“I’m converting to Mormonism.”
Bailey Palmer’s heart sinks into the ground. He could barely recognize Jeremy*. Jeremy came to Campus Ambassadors as a new Christian, ready to be discipled. He was curious and excited, diving deep into God’s word with Bailey every week. “Are tattoos a sin? What about marijuana?” he would ask. He wanted to know everything and anything. Bailey always challenged him to find his answers in God’s word, to think critically, and to study different perspectives before coming to any conclusion.
So, when Jeremy told him that he’d been contacted by a couple of Mormons, he didn’t stop him from meeting with them. Bailey and Jeremy would discuss the unorthodox and unbiblical doctrines Mormons held to and their serious consequences. But Bailey knew that if he sheltered Jeremy, he would be depriving him of making his faith his own.
Still. Bailey didn’t think it would get this far. He feels shattered. Jeremy was once full of life and enthusiasm, and Bailey was awe-struck by the spiritual growth that was happening quickly before his eyes. Now Jeremy is stoic and serious. The spark in his eyes is gone.
But Bailey won’t give up on him.
From Music to Ministry
Bailey was raised in Oregon and blessed with grandparents who were missionaries in Brazil and heavily involved in church. His childhood summers were spent in Vacation Bible Schools, and he joined a youth group in seventh grade. He can’t pinpoint the exact moment he got saved, but he grew to love the Lord in middle and high school.
After graduation, he enrolled in community college and later Oregon State University with the intention of becoming a band teacher. He got involved in Campus Ambassadors, and he loved their outreach towards “unchurched” students. He became a student leader and was invited to become an intern. Although he was working hard to grow in his music skills, he was disenchanted by the cut-throat and dog-eat-dog world of professional music. He felt God’s tug to go into ministry and decided to say yes. Four years later, he’s still saying yes.
A Home for All
For many college students, church is the last place they’d step foot in. That’s why Bailey’s group meets in a large house next to the university, purchased by a former church they were connected with. These cozy bible studies act as a steppingstone before students, who may be new to Christianity, start attending church. Once a week, the students chow down on a big dinner prepared by the leaders and then go through topics in scripture relevant to this stage of their life – God’s will for them, worries and fear about the future, how to live a Christian life that looks different from most college students, etc. Bailey strives to create a comfortable space for the students, both Christian and non-Christian, where they feel free to ask questions.
No topic is off limits, and while Bailey may hold to strong convictions, he isn’t trying to mold the students into “mini-Bailey’s.” He’s trying to mold them into little Christs, the true meaning of a Christian. He pushes them to come to their own conclusions and challenges them with different perspectives inside orthodox Christianity. This was difficult at first for one student in particular, Amanda*. Amanda was a strong Christian, but she wasn’t exposed to broader Christianity outside of what she grew up with and was dogmatic in her beliefs. Through Campus Ambassadors, she met other strong Christians who believed different things about the bible than she did, and she learned to be okay with that. She was in an atmosphere where no one would be judged for their viewpoints. Slowly, the walls she built came down and she began to let others into her life. Bailey is excited to see her serving and becoming a spiritual leader.
Fruits of Labor
Bailey’s work in creating a loving environment is the reason Jeremy came back. Bailey didn’t shun him. They continued to meet, and Bailey would consistently pray for him, even when he felt worried and hopeless. “Did I completely fail him? Was this all a waste?” Bailey would ask himself. One day, he received a phone call from Jeremy.
“I’m leaving Mormonism.”
Jeremy explained how the Mormon church was nothing like his spiritual experience with Campus Ambassadors. They often guilted and shamed him; he never felt good enough. It was all so different from the Jesus he knew. Not only did Jeremy come back to Campus Ambassadors, but he was more on fire for the Lord than ever. He also noted that the community he made at the Mormon church immediately shut him out. It seems that they only loved him when he was doing what they wanted, unlike Bailey who remained his friend unconditionally even after he left.
Bailey is committed to teaching college students to think critically and emphasizes Jesus’ love for them above all else. He tries to love everyone where they’re at, despite what they believe. He asks the students, “Who is Jesus? What did He do? Why was He so important? Why did He change spiritual reality? Why are we supposed to take an interest in others?” The answers to these questions turn their lives upside, whether they’re already a Christian or not.
Many Christians lose their faith in college, leading to the large decline in Christian faith we’re seeing in the west. Campus Ambassadors, like Bailey, believe universities are a mission field. For many students, their time in college may be when the faith they were raised with becomes their own. And for others, it may be their introduction to the living God. If you’d like to support Bailey and his ministry, you can do so at his page.
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons