PHILADELPHIA (BRN) – Born and raised in a Christian household with six siblings in Arkansas, Rebekah Gulledge is no stranger to shared space and loud noises, something that prepared her well for ministering to college students in the lively, historic city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gulledge arrived in the city of brotherly love just this summer (2023) to serve on the campus of Drexel University with Baptist Campus Minister Brian Musser. Specifically, she was brought on to minister to international students.
“I found from Stanley Williams, that if you drop a pin in 30th Street Station, stretch it out 365 miles in a radius, or within a six hour drive at that point in each direction, that’s over 80% of all international students in America,” said Gulledge.
Additionally, she shared that Drexel University alone is home to 50 different nations and roughly 100 different people groups, which, for Gulledge, is a dream come true.
Ever since she was a little girl, Gulledge recalls viewing missionaries as “superheroes,” and the mission field as a giant she couldn’t touch. But in late high school she felt a call.
“I was praying, and I finally surrendered my future to God, which was something that was really scary for me, [but] that’s whenever I felt called to be a missionary.”
After she graduated high school, Gulledge read every mission book she could get her hands on and talked to every missionary she could find. With no real mission field prospects in front of her, she begrudgingly applied to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
On her first day at UA Little Rock, she found herself walking into the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM), a visit that would change the entire trajectory of her life.
“I was introduced to Bit Stephens and Adam Venters, two of the greatest mentors of my life. They introduced me to Conversation Club, which was an international student outreach. They introduced me to BCM leadership and to something called Nehemiah Teams, which is a 52-day long mission opportunity,” explained Gulledge.
This one-day interaction led Gulledge to a multitude of opportunities. Including two terms with Nehemiah Teams, during which she served in Romania, Indonesia, Czech Republic and Thailand.
“As I’ve been on those trips, and having done a little bit of international student work in America, I started to realize what it’s like to be an international student. How lonely it is and how disconnected people feel from their families and their friends and their culture,” said Gulledge.
Starting to relate with international students more and more, Gulledge couldn’t help but think about the different nations she could be reaching if she was back in America.
“There were moments overseas where I was just thinking [that] I could be reaching people from 50 different nations right now if I were still in America, but overseas I’m here reaching out to one people group,” said Gulledge.
That growing passion led her back to America and, eventually, to Philadelphia.
“God has used the online platform of me Googling things to lead me to the right places. I Googled Baptist campus minister in Philadelphia and I found one name and that was Brian Musser.”
“Brian is the only Southern Baptist campus minister connected to the Baptist churches here in this part of Philadelphia, and then there’s one on the outskirts of Philadelphia. So, 300,000 students and two campus ministers.”
With a high volume of students, many nations present and few workers, it was a no brainer for Gulledge to follow God’s lead to Philly, but little did she know that God was already opening doors for Musser to reach the nations at Drexel.
“He (Musser) has all these open doors to different parts of the campus, specifically with international students,” said Gulledge. “But international student ministry is time consuming, energy consuming, life consuming – it’s not a side job. So, he was not able to fully step into that role because he has the whole campus to take care of, but I can,” said Gulledge.
For two years, Gulledge will spend time building relationships with international students at Drexel and a local community college to provide spaces of fellowship and ministry for them. In the near future, she hopes to start a Conversation Club for international students, host a survival night, which would equip international students with basic skills for navigating life in America, and connect international students with churches in the area that speak their native language.
Some of these churches including those within the Baptist Resource Network (BRN), such as Ekklesia of North Philadelphia, Watershed Church, Redemption City Church, Philadelphia Mission Baptist Church, Bucks County Community Church and Cambodian Baptist Church, just to name a few.
Understanding the role of a campus minister as a “bridge builder” between churches and campuses and then churches and students, Gulledge knows that connecting an international student to a church with ties to their native land can be the key for that student understanding the gospel or growing in their faith.
“When an international student comes to America, they’re out from under the roof of their family for the first time, most likely. They’re in a place that their religion is not oppressed anymore, or where religion in general is not, so they can make religious choices without being persecuted here,” said Gulledge.
“So, a lot of times people are searching out religion and searching out moral beliefs, and a college minister has the privilege of being able to redirect that trajectory that the student has in their life to be able to follow Christ.”
How you can pray for Rebekah:
- Pray for the outreach events she is preparing for international students at Drexel University
- Pray for her to have peace in all that God calls her to do in Philadelphia
- Pray for her health (relief from migraines, specifically) and that it would not hinder her from the work she is doing
- Pray for area churches to catch a vision for reaching international students and college students in general
- Pray for the Christian students to catch the vision for reaching their peers
Any churches in the Philadelphia area looking to connect with Rebekah can do so by emailing her at email@example.com.