Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

UWO students grow their faith at Cru

Courtey of Cru Cru is a Christian organization with around 70 members at UW Oshkosh. The organization was founded in 1951, and is now present in over 190 countries.

Cru, formerly known as the Campus Crusade for Chris, is an organization that encourages students to grow their faith in God while navigating next steps in life. Students are taught to connect to their faith in ways that go beyond the traditional views of religion.

Cru is an open-arms community for students to develop a sense of purpose, belonging and spirituality. Globally, there are 6,306 campus ministries according to Cru’s website. At UW Oshkosh, there are currently about 70 regular attendees at weekly meetings. 

Eric Leinen is the team leader for Cru in Northeast Wisconsin. He leads staff and students across the campuses in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay. 

Although Leinen grew up in a religious household, he said that having a relationship with God is much different than the label of being religious.

“I did grow up in a family where we attended a Christian church regularly and for the most part, I would say I believed those things intellectually, but it really didn’t impact much of my life,” Leinen said. “I heard stories from the Bible and thought it helped give a sense of morals, or right and wrong. I would say that was my experience with religion.”

Leinen said his basic beliefs of God were reinforced through church as a child, but his relationship with God began in college when his older sister invited him to a Cru meeting.

“I learned that the main message of the Bible is that we will never be good enough or do enough good things to make ourselves right before him,” Leinen said. “It is only through believing in Jesus and trusting in his death on the cross for our sins that I would be forgiven. That changed everything for me. What once felt like a duty, now felt like a gift that I knew I didn’t deserve.”

Leinen said his constant pursuit of a relationship with Christ and his faith in God has played a big part in shaping the way he lives his life. 

“I think that everyone is searching for meaning and purpose in life, but we often try to find it in ways that ultimately won’t fully satisfy us,” Leinen said. “My faith in God and a relationship with Christ gives me purpose.”

Leinen was involved with Cru all four years of his college career, and now as a team leader he said the work he does can be incredibly challenging but equally as rewarding. 

“[Cru] has given me the privilege to walk alongside students as they go through the highs and lows of life,” Leinen said. “Seeing students find hope and purpose when they were hopeless and suicidal. Seeing students find love and acceptance when all they knew was rejection and abandonment. Being there to care for or support a student when they lose a loved one.”

Jack Gibbons, a sophomore at UWO and member of Cru, said that attending Cru meetings started as a way to earn brownie points with his girlfriend. It turned out to be one of the most integral parts of his life. 

“Having faith is the most important thing I’ve ever experienced,” Gibbons said. “It plays every single role imaginable. Everything I’ve been fortunate enough to experience is all credited towards God and I couldn’t be more thankful that I’ve been able to be a part of an organization that allows me to grow in my faith daily.”

In high school, Gibbons said he went through the motions of attending Catholic church with his family but viewed it as more of a chore rather than an opportunity.

“I was taught that being a good person was the main point and I was never introduced to what actually having a relationship with God meant,” Gibbons said. “In high school I never thought of God, and even denied his existence on multiple occasions.”

Gibbons encourages students who may be curious about their faith to explore it with an open mind and heart. 

“Don’t turn your head away from things that sound weird, or if things have happened in your past that have maybe turned you away from faith,” Gibbons said. “Cru has been the biggest part of my life from teaching me how to read the Bible to answering questions I have about Christianity.”

Gibbons first attended Cru in September of 2023 and has been a regular attendee ever since. He said that the organization is not here to push gospel down students’ throats, but instead listen, explain and love.

“Cru is like a second family to me, and I cannot imagine my life without the people involved and the organization as a whole,” Gibbons said. 

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