PHILADELPHIA (BRN) – As night descends on Drexel’s campus, in the summer months behind the athletic center, one finds colorful lights slashing through the dark. Cue a slow yellow text crawl and John Williams’ iconic score, because a galaxy far far away has arrived in the form of Drexel Dragon Jedi. 

This student organization choregraphs high performance lightsaber fights, complete with the force, mild acrobatics, Jedi and Sith costumes and storytelling, all as a way to give back to the community.  

No joke. 

This was the first club I joined at my alma mater, and I stayed with it my entire five years of college.  

Returning to the club four years later, with the intent to be a ministerial presence, was a surreal experience. The club had grown significantly in size. I carried the weight of an alumni, and I had to figure out how to connect with completely new faces on my own. 

 It was not a comfortable space.  

Between moments of jokingly being called the club’s chaplain and sometimes being a venting board for the struggles of Drexel life, I wondered any purpose or impact I might be having on these students. 

Until recently. 

A few weeks after the club officer’s asked if I could help them by dying on-stage in a character-driven performance (fun metaphors there), I had the opportunity to facilitate an after-practice hangout for the club.  


Associate Director of Drexel BCM, Jon Rice (middle/right), performs with Drexel Dragon Jedi at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

It was a normal activity for members to meet at a local spot and relax with conversation and maybe a game. With funds from a Baptist Resource Network (BRN) Evangelism Grant through Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) at Drexel, I provided pizza and was given a chance to explain the reasons I came back to the club.  

One was to help the club thrive, and that was often in training new members and providing feedback on performances. Another was to help students navigate college’s ups and downs while they were involved in the club, something I take very seriously given my own bittersweet past with the university. And the final, but certainly not least reason, is to be a safe place to have spiritual conversations and talk about the gospel. 

The night that I spoke at this hangout, I did not (explicitly) share the gospel. Some of the club members have a difficult history with Christianity. So, I must be extremely gentle with how I approach sharing the gospel with them. My promise to not ambush (pun intended) them with it got a chuckle.  

But what I did say, sincerely and openly, was how coming to faith in Jesus was a critical part of my journey (and even survival) at Drexel. I remain thankful for the Christians who talked to me about Him. 

Then I made it clear that I am available to talk about spiritual matters and be a safe place whenever they want to have such conversations. After ending, I received an unexpected, “We love you, Jon!” from one of the members, which warmed my heart. Perhaps I have made a little impact in the galaxy far far away. 

So, I continue to show up at least once a week, for 1.5-2 hours, practicing and conversating with Jedi and Sith, hoping one day some of them will ask about the Force of this world. If it’s real and can be known; if there can be a balance to the craziness of this world.  

Jesus can be, and I pray each of the members that pass through this club would consider Him. Until then, I seek to be a safe place for these students in need of the gospel, and at the very least, a friend willing to talk with them about it and the everyday hard knocks of life, in the hard truths and the good.