CSFPA: Our History
2023 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Christian Student Foundation of Pennsylvania (CSFPA). It was through the vision of several church leaders in central Pennsylvania that CSFPA came into existence with a vision: to expand the kingdom of God in a crucial point of influence within our culture — the university.
It all began in the spring of 1983, when William "Buzz" Roberts approached the elders of the State College Christian Church with a proposal to establish a Christian campus ministry at Penn State University. The stated purpose of the Fellowship was to develop an evangelistic/discipleship ministry, based on Mt. 28:18-20, by reaching the lost, discipling believers toward maturity and training Christians to become leaders in their communities. Under God's blessing and the eldership's supervision, we "press on" toward the goal.
The first several months of labor focused on organization: (1) establishment of the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) at Penn State and (2) creating the Christian Student Foundation, the parent organization. In working with university officials through the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs, we established our credentials according to the University's basic and specific guidelines. With a nucleus of 6 students, we received recognition as a registered student organization on September 19, 1983. Meanwhile financial appeals went out to friends, family, congregations and other campus ministries who responded with generous gifts. One campus ministry in particular was the Christian Campus House at Purdue University. The students involved in that fellowship were so moved by our appeal that they took up a love offering, totaling $300. It was a great encouragement to us that another campus ministry would help us in this way. Later that year, the CSFPA Board of Directors was formed, the constitution was adopted and our vision set.
Throughout the years, students involved with CSF PSU UP have performed service and outreach projects on and off campus that highlight our continuing efforts to share the message of hope with the campus! The ministry resonates beyond campus as CSF PSU UP alumni are impacting the world as ministers, missionaries, educators, engineers, and other professions which influence our society.
The inauguration of CSF at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University began in 1984 with a conversation among campus ministry friends in Pittsburgh. Noting the success at Penn State, a request was made to the CSFPA Board concerning establishing a fellowship at Pitt/CMU in 1985. The Board laid out plans of securing names of students, sought financial support, searched for a full-time staff member, and initiated the steps necessary to establish a fellowship through University guidelines. After a long wait, in the spring of 1987 the Board of Directors was able to approve Sam Brunsvold as campus minister. From his heart, Sam stated, "We desire to see this ministry make disciples for Christ. We will encourage a lifestyle of evangelism and concern for others. We will encourage a desire for world evangelism."
January 28, 1997 was a tragic day as Sam Brunsvold was shot and killed outside his home as he returned from a student leadership meeting. While we may not understand the reason for this tragedy, we honor Sam's memory and praise God that the ministry on campus continued. Other ministers - David Baynes, Ted Hamilton and Greg Voss - served at Pittsburgh over the years. After Greg moved on to other ministries after fifteen years, Eddie Provident Jr. was approved by the Board to take over at CSF Pitt in March of 2020. In the fall, longtime intern Kaitlyn Salmon came on board to work with Eddie as a campus minister.
CSF has had ministries at both Bloomsburg and Indiana University of PA (IUP) that experienced seasons of growth before ending as the ministers moved on.
CSF at the Berks campus of Penn State started in June of 2000 as student leaders contacted CSFPA's Board of Directors requesting affiliation with CSFPA. This was the result of previous partnerships between students at Berks with CSF UP students. Several Berks students joined members from CSF-Penn State on a mission trip to North Carolina. Through this bonding experience, God revealed to these students the importance of having spiritual overseers and sought affiliation with CSFPA. In 2005 Dave Hershey, an alum of CSF PSU UP, came on board to serve as campus minister at PSU Berks. Dave has served on campus ever since.
The beginnings of CSF at Lock Haven date to the fall of 2004. Two friends, in a casual conversation, dreamed of what could be done on campus. As a result, an initial meeting between officials of CSFPA and the Church of Christ in Blanchard, PA laid out a plan to establish the campus ministry. After the initial set of meetings to investigate the involvement of potential students, it was decided to wait on launching the fellowship until fall 2005. By the spring of 2006, CSF was an approved student organization at Lock Haven. Brandon Thomas soon became the first campus minister at Lock Haven, followed by Patrick Willis. After Patrick moved on, Tim and Kate Jackson heeded the call to serve at Lock Haven in 2016.
At PSU Dubois, Tharren Thompson serves as the staff advisor for CSF. Tharren works on campus and is able to thus fulfill the requirement for a student organization as staff advisor while also ministering to the students. Tharren has worked with students for over a decade.
CSF at Penn State Altoona began in 2011. Mike Andrews, after serving as an intern in Pittsburgh, took on the role of campus minister at Penn State Altoona in 2015. After assisting him in an unofficial capacity, Mike's wife Rachael officially joined CSFPA staff in 2019.
From beginnings in discussions at a church in State College, CSFPA has grown to a presence on campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. Many faithful staff, volunteers and students have planted seeds and seen growth. Billy Graham once said, "The most important mission field in the world is ministering on the college campus." Over the years CSFPA has seen tremendous growth in the lives of students through several hundred baptisms, countless rededications, and hundreds of students committed to present Jesus Christ as Lord to the world through their vocation. We could sit back resting and satisfied in the success of the work already done but the words of Paul continue to challenge and move us:
"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead . . .we press on!"
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)