The CCO’s ministry gave me a very broad view of God and our calling to change the world as Christians. Without Gene and the CCO, I don’t think I would have developed that perspective. The churches I attended growing up focused much more on “God and you” rather than “what is God doing in the world and how can we change the world for the better?”
When I left Harlem to attend the University of Pittsburgh, I made it a point to seek out Christian fellowship. I met CCO staff member Gene Tibbs and started attending the CCO-advised Ambassadors for Christ group at Pitt right away. I continued to be involved throughout my time in college, serving as vice president my junior year and president my senior year. I joined the Gospel choir at Pitt, participated in spring break service trips and the Jubilee conference, and spoke at Jubilee Africana, sharing my testimony about my college years and how I found purpose in my relationship with God.
A neuroscience major, I was a member of Pitt’s Honors College, served as an RA, and volunteered in the Investing Now tutoring program. I also volunteered in a mentoring program at a local Pittsburgh church.
Being involved in the CCO’s ministry opened up my whole college experience. I grew in my relationship and view of God, in my understanding of what God is doing in the world, and how God was calling me to be me in the world. That was very profound. It started with Gene and Ambassadors, and the Jubilee conference increased my maturity and Christian worldview.
After college, I took a detour and got a master’s degree in urban planning. I went on Semester at Sea as an undergrad, and we visited port cities in ten different countries. I went with the foundation of understanding that God is everywhere and is concerned with everything and everybody, not just Christians.
Because I understood that God is concerned with the poor, with politics, that everything is sacred—that opened me to be able to go to different countries and see the people’s struggles with new eyes. As a result of my Christian foundation, how do I want to assist with that? What does it mean to be able to help a family or a single mom open a business? When I was getting ready to graduate, those questions led me to go on to get my master’s in urban planning. I wanted to work for my community at home.
This is what led me to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The church my family attends now—it’s very much God and the community and God in the world. I don’t think I would be going to a church like this if I hadn’t gotten that worldview in college.
It’s about living a life of service, moving from a “Jesus and me” theology to an understanding that Jesus cares about everything. We help our children understand that God has called us to change the world for the good.
I am trying to teach my children what I didn’t know as a kid. My kids talk a lot about helping people. As a worship leader at my church, I bring scripture and songs and meditations that help people understand that God is the center and that God is concerned about everything. We are the change that we seek.
—Jannel Lee-Allen, University of Pittsburgh 2002 | February 27, 2012