declined, since he wasn't familiar with Alpha. However after a year of praying and learning more about Alpha, Lanny one day received a call from the priest saying, “We're going to do Alpha and invite every church in town to join us!” And with that, they kicked off their first Alpha at the Newman Center.
It didn’t start off easy.
The Kampfes intentionally reached out and invited the Chinese international students who were part of a global discipleship ministry called The Navigators, along with other students from campus ministries like Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the Christian Medical Association. And at the start of Alpha, they were amazed by the diverse group of international students that came. Lanny shares, “Out of about 31,000 students [at school], about 2,400 are Chinese internationals…and the Chinese students are generally either atheist or agnostic.”
Lanny continues by describing the unique opportunity they have working with so many different backgrounds. “The students were graduating from the fall semester, so they had several relatives visiting from China for the graduation ceremony. We had a celebration at our house and one of the parents asked me, ‘What do you think about having all of these Chinese people in your home?’ I said, ‘It's a glimpse of what heaven will look like with all of the different people who know Jesus.’” In a recent Alpha at the Newman Center, one Alpha group even included a Hindu, a Buddhist, an atheist, some Christians from the Philippines, China and Korea and a very dynamic discussion. Lanny argues that this was a good thing; “The more diverse the group, the better.”
"It's a glimpse of what heaven will look like with all of the different people who know Jesus."
In addition to reaching international students, Lanny shares how Alpha is working in conjunction with the Catholic RCIA program (The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), which teaches people about the Catholic faith if they are interested in becoming a member of the Catholic Church. Lanny describes how the one year RCIA program is used; “During the first half of the year, we use Alpha as an introduction to the Christian faith. This is an excellent place for people to discuss lots of common questions and concerns about the Catholic faith. For example, ‘Why are all Catholic priests men?’ Then, the second half of the year focuses on studying the sacraments of the Catholic Church.” Increasingly, Alpha is becoming interwoven into the Catholic faith, especially among this generation of college students at University of Iowa. Lanny explains, “If you want to join the Catholic Church, you have to take Alpha, too – and everyone has enjoyed it.”
The impact of Alpha at the Newman Center is huge. Lanny reflects how it has even increased the need for outreach—a high priority among young people today. He shares the importance of the relational mindset among Catholic churches, “It should be a priority for all of us – to share our faith with people when God gives us an opportunity. We have to take our faith out into the community; we can't just keep it in the church.”
Alpha is becoming interwoven into the Catholic faith, especially among this generation of college students.
The Kampfes are committed to mentoring college students though Alpha; “There's a real desire to learn here. After every Alpha night, some of the leaders, guests and I have a ‘post-Alpha’ session at a local taco place. We grab some chips, a coke or a beer and share questions that we didn't finish discussing that night on Alpha. The students have that desire to continue the dialogue and to keep building community – and we just love it.”