Cindy West came to faith in Christ through Chi Alpha as a student at Chadron State College in Nebraska through the Chi Alpha ministry on campus. After graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, she went into teaching for two years, then moved into full-time youth ministry. After several years in youth ministry, she went back to the classroom for the next 25 years, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later served as the Lincoln School District’s Secondary English Language Learner (ELL) Coordinator, a position she held until 2012. Through it all, Chi Alpha has always remained dear to Cindy’s heart. During her college years, she led worship at Chi Alpha and that love of worship continued at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chi Alpha as she oversaw the worship program and mentored new worship leaders. Most recently, Cindy helped lead worship earlier this month at the Chi Alpha Alumni & Friends Dinner in Kansas City, Missouri, singing classic praise choruses that many alumni remember from their years on campus.
Cindy shares the following about the impact that Chi Alpha has had upon her life and her teaching career:
Describe the impact Chi Alpha had on you as a student.
Chi Alpha really transformed my life. I went to college as an unbeliever and it was a move of God that connected me to people and experiences that brought me into a relationship with God. I had friends who were believers who shared with me, but my first personal encounter with the Lord was alone in my dorm room. It was at a retreat that I really learned more and was filled with the Spirit. I feel honored to have been a part of the first Chi Alpha group at Chadron State. It was a student-led group, and we all worked together to learn from each other and figure it out together. So much of it was God, the Holy Spirit, and circumstances that discipled me.
How do you think Chi Alpha prepared you for your ministry and teaching roles?
Your college years really set you on the trajectory for your life. By coming into a relationship with Christ and having a community of believers to learn with, I was transformed on the inside and it changed how I looked at everything. It definitely affected how I approached teaching. When you see your students and staff as people God loves, it shifts how you perceive them and how you relate to them. It affected everything—right down to how I disciplined in the classroom. It made me a better teacher; it made me a better friend; it made me a better everything! You just see through a different filter when God is the center of your life.
What are some of the opportunities God has given you to minister to students over the years?
Teaching English Language Learners, I had kids from all over the world with a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds. I remember a little boy in my classroom who was Buddhist, and somebody said something about talking to God. I told them, “I talk to God every day.” The little boy responded by asking, “Does God talk back?” I described how I hear Him mostly in my heart and my thoughts and that I talked to God about all of them too. They asked, “What do you say?” So, I demonstrated by sharing how I talked to God (my prayers for them). They thought that was really cool. There were so many times God gave wisdom and insight into situations in the classroom. Many of my students were traumatized because they came from war-torn countries and witnessed horrendous atrocities. To be able to hear the voice of God and know what to do and say in response to the challenging needs of students was paramount.
How have the needs of students changed since your college days in Chi Alpha?
In some ways I think college students still have the same basic needs, but the world around us has changed so dramatically. There are so many distractions today, which makes it more difficult to focus. I think students are still looking for something to commit to that is real, genuine, and authentic. An encounter with the living God is as real, genuine, and authentic as it gets!
What words of wisdom do you have for Chi Alpha students who are soon to graduate and enter into the marketplace?
Immediately, I think of how important it is to be in a faith community where you are committed to people who are also committed to growing in their walk with the Lord. You also need to keep your own personal relationship with the Lord alive and well. Don’t be distracted and consumed by the things that don’t really matter in the end. Allow God to set the priorities for your life, and then hold fast to them.