By Laura Sikes, Photojournalist, Alexandria, Va.
BALTIMORE (BP)—Anne Bragg is a freshman vocal performance major at Morgan State University in Baltimore. For many of the 6,000-plus students, freshman year is the time to start testing the boundaries of adulthood.
Bragg knew she needed to connect with other believers in order to have a Christian support system while in school. She met North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary Vickie Stewart at one of her weekly Bible studies for girls. Like so many others, Bragg was drawn to Stewart’s upbeat spirit and passion for teaching the Bible.
Simply known as “Miss Vickie,” Stewart energetically moves around campus on mission “to connect,” as she puts it, with students whenever she can. “Not preaching, but connecting and building relationships” with them is the key to her ministry, she said.
“I might say, ‘Hello, my name is Miss Vickie. How can I pray for you?’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, really, you want to pray for me?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yes,’ and I tell students, ‘I am here to serve you. Here’s my number if you need prayer or want to talk. I am available.’”
In 2008, when Stewart came to the university as a NAMB missionary and Baptist chaplain, she said God brought her home to her native Baltimore and gave her the desires of her heart. Since she first felt called to missions in 1981, Stewart wanted to work with college students.
Each Thursday night, Miss Vickie’s Bible study for girls begins with a boxed meal and a lively praise report, in which students share answered prayers and good things that are happening in their lives.
“We talk about what it means to love God and what it means to be a Christian. Christianity is a way of life. It’s a relationship, not a religion,” Stewart said.
Her enthusiastic teaching style is both intimate and thought provoking.
“Are you growing or are you just practicing religion?” she asks the students in attendance. “Are you hearing about God’s Word and getting a lot of knowledge, or are you living a lifestyle that you shouldn’t be living?”
She’s not afraid to ask the hard questions.
In addition to the all-female Bible study, Stewart helps lead an off-campus coed Bible study called “The Point,” which targets unchurched students.
“Vickie is an evangelist at heart, and I don’t use that term loosely,” said Ryan Palmer, pastor of East Seventh Church in Baltimore and co-leader of The Point. “She is sincerely concerned about lostness. That’s just a good fit for the work we’re doing at Morgan. In addition to that, she follows up on lostness with her strong passion for discipleship.”
Doctoral student Katherine Lloyd meets weekly for lunch with Stewart for fellowship and support. Lloyd said it was hard coming to a new environment, leaving a rural area to go to an urban setting. A mutual friend introduced her to Stewart via Facebook.
“Vickie is my only consistent Christian woman friend I have. She’s the only person I know here that I can go to as a woman and talk about stuff and know that this is coming from someone who is likeminded in Christ. It’s a quick hour, but it’s just good to know that once a week I have that fellowship,” Lloyd said.
“When you see Miss Vickie, you feel better because she’s excited to see you and she’ll give you a hug and she’ll talk and say, ‘I’m praying for you.’”