(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Matt Porter is a commuter student at Southeast and intern at the Baptist Student Center.
"Commuter students struggle to get involved on campus," Porter said. "We want to have a place to welcome students with hospitality."
To help meet this goal the facility, at the corner of Normal Avenue and Pacific Street, has undergone updates. Fundraising began in November 2011 and work started in the spring. The first stage of renovations was finished this semester.
"We have an aging facility," said Dr. Bruce Gentry, director of the Baptist Student Center, "and we asked, 'What do we do next to have a physical presence on campus?'"
According to Gentry, this meant updating the kitchen and student lounge, the two rooms which they believe do the most ministry. Gentry said he would like to see the Baptist Student Center become a hub for students. Organizers believe the center's location makes it a unique place to do ministry.
"We want to get on people's radar," Gentry said. "We want to be a place to study, heat food, watch TV and be a place to meet and get to know people."
Porter said the Martha and Mary Project has made the Baptist Student Center "a more inviting place."
"We want to welcome all students and to reach students who are not typically reached and don't fit in elsewhere," Porter said. "It's not as much about having big events or the perfect program, but making people feel welcome as soon as they walk in. That's the biggest message we can get across."
Jane Cooper Stacy, director emeritus of the university's alumni services, was involved in the fundraising.
"I became interested in this project because I was an active member of the Baptist Student Center when I attended Southeast," Stacy said. "I saw the building and nothing had changed in all those years."
The Martha and Mary Project was named after the biblical account of two sisters who greeted Jesus. Martha worked in the kitchen while Mary sat at Jesus' feet.
"We are called to do both things," Stacy said. "We are called to take care of people and heed the words of Christ. We have to be working to meet the needs of college students where they are. Sitting down to a meal is important. That's ministry, that's love in action -- which is our theology."
Organizers also hope the Martha and Mary Project will connect them to other students.
"We want to create a place of hospitality to build relationships," Porter said. "We want our actions to match our words. We can't expect people to start a relationship with Jesus if we don't first build relationships with them. People need Jesus and a Christian environment."
On Oct. 21 the center had an open house to showcase the renovations. Gentry said it was met with a positive response. He said there was a good turnout with about 25 people on hand.
The Baptist Student Center hosts free lunches for students every Tuesday. Chapel meetings are on Sundays and various prayer meetings, Bible studies and other events are held throughout the week.
For more information on the center, go to www.baptiststudentcenter.org or call 335-6489.
Pertinent address: 909 Normal Avenue, Cape Girardeau.