Joe Slater and JMU Cru

Joe Slater recently shared with me about his experience as a student involved in JMU Cru. If you haven’t been following our little series, we have been talking to former students and Cru staff who were a part of this ministry over the years.

First off, I need to tell you about Joe. Before I moved to Harrisonburg, at least three different people told me that I absolutely MUST meet Joe Slater. Man, were they right. More than most of the people I met in the community, Joe made an effort to get to know me, pray for me, and encourage me in my ministry. This is particularly remarkable to me, because Joe is the campus pastor for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at JMU. RUF is a fantastic ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) that seeks to “help students fall deeper in love with Jesus and develop a lifelong faith.” This demonstrates something I really appreciate about Joe. He has chosen to see other campus ministries as friends and allies rather than competitors. Learn more about Joe and his awesome ministry here.

Long (really long), before Joe was working with RUF, he was a student at JMU and involved with Cru. In fact, I was born while Joe was a student at JMU (1985-88). Somehow, this reality has not stopped certain students from responding with shock when they discover that Joe and I are not the same age (cough cough… Nate Szarmach).

The biggest difference between JMU Cru then and now is that there were no staff on campus back then. Instead, a couple of Cru staff named Bill and Linda White would drive over the mountain from UVA to meet weekly with the student leaders. Besides these weekly check-ins, the students ran everything.

I asked Joe what the highlight of his time involved with Cru was: “High points for me were just being with a community that genuinely loved each other and took seriously their walk with Jesus. I was at a fork in the road with my faith at the time. Was I going to play games with Jesus and my faith or was I going to surrender everything to follow Him? God, in His kind mercy, used Cru and the people of Cru to push me to follow Him.”

I also asked Joe about some of the challenges he and the ministry faced during his time: “We had the usual challenges of staying focused on mission, of balancing school with serving our campus, and trying to daily maintain a walk with Jesus. I think we also had the challenge of young and immature leadership. We had 21 and 22 year olds leading the movement. God was extraordinarily kind to keep us out of some serious weeds despite our immaturity. I also think we very much undervalued and underemphasized the importance of the local church. Maybe some more mature leadership would have helped us correct that.”

Joe, what was the most life changing moment of your time with Cru? “I was standing at the door (of our weekly meeting) to greet newcomers and in walked this beautiful transfer student who would become my wife! Isn’t God good??!!”

Indeed he is Joe.
Contributed by Jerry Riendeau