The University of California, Davis, serves more than 35,000 students, representing more than 100 nations. Each of these students come with differing backgrounds and beliefs, but every graduate leaves with a decorated diploma, marked by the school’s corporate seal.
It’s a small, round symbol, dotted along the rim like ridges on a quarter. An open book rests in the middle with a banner draped across it, displaying the university motto in all caps. LET THERE BE LIGHT. “We believe our mission as Chi Alpha UC Davis is to restore that motto to its original purpose—as the light of Jesus,” says Chi Alpha’s director, Pastor Will Klier.
Missional Living 101
In the last two years, Chi Alpha UC Davis, known locally as Davis Christian Fellowship (DCF), has nearly doubled in size. They’ve expanded to two properties, 18 small groups, 40 student leaders, and more than 200 regularly involved students. But this growth comes with a catch—every new member carries an expiration date. After a few years, they’re ushered across a stage, adorned in oversized robes, and sent out into the “real world.”
With this in mind, Pastor Will ensures that DCF is treated as more than an added extracurricular. Instead, it operates as a crash course in missional living. “We raise these students to approach their college experience with a missional mindset,” he says. Pastor Will and his wife Jennifer ask their student leaders to “give a year” to host a small group on campus, but they also challenge these students to “pray about a lifetime,” seeking God for direction following graduation. In fact, DCF is one of the national centers for training new campus missionaries, who will pioneer new ministries across America. “Our campus ministry is like church planting every four years,” says Pastor Will. “We have sent hundreds to the workplace with not just a degree but a calling and purpose in nearly every sphere of influence.”
In addition to training leaders for ministries nationwide, DCF also encourages students to step outside their native borders. “We have a huge vision to see the nations reached with the Gospel,” says Pastor Will. Every year, teens and 20-somethings from the ministry travel all over the globe to proclaim the story of Christ. They’ve visited Korea, Spain, Central Asia, Mexico, and more. “Our mission trips are very influential, not only for where we go, but for the students coming back,” says Pastor Will. “We’re fortunate to see them capture God’s heart for the nations.”
As these missionaries return, the Davis campus itself serves as a diverse mission field, representing more than 100 nationalities and cultures. Every week, the fellowship hosts a conversation hour in one of their ministry houses, situated directly across the street from campus, where international students can come practice their English. For some of these students, a simple chat is enough to remind them that they’re valued. But for others, these spaces offer a comfortable setting to discuss Christianity. In their property next door, a residential community for DCF’s young leaders, conversations continue as the tenants utilize their home to form friendships and practice ministry-living. “We have so many rich conversations with these students,” says Pastor Will. “They’re experiencing the presence of God.”
Sending the Light
No matter each student’s unique history and home, the majority come to Davis anticipating much of the same. But between study sessions and fast food outings, the Lord is presenting Himself in profound ways, and these young men and women are being dramatically changed by the Gospel. “This is such a vital time of life,” says Pastor Will. “They’re really laying the foundations for who they want to be.” At the end of each set of four years, DCF’s curriculum isn’t about completing tedious to-dos in a stapled syllabus. It’s about impacting the foundation of each student’s life. It’s about making disciples.
As these young adults graduate and exchange classrooms for careers, each will receive their diploma, with the school’s motto calling them to act. LET THERE BE LIGHT. With every passing year, this phrase remains Will Klier’s prayer for his students. “We want to continue with that motto—that we would be sending the light of the Gospel to the nations,” says Pastor Will, “that this little college town, by God’s grace, would impact the world.”
“I grew up as an atheist. I thought I could do everything with science, reason, and my own strength. But this ministry showed me that there was something, Someone, bigger than me. About six months after my first core group, I came to faith. Two months later, I felt God call me to be a pastor. I’ve intimately encountered God’s presence, and I’ve felt His voice speak hope to my soul. Jesus has become Someone worth loving and pursing for the rest of my life.”
“I heard about Chi Alpha my first year of college, but had no interest in joining. I always thought Christians never had fun, but Chi Alpha showed me life is more fun with Jesus. Chi Alpha helped me start a relationship with God, and I was excited to share Him with people all over the world. I went on my first mission trip, and ever since then I feel a calling for missions. I want to give the love I’ve received to others. My life is forever changed because of Jesus.”
“Chi Alpha has helped me discover my identity in Christ and has blessed me with a community of brothers and sisters passionately pursuing God. I’ve learned what it truly means to be a son of God. He has blessed me with a passion for soccer, and I hope to carry His heart with me into the stressful world of athletics—a place where you are defined and judged based on your performance. I hope to stir the culture and embody God’s character of acceptance and love.”