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“Mohammed” is on a Journey

“I have many fewer friends in America than I did when I lived in [my home country in South Asia]. But all of them are deeper, and all of them are involved with Cru.”

“Though the students involved with Cru are not Muslim like me, we share so much, and they have encouraged me to think about my spiritual background. I think everyone is on a spiritual journey.” I totally agree, and can’t wait to see that journey continue toward Christ.

These are two of the encouraging things that my new friend “Mohammed” told me as we drove north last weekend. We were heading with 18 other guys for a men’s ski weekend, but as you can imagine, the journey was as important as the destination. It’s for car ride conversations like I was having that we do ski weekends in the first place.


We found a great place to stay – Thanks Brandt and Mike for both suggesting Shiloh lodge, and all of you who helped make connections for us. We took guys for a great day skiing (half skied, the other half snow-shoed). We enjoyed meals together, and played games into the wee-small hours of the morning. But we do all those things so that we can have great sharing of life stories and connection about deep things.

A ski trip gives me an excuse to get to know Mohammed. “You know,” I told him, “one of the things I love about the Koran is that it says that Muslims should read the New Testament and listen to Jesus. And Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God. The real question that’s worth answering: ‘What does it mean to be part of the Kingdom of God.’ Perhaps we could start looking at that sometime soon.”

And so that’s where we are and where we need your prayers. Mohammed is an “involved-non-believer” in our Cru movement at BU. He had other great conversations over the course of the weekend with Jeremiah and Josh. And now I want to start looking at the New Testament with him, and seeing what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God.

We’re committed to journeying with guys like Mohammed, with Alex, with Igor, with Kyle, Phil, and lots of other young men who are taking time to consider Christ while in college. And we’re committed to doing men’s ministry differently than we do women’s ministry (that’s going well too – Malisa would love your prayers). Whatever it takes to make Christ known.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,



Prayer Requests

  • For “Mohammed” to become part of the Kingdom of God (where Jesus is the King).
  • For the other believers and not-quite-believers-yet that came with us this weekend – that God would work in their lives
  • For Malisa as she ministers to our women – there’s a women’s gathering this weekend that we would covet your prayers for


The Whole Household

We’ve seen three BU Lacrosse guys start following Jesus in the last three weeks. And each one is so ready for it.

I met up with “B” last week. He comes from a nominally Christian background. His mom wants him to go to church more often. But he doesn’t. Since coming to college, he really hasn’t gone to church or thought much about God. But his roommate started following Jesus, and so he was interested in meeting up with me. I shared a basic outline of the gospel message with B – When I finished, B shared his thoughts:

“I’ve never heard this explained clearly. Even the little drawings are helpful. I have certainly heard about Jesus before and about him dying on the cross and about him rising again on Easter. But what you just shared really makes a lot of sense. And the stuff you about who God is, who he made us to be, and that we’ve all rebelled – that I’ve never heard explained to me.”

“Ok, well, assuming all of this is true, which, again, is a big assumption, but assuming there is a God, that we are rebels, and that God’s punishment for our rebellion is death, and assuming Jesus really is God, that he really did come to die on the cross in our place and that he rose again to give us new life, that leaves you with a question: Which way do you want to live?
“I know I have been living as if I’m in control. But I don’t want to live that way anymore. I want to start following Jesus.”

And so, there, in Panera, B, Jeremiah, and I prayed. “Dear God, I know I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don’t deserve your gift of eternal life. I am guilty of rebelling against you and ignoring you. I need forgiveness. Thank you for sending your son to die for me that I may be forgiven. Thank you that he rose from the dead to give me new life. Please forgive me and change me, that I may live with Jesus as my ruler. Amen.”

Above: The BU Men’s Lacrosse Team is just starting it’s second season.

“B” is roommates with “T” who started following Jesus three weeks ago. And he’s friends with “C” who started following Jesus two weeks ago. The three of them are now getting together on Friday afternoons with my friend Ethan to start reading the Bible.

It’s pretty incredible. But I don’t think that the Lord is done with the Lacrosse team. I’m praying that like in Acts 16, where whole houses full of people were believing in God, that the same thing could happen here in Boston. Would you pray with us toward that end?

“At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Acts 16:33-34

I can’t get that image out of my head. He and his whole household came to believe in God. I want to see that happen on the Lacrosse Team at BU.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,


How to Pray

  • For B, C, and T as they start working out what it means to follow Jesus
  • For the other 30 students on the Lacrosse team who have expressed interest in hearing more about Jesus. Pray that the entire team (household) gets to hear the gospel
  • For the other “households” across the city of Boston where college students live and hang out together – that many would follow Jesus

We love Sydney’s laugh. Wish we could bottle it up for you. Here’s the best visual we could do.

The Gospel is True for everyone

The Gospel is True

Sasha and Jolaina sat down at the table next to me. I started praying because I knew that Jolaina, one of our student leaders, would be sharing the gospel with Sasha, a freshman at BU (Our students and staff have thousands of meetings like this across the city as each school year begins). What a thrill it is to hear someone explain the basics of Christianity to someone else.

Sasha came to BU totally overwhelmed and knowing next to nobody. In a school of 30,000, even the dining halls can be overwhelming. But on that day, the Holy Spirit met Sasha as she talked with Jolaina, and Sasha prayed to receive Christ. She realized that the gospel was true.

She is now part of our community – she came to our Fall Retreat this weekend and is in the center of this picture surrounded by other women involved with Cru – including Jolaina.


I snapped this “selfie” with Gwynnie and Jolaina just moments after Jolaina (center) shared the gospel with Sasha. What a thrill to welcome people into the kingdom of God for the first time!


We know you pray with us for meetings like this one. Thank you.

“M” agrees with Anthony

You prayed with us last month for an event called “I agree with Anthony.” Anthony Moccia is a 5th year student on the BU Hockey Team. We created the “I agree with Anthony” event so that Anthony would have a chance to share the gospel with his hockey team and other athlete friends. His whole team came out to hear him share. And share he did!

This was not the first time the team got to hear about Jesus. My friend Darin (who works with Athletes in Action) got to share his testimony and the gospel with the hockey team earlier in the week.

And on Tuesday, we started a new small group bible study for guys on the hockey team. M came to the bible study and at the end, Darin and Anthony asked him if he’d like to start following Jesus. He said, “Yes” and prayed with Darin and Anthony right in the dining hall.

Hockey is the biggest thing going at BU. Hockey games are about the closest thing BU gets to school spirit. And so everyone on campus knows who M is.

The gospel is true for people who know nobody yet. The gospel is also true for those everyone knows. And everyone in between. Including Sasha, Amanda, Robbie, Yanshu, Briana, Maria, M, and all the others who have started following Him this fall. Including you and me.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,




Eliza eats her first cupcake as Brian, Sydney, Malisa, and celebrate her first birthday on 10/2/14

Seven on 7B

Seven on 7B

Written by Adrian Baker· September 10, 2014

Available at


Grace Pearson (COM ’17), Hannah Cawley (CAS ’17) and Ja-Hon Wang (CAS ’17) spend time in the Warren 7B common room. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

As freshmen on floor 7 of Marshall Tower in Warren Towers settled into their dorm rooms at the beginning of the fall semester, they stumbled on a pleasant surprise – seven Boston University upperclassmen who decided to live on the floor to offer guidance and friendship to the incoming students.

The upperclassmen, who range from sophomores to seniors, are members of Cru at BU, a Christian organization on campus. They opted to live on 7B to continue an informal tradition Cru members started two years ago, said Grace Pearson, a sophomore in the College of Communication.

“We really want to see some change happen in the school so that we can learn to love each other better,” Pearson said. “We wanted to do that by reaching out to freshmen especially, who are new to the school and don’t know much about anything at BU yet because they haven’t experienced it.”

Pearson said while the upperclassmen on 7B may act as mentors to other residents, they strive to maintain legitimate friendships with everyone on the floor.

“I know them more deeply than just where they’re from or what their major is,” she said. “The friendships I’ve made have been great. We’ve only been in school for a week, but I know some of the people really well on the floor so far.”

Pearson said she wanted to try to foster a sense of community on a typical freshman floor because it was something her floor lacked in her first year at BU. Still, she said she had some reservations about moving back into Warren for another year.

“I was really scared to live on the floor,” Pearson said. “I thought, ‘These freshmen are going to think I’m so weird being on this floor and being an upperclassman.’ But we’ve gotten so much good feedback.”

Ja-Hon Wang, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he was inspired to live on Floor 7B because of how much the upperclassmen on the floor last year helped him.

“I spent a lot of time on this floor and got to know all of the guys and girls that lived here last year, and I just love the community,” Wang said. “It was those upperclassmen who reached out to me that made a difference, so I wanted to do the same.”

Wang said the variety of students on 7B often mesh in the floor’s common room, which has a wall plastered with artwork upper and lowerclassmen make together.

“Even just being there for them and asking them how they are, because I feel like not enough people in this world ask each other how they’re doing,” Wang said. “That’s really our main way of doing outreach.”

The seven Cru members have weekly meetings to talk about the interactions they have had as well as to offer support to each other, Wang said.

“I wouldn’t have done this alone. That’s hard,” he said. “But being here with six of my closest friends — that’s just incredible. I can go to them with any problem that I have if I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

Wang said because the seven upperclassmen come from different backgrounds and fields of study as well as have different personalities and interests, together they effectively reach out to the diverse cast of students on the floor.

“We all have different strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “As a team, we can’t be complete without everybody.”

Madi Mae West, a freshman in the School of Management living on 7B, said she and her floor mates have bonded through activities such as walking through the rain to Cold Stone Creamery the Sunday before classes began.

“It’s helped make relationships much easier being in college my first year,” West said. “I find it comforting. They’ve been here before, so if I have any questions, I know they can help me.”

CAS freshman Andrew Barrasso said he was not expecting to have upperclassmen on his floor, but it came as a pleasant surprise.

“It’s great that I have a support team. The upperclassmen are very helpful with giving advice,” he said. “You can feel out of touch or you may not know what to do in certain situations. Having the upperclassmen really helps with some parts of everyday life.”

Vince Sangrigoli, a freshman in SMG, also said the upperclassmen create a sense of community by being inviting, having meaningful conversations with people in the common room and in their dorms.

“It’s a big help,” he said. “It’s great to just hear the experiences of other people who went through the same things we did and are trying to make it better and easier for freshmen.”

Life for the Dry Bones

It’s pretty amazing what God does in and through the lives of our students. We’ve worked with one of them, Kelly, for the last 4 years. She was a student at Boston University involved in our Cru movement and now is a grad student at MIT and volunteering with us. She came with us this summer to the Middle East and had an amazing time. Here’s a post from her blog where she shares about what God did in her life this summer:


    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

-Henry David Thoreau 

I’m back in Boston, friends. Jet-lagged, reverse culture shocked (like what is this thing called flushing toilet paper? And do I really see gluten-free bread?!), and happy to reunite with Sushi the Ninja Cat, and, oh, my family.
Yet there’s a tremble in my heart for a people and a place I knew for a very, very short amount of time (relatively speaking), and it’s not easily ignored. A city of a spirit and culture stunningly different yet eerily familiar, and hauntingly unique, all in one. And the people … did I mention the people?
Sure, we didn’t know each other for very long but, you see, we dove deep. Both on my team and the people I met in the city. Every one of us unique, intricate tapestries, woven by a vast God so creative He takes my breath away at night when I dream I’m back in that city with the people I know.
And now I’m resurfacing and they’re not here for me to smile at and talk with and listen to, and it’s hard. Like, smack-your-head-against-a-metal-plate-and-see-stars-as-you-drop level hard.
So: this might be a long post. Bear with me, friend.


 He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley…

It’s cliche, but I’ve been lost for so long. Ill and exhausted.
I’m not sure where I first heard the term “post-evangelical wilderness” to describe this place. All I know is I’d been inching closer to the city gates for years, then World Vision happened and I bolted, tripping and dizzy and falling on my knees in the desert dust, beaten down by the fists of the sun.
And then I was like, oh, right, I decided to do a cultural exchange with a bunch of Christians in the Middle East. Even though so many things about church are triggering for me. This should be interesting.
I never said it aloud, but what I secretly thirsted for was a rediscovery of God, the true God, whoever He is. To find peace again, the peace long since dried up as I fade to brittle bones in the desert.
I wanted to stand in the dust and raise my hands up to the vast sky and the God watching me. I guess I wanted to feel Him smile.


    …it was full of bones.

It’s not like I didn’t have friends going on this trip. I do. I’m just afraid of them, afraid if they know how broken my heart is and how angry I am at Christians and how I panic at Christianese, afraid if they know my real opinions, they’ll misunderstand me as someone disobedient to God, a liberal fool.

    It’s day one and I’m excited, yet I melt in fear when I face the forty-one beautiful people who will be accompanying me.
     Inside me I know: this trip might mean either the resurrection or end of my thinned spiritual life.

    And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.
    It’s the first week and my heart is racing, racing. Why does God let people slip away? Why doesn’t He answer? (Don’t give me that “God’s ways are higher than our ways” cop-out crap).
    I kinda want to stay in my room, curled up and ranting at God. Maybe letting my faith extinguish a little more.
    But instead, for some reason or another, I get up. I walk downstairs and pause, fist raised to knock on my friends door.
    She’s always said she’s available. But I know people don’t often mean what they say, oh boy do I know.
    She opens, she smiles and asks what is wrong. She listens and talks and by the end of the conversation I have no answers but a hope in my heart. A hope that sees someone who loves truly, like I wish God did.


    And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” 
    It’s week two and I tell my story in all its ugly, raw detail. How open-ended, how incomplete and messy it is. How concerned they must be for me. How they must be judging me.
    But my heart was pounding and my nerves were tingling, I knew I had to say it.
    And they listen, and they pray, and they love me. Not one doubt, not one judgement proceeds from their mouths or their eyes.

    And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” [No, that was Ezekiel. I said, “I don’t think so, but You prove me wrong, okay?].
    Week four we will be discussing our family backgrounds. I’ve done this before and I don’t want to do it again. I don’t like to face the truth. You can’t imagine how it hurts.
    In preparation, I zone out. I have nightmares and anxiety attacks and flashes of unwelcome memories days before. As we arise the morning of, tears build in my eyes, but I’ve long learned how to hide.
    And then someone comes up to me and asks how I am. She asks if she can pray for me and says our team is part of my family now, too. And I feel a glimpse of love and warm, warm hope.


 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

    As the weeks pass I feel myself set free. No weight of anxiety, no weight of feeling unknown, hold down my broken shoulders. Bolder and bolder, I can walk up to someone and ask either their life story or their thoughts on any of the many controversies eating my soul (which I suppose brings me one step closer to my dream, hurrah).
I feel connected and – and I feel safe – with everyone on my team. Safe isn’t a feeling I’ve ever really been able to have, but it’s here now. And love is here, too.
They say God is love. So maybe He is here as well.
I don’t feel Him like I’m used to. No otherworldly presence, no whispers in my soul. I simply feel Him through these friends who love me, uneven and unfinished me.
And somehow, my faith, my dry bones faith, knits together, into something new. My doubts don’t end – intellectually I remain a disillusioned skeptic (maybe I’ll always be so). But somewhere else – maybe it’s that spiritual soul I can’t feel or think – a deeper faith settles. Because of the very, very diverse people who love me. I can’t quite explain it, but I’m strangely okay with that.


     Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.

On waning days of our trip, the men on our team pick out one adjective for each of us women.
Mine is brave, written in green marker. Green, my favorite color, the color of life.
I’m not a crier. But I cried then. Do they know how I’ve chastised myself as coward for years? Fear has ruled me. It’s only here it doesn’t.
But here they gave me a new word. Brave, in light of my ugly and unfinished story.
It feels like a resurrection of sorts.


 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

Now, my beautiful and strong adelasters, I’m glad to be back and I’ve missed publishing on a more regular basis. Love to you all; go live today.


Working with Refugees


Let me give you a picture of what is happening with Refugees in the city we work in. Many of the women I talked to are Kurdish Syrians or Kurdish Iraqis. A typical one-bedroom apartment would include a mother and father, their children, their children’s spouses and grandkids. Sometimes two extended families move in together. No one in the family is allowed to work legally. If the men in the family are not injured, they can do day labor jobs. Some women can work in the textile industry. But often these companies are “fly-by-night” and might close down at any point, leaving weeks of unpaid salaries for the workers. But because they cannot legally work, they have no legal labor protections.


I have a Syrian friend who is lucky. She got a job translating and teaching because her English is good enough. In Damascus, before the war, she and her husband had a good life, family, house, etc. When war came, they locked the doors and prayed it would still be there when they return. Because there are no schools or opportunities for their children, they have chosen not to have more kids. “There’s nothing for them in our world,” she says.


Ultimately, our hope is not that all of these refugees and asylum seekers would be granted asylum. Our hope is not that all wars would end and that everyone would get to go back to their former lives. Our ultimate hope is the hope of Jesus. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Ali needs a guide

IMG_6877-001My friends Ja-hon, Gwen, and Josh hopped in a taxi for a crazy ride through the city. We were heading to meet a Muslim friend named “Ali.” Ja-hon and I had already met Ali a few times. We met him at an art school where he is studying to be a fashion designer. He showed us some of his designs at another of our meetings. He came out with us dancing on a boat cruise, on the eve of Ramadan. And we wanted to meet one last time. This time we brought Josh to translate for us. That meant that we could talk more deeply about spiritual things.



Ali was so interested both to share about his spiritual searching and to hear about ours. Ali is a Muslim, but is looking all over for truth, love, and happiness.

I talked with him about the Kingdom of God: “That’s the question I’d like to talk to you more about, Ali. Are you part of God’s kingdom? Jesus talked a lot about being part of God’s kingdom. So perhaps you’d be interested in meeting up with our friend Josh? He’ll be here for the next year. Maybe you guys can meet up and read the stories about Jesus and what he says about the Kingdom of God. And then maybe we can stay in touch on Facebook.”

Ali liked the sound of that.


Josh had to run to meet up with some others, but Ali took Ja-hon, Gwen, and I to find an art gallery with him. He had an experience I have all the time here, in this country. As he walked up to people asking “Do you know where this art gallery is?” Everyone tried to help. “It’s over that way.” “I think you go right, and then left.” “Go down that road.” “No… go back the other way.” “Ask up there.” Back and forth we walked down the same street, around the same block three or four times. Even Google maps didn’t help. It’s a classic moment here – everyone wants to help you, even if they don’t know how. They’re always confident even if they don’t know where you’re actually trying to go. We did finally find the gallery, but it was empty, walls bare as if it had once been a vibrant art installation but had since been striped. Apparently the website hadn’t been updated.

IMG_6878-001This search is a great picture of the spiritual reality. What Ali needs is a good guide who knows the way and can point him forward toward his destination? What Ali needs is a follower of Jesus to guide him and give him directions. A good guide points out the way. Ali needs some good guides to point him to Jesus – Don’t we all need that!

Would you pray that he gets together with Josh over the next year to read the Bible? Would you pray that he stays connected with us over Facebook? Would you pray that we are able to be good guides helping point him to Jesus?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Brian and Malisa


p.s. Stay tuned for our next update about some of the happening with our refugee friends.


Jesus is worth putting your weight on and trusting.

“Let me ask you a question. When you started college last fall, did you ever think you’d be here? Trying to decide whether you want to become a Christian?”

“No. I had no idea.”

I was talking again with my friend Nick, a freshmen from New York City. At the beginning of the year, he came on our men’s rafting trip and our fall retreat. He lives on the same floor as our friends Asaph, David, Krysia, Gwynnie, Kate, and Alex. And all year, he’s been hanging out more and more with these guys and becoming part of our community. He’s not yet a follower of Jesus.

I asked Krysia to tell you about Nick in this video clip.

Krysia and Nick from Brian Ellis on Vimeo.

If the video doesn’t work, Here’s a transcript:

“There’s another guy Nick who was at beginning of the year an atheist… He actually told one of my friends that he felt like he had very shallow relationships with all of the other freshmen on our floor but that we actually knew him really well. That’s what drew him in — we knew him and he could tell that we cared about him and we cared for his wellbeing — not only just physically but also spiritually. We would have these deep conversations with him and now we’re just seeing him come closer and closer to Christ. We’re seeing all of our community come around him and have these spiritual conversations and dig in with Nick because we want him to know Christ. He knows that and that it’s for his best that we want him and that he’s really drawn to our community and that is really incredible.”

When I talked to Nick, his friends had invited him to an apologetics talk. He said to me that he’s seriously considering becoming a Christian, but he’s not sure what he would say to his friends if they knew that he was about to become a Christian. But, he says, “There is something different about the people that live around him. The students who are involved wit Cru are different. They care about me.”

“But I’m still not sure I’m ready.”

I told Nick about my wife Malisa. “When Malisa’s friend Nan asked her if she was ready to become a Christian, Malisa said ‘no – I haven’t read all the bible yet.’ ‘It isn’t about that,’ said Nan ‘It’s about Jesus. Are you ready to follow Jesus?’”

“Nick, you don’t need to wait until you have all your questions answered to become a follower of Jesus. It isn’t a lack of information that separates us from Jesus. And so what you have to do is say – on the basis of what I know about Jesus, I’m going to choose to trust Him. I’m going to put my weight on it. And it really isn’t until we put our weight on it that we can start to follow Jesus. Jesus is worth putting your weight on and trusting.”

Nick sent me a facebook message last week: “Yea, it’s been a wild ride spiritually I guess haha. Yea, thanks for the advice! I think I’m going to be trying my weight in the coming weeks so it should be interesting.”

Wow… Would you pray for Nick?

Nick and others

Kate, Nick, Grace, and Vivek hanging out at IHOP for some late night pancakes

Loving our Adventurous Lord,