International MC Athletes Reach All-Time High / Jace Aymond

Across nearly every college campus in the United States are a number of international students, whether they are here to pursue a degree, participate in athletics, or both. Athletically, Mississippi College underwent a massive change recently that altered the entire system.

Since its inception, the Choctaws were a part of Division II in the NCAA. There, they showed great success, especially in football. A mere 25 years ago, however, the Board of Trustees voted for MC to continue their athletics at the Division III level as a member of the American Southwest Conference. During their time in the ASC, the teams compiled an impressive 25 conference championships in the 17 years MC spent at that level. With all their accomplishments, the NCAA accepted Mississippi College’s decision to return to the Division II level in 2014 as members of the Gulf South Conference. 

Looking at the numbers, it shows that 2013 into 2014 saw the greatest increase in international players, the same time MC transitioned to Division II. One of the main factors into this dramatic increase is the fact that no athletic scholarships are offered at the Division III level. Since Mississippi College now offers them, it draws in higher level players, including international athletes. 

At the current time, Mississippi College has 45 international athletes across all its sports programs. With the majority coming from the soccer programs, there also are others in the basketball, tennis, and golf programs to name a few. 

For many international players, agencies in their native countries contact them about potential opportunities in playing in the United States for college and universities. It’s a process that works incredibly well for both the athletes and college soccer programs across the country. For others, however, it was a more complicated path.

“I was actually supposed to go to a different school in Austin, Texas, and I signed my letter of intent to go there. While I was in the process of getting my visa to go there, they cut the program due to COVID,” says Pawemi Kumwenda, a freshman from Malawi. 

“I had a month to find a new school and the coaches at that old school knew the coaches at MC, so they referred me here. I had to reach out first, but they put in a word for me. That’s how I got to MC and I’m grateful to be here.”

In fact, the collegiate system in general attracts many international players because it “is so much better than anywhere else in the world. You don’t compete for university sports back at home,” states Olaf Conforti, a junior from Tasmania, Australia. “It’s also because you can get a scholarship for playing soccer while attending a university and compete at a good level.”

For Kumwenda, the draw to the United States’ system is “being able to play comprehensive, organized soccer and still pursue a degree. In most countries, if you want to train every day, have a training structure, and play competitive games, you have to play for a club. Most times, your club is completely separate from your school so it’s hard to try and balance both. The system of college soccer in the U.S. is really appealing to a lot of people who want to stay in school but still want to play because it works hand-in-hand, and you can get the best of both worlds.” 

With the international players at Mississippi College reaching an all-time high, it will be no surprise that this will continue to grow because of the scholarships that Division II schools are able to offer and the level of competition in the Gulf South Conference. 

Cross Country Clinches Spot in National Meet / Jace Aymond

On a wet day in Saint Leo, Florida, the Mississippi College men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at the Division II South Regional Meet on Nov. 6. Their season, much like the courses they compete on, was full of inclines and downhill stretches. 

The women came out on top their first two meets and had a strong finish at a loaded Missouri Southern race. However, they slowed down slightly at back-to-back Division I meets. Their last stretch saw major success, finishing first at the Watson Invitational and runner-up in the conference championships to secure a spot in the regional meet. The men stayed consistent almost season-round as they won their opening two meets while placing in the top 8 in their next meets, which were full of loaded rosters. The Gulf South Conference meet saw the Choctaws take the bronze medal behind Alabama-Huntsville and Lee. 

Jazmin Hernandez, who led MC to the women’s first nationals appearance in school history, placed 6th individually with her 6K time of 22:27. Josie Whipp placed 14th with Madeline Campbell in 18th, securing the trio All-Region honors. For the men, Hunter Kurz led the way for the Choctaws with his 10K time of 32:22, which yielded a 9th place finish. Other MC men to receive All-Region honors were Christian Balcer, Gabe Poulin, and Brock Kelly, who took the 13th, 21st, and 24th spots respectively.

Kurz vividly remembered how tight the results were, and when “we saw that we got third and we’re going to go to Nationals, we cried. It was a really emotional moment, and I was so excited when I found out. It was almost like a dream come true in a sense.” 

For Hernandez, she’s extremely proud of what the program accomplished, and even though “I don’t really know what the game plan is for nationals, but honestly just having the opportunity to run with the girls is just incredible. I know we’re supposed to do our best and not let our guard down, but it’s just a great opportunity and not a lot of people can say they ran at nationals.”

Kurz and Hernandez each share the trait of having transferred to Mississippi College from other universities. Kurz, who originally ran at Kentucky-Wesleyan, noticed the positive differences in coming to MC, saying, “The team dynamic at Wesleyan was much different and there’s not as much talent there as there is here. Having a team to train with here has made a world of a difference. The team culture is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I mean we hang out a lot.”

Before dominating the courses she ran on here at MC, Hernandez was at Angelo State University. Like Kurz, she also is grateful for becoming a Choctaw and the team’s bond, saying, “The program I was at was so different. We just put so much work into this program here at MC and finally seeing the results that we wanted was great. We really are one big family and that’s what I really like about our team is that we’re really close.”

The Division II National Championship meet took place on Nov. 20 for both the men and women at the same course as the South Regional meet. Undoubtedly, it would give those who ran in that regional meet an advantage, which includes the Choctaws.

“We already know the course a little bit,” said Hernandez. “Not every region gets to do their own course somewhere else. We feel good about it and know what to expect now. Hopefully, it won’t be as muddy. Without that, we’ll do a lot better this time.”

“Coach Reneker gave us a race plan going into Regionals,” added Kurz. “And the plan isn’t going to change that much. There are parts that Coach really wants us to focus on, like not dying on those hills is going to be pretty important. It’s going to be a bit different because some of the best teams in the nation are going to be there so it’s going to go out fast. So the fact that it’s at the same place as regionals does make me think we have a little bit of an advantage.”

No matter what the final results say at the national meet in Florida, Hernandez, Kurz, and the rest of the MC cross country teams have had an incredible season, one that forever will go down in the program’s history.

Choctaws Cap Off Up and Down Season With a Win / Charles Williams

Coach John Bland’s eighth season at the helm of the Choctaw football team saw plenty of ups and downs. The Choctaws finished at 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in Gulf South Conference play in their first full season since 2019.

The Choctaws opened the season with a Thursday night 24-0 loss to Albany State. Following week two bye, the Choctaws would bounce back with a dominant 63-0 win over Fort Lauderdale as the Choctaws put up 418 yards of total offense and allowed just 70 total yards on defense. The next week, their conference opener, the Choctaws suffered the aforementioned 31-28 loss to West Alabama as the Choctaws rallied from down 31-21 but were unable to complete the comeback.  

However, they would bounce back the next week with a 42-21 road win at North Greenville. Quarterback DeAnte Smith-Moore hit on three of his five pass attempts including a 23-yard touchdown to Marcus Williams who also put up 93 rushing yards. The following week the Choctaws fell to West Georgia 40-21 as they were gashed through the air by quarterback Harrison Frost for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns.  

The Choctaws, and especially the defense, would bounce back in a big way the next week with a 20-7 win at Shorter. The defense gave up under 300 total yards and was led by Zadok Esters with 7 tackles and Nicholas Walker who had an interception. The defense would carry that momentum into the next week, only giving up 13 first-half points to eventual GSC co-champ Valdosta State. However, Valdosta would open it up in the second half eventually winning 41-14. 

At homecoming the next week the Choctaws faced the other GSC co-champion West Florida. The first half was a shootout, ending tied at 28. Three different Choctaws scored rushing touchdowns, and Sam Wilder hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from DeAnte Smith-Moore. However, the second half was all West Florida, and the game ended in a 63-28 loss.  

The next week MC faced rival Delta State in the Heritage Bell Classic. The heated rivalry game did not disappoint as it was back and forth all game, and regulation ended deadlocked at 21. In overtime, the Choctaws would get the ball first but ultimately fumble before DSU kicker Connor Mantelli hit a 28-yard field goal to claim the Heritage Bell trophy. While they lost, multiple Choctaws had good individual performances, including Cole Fagan who ran for 131 yards on just 12 carries. This includes his 64-yard 4th quarter touchdown run. Jonathan Jones, Nicholas Walker, and Zadok Esters all had good days on the defensive end as Jones racked up 17 tackles and Walker and Esters both tallied an interception.  

After that heartbreaking loss, the Choctaws ended on a high note with a 28-24 win at West Alabama. The Choctaws racked up 490 yards of total offense with DeAnte Smith-Moore and Marcus Williams both racking up over 100 yards on the ground. Their 4-6 record makes this Coach Bland’s second-best season at MC and second straight with 4 or more wins.   

The Board Hosts 196th Annual Lighting of the Quad / Gracie Lee

Lighting of the Quad is an event greatly anticipated by students during the holiday season. In celebrating its 196th year, MC didn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops. It’s a night of festive games, activities, food, and tradition, hosted by the Campus Programming Board. Past years included a gingerbread building contest, hot cocoa and marshmallows, a carriage ride, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The festivities don’t end there. MC students and families can participate in holiday-themed photo booths, play in snowy forests, and take pictures on the lighted walkways. The Board also offers coloring books and kid-friendly activities for families of all ages. Unlike November of 2020, during which the event was spread over three days to encourage social distancing, this years’ festivities welcomed full crowds on Tuesday, Nov. 30.  Admission was free for students, faculty, and the public.

“My favorite part was the countdown leading up to lighting the Quad, with everyone gathering together in excitement and for warmth,” Alyssa Arbuckle, a senior from Bossier City, Louisiana, said. 

Although the light posts usually aren’t covered for long, the lights lining the Quad are one of the most beautiful and memorable qualities of Lighting of the Quad. Many students look forward to the Quad’s transformation into a winter wonderland. 

“It’s so fun to embrace the cold weather with delicious hot chocolate and beautiful lights that we could ooh and ahh at,” Hannah Jackson, a junior from Crystal Springs, Mississippi, said. “My first Lighting of the Quad was such a magical experience. It truly felt like a Hallmark movie come to life right there on the quad. It’s for sure my favorite time of the year.” 

During many students’ freshman year, the event is a welcome opportunity for involvement in campus activities, especially for those spending the holiday season away from home for the first time. “Once it was lit, I felt like I was really a part of the MC family and that I finally belonged in college,” Arbuckle said. She attended Lighting of the Quad for the first time in 2018. “I enjoyed the anticipation leading up to it and the secrecy surrounding it. I had heard of how fun it was and I was excited to be a part of it with the rest of the campus. It was one of my favorite moments during my entire freshman year.”

A lot has to happen behind the scenes of these festivities to live up to student’s expectations for the anticipated night. “A lot goes into making it a memorable event, not only for MC students and faculty, but also the Clinton community as a whole,” Courtney Engel, a student on the Board, said. “Preparation for this event consists of brainstorming themes, food, activities, and wrapping a lot of lights on trees. Our committee has put in so much work towards this event and we are so excited for everyone to get to enjoy it.”

Lyric Stage at MC to Produce “Godspell” in Spring 2022 / Gracie Lee

The MC music department’s newly branded “Lyric Stage at MC” is producing Godspell during the spring 2022 semester. This musical, composed by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin), is based on the 2012 revival. Auditions are Friday, Dec. 4, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. in the JPW Recital Hall in Aven Hall. Individuals of all experience levels are encouraged to audition. Students’ time slot will consist of a 16-bar song and a 10-minute group audition. The group component does not require preparation. An accompanist will be provided, but singers may choose to bring a recording of the song track on their phones instead. 

Rehearsals will be led by Mr. Tyler Kemp, faculty accompanist, and Jamie Ertle, who earned her B.M. at Mississippi College. The schedule will consist of a 3:00-5:30 p.m. practice on Wednesdays and a 1:30-5:00 p.m. practice on Fridays. Singers should clear their schedule for tech weekend on March 25-27 and performances on March 31-April 3. Lyric Stage will post the cast list before students’ departure for Christmas break, and rehearsals will commence in January. Those who wish to audition must email NKPerna@mc.edu for a time slot.

The 2012 retelling features eclectic music and a wide variety of songs. It is based on the gospels, relying heavily upon Matthew. Jesus, along with John the Baptist and supporting characters, tells the Lord’s parables through melodies that range from pop to vaudeville. The plot follows Jesus through his life, ending with the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Crowd favorites like “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Day by Day,” “Light of the World,” and “Bless the Lord” narrate Christ’s teachings through fist-pumping, inspiring lyrics and melodies. The musical concludes with the followers of Jesus going forth in the world to share his message of love. 

“I’m so grateful to be back at MC to direct Godspell,” Ertle said. “My favorite memories from college all happened while participating in a musical. I hope to see students from the entire campus audition.” 

 “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”: A Survey of Holiday Movies Through the Decades / Gracie Lee

As students return from break, one thing among many has been keeping them busy-watching Christmas movies. Everyone has their own personal favorites, but even the most cliche hallmark film makes the season a little brighter. Holiday movies, whether old or young, bring nostalgia to this time of year. Although there will always be debate about what makes a movie a classic, several films have made their mark on the silver screen over the last few decades.

       1947-It’s a Wonderful Life: In a charming, 1940s town, a young man named George Bailey is thinking of ending his life due to financial crisis. His guardian angel, Clarence, is sent down to earth to show him what his loved one’s lives would be like without him. On the way, the audience witnesses his boyhood, marriage to his childhood sweetheart, and comical interactions with his friends and family of Bedford Falls. It’s a charming retelling of Phillip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift” and implements both comedy and drama into its plot.

 Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart as George Bailey, Donna Reed as Mary Hatch, and Henry Travers as Clarence, didn’t do well at the box office when it first premiered. However, when a clerical mistake in 1974 prohibited the copyright owner from renewing their application, the movie found its way into the public domain. As a result, multiple networks played its reruns through the holiday season and ushered the story into millions of families’ television sets.  Since then, it is one of the most well-known Christmas movies, and is beloved by thousands. 

1965-A Charlie Brown Christmas: This kid friendly tv special, based on the 1950 comic strip, Peanuts, was first created by Charles Schulz. The strip even premiered as a musical in 1967, and starred Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) as Sally in 1999. The holiday episode features nostalgic songs from Vince Guaraldi like “Christmas Time is Here.” It begins when Charlie Brown complains to Linus-everyone’s favorite blanket yielding sidekick- that he doesn’t get all the excitement over Christmas. He simply doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about. After Lucy ropes him into directing the Christmas play, he is increasingly upset to find that no one else seems to remember what Christmas means either. Even his kid sister, Sally, asks Santa for “tens and twenties.” Linus reminds them of the true Christmas Story and Charlie finds the inspiration to buy a Christmas tree. It is sadly sparse and bare, until his friends decorate it with beautiful ornaments. The episode concludes with the entire cast singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It is thought provoking to notice the commercialism surrounding holidays, even sixty years ago. Although it is depicted comically by characters like Snoopy- who makes his own wish list for Santa- it’s an important reminder to not let the hustle and bustle of the season take away the joy of Christ’s birth.

1983-A Christmas Story: This family comedy was set around the 1930s and 40s’ but premiered in the 80s. Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) only wants one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Of course, his mother is not keen on this idea, delivering the famous line: “You’ll shoot you’re eye out!” He receives the same warnings from his teacher and friends throughout the 94-minute film. On Christmas morning, he is overjoyed to find a BB gun and immediately retreats to his backyard to begin using it. As expected, the kickback from the gun breaks his glasses, causing him to initially believe that he has “shot his eye out.” However, all ends well, with adult Ralphie narrating that the Red Ryder was the best present he ever received. Director Bob Clark also interspersed multiple subplots throughout this film, including one where Ralphie’s friend, Flick, accidentally freezes his tongue to a metal pole. 

There are mixed opinions surrounding the status of A Christmas Story as a classic holiday movie. Some can’t experience the holiday season without watching it, and others find the comedy too slapstick for their humor. Contrary to popular belief, the famous Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 was never stocked as a real product. It possessed features based on the Daisy “Buck Jones” gun, but the weapon itself is just a figment of movie magic. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, the film wasn’t as popular at its debut as it is now, partly because holiday-themed movies were not as popular at that time. 

1990-Home Alone: This holiday classic was directed by Chris Columbus and extended into a franchise of four films. MaCaulay Culkin only played nine-year-old Kevin McCallister for the first two films, however. Producer John Hughes hired Columbus after the latter departed from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation due to conflict with Chevy Chase.  

The movie begins with the entire McCallister clan under one roof the night before their flight to Paris for Christmas vacation. Kevin is in a surly mood and feels left out and overwhelmed by his dozen or so cousins. His mother, played by Catherine O’Hara, sends him up to the attic to sleep, after he has an angry outburst. Unfortunately for the McCallisters, none of them set a correct alarm. In the panic of getting to the airport late, Kevin is left alone upstairs in the attic and awakes to find his house empty. At first, he revels in his newfound freedom, but is quickly concerned by the appearance of Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), neighborhood burglars who dub themselves “The Wet Bandits.” When he realizes that they plan to rob his home, he makes up his mind to save it. 

One Christmas eve night, an orphan baby crawls into Santa’s bag and is mistakenly brought back to the North Pole. Santa decides to raise Buddy (named after brand name on his diaper) as his own, and Buddy grows up believing that he is an abnormally large and clumsy elf. He finally realizes the truth when he is in his thirties and sets out to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs. Unfortunately, Walter is on the naughty list and Buddy’s simple, comical, and elfish antics do not mix well with the “scrooge’s” way of life. After getting a job in the mall, he meets Jovie, who he develops a crush on. The two eventually began dating and Buddy worms his way into his biological family’s hearts. Everyone, that is, except Walter. On Christmas eve, Santa’s sleigh crashes in Central Park due to a slump in the Christmas Spirit- its primary fuel. Simultaneously, Jovie remembers Buddy’s motto, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” She leads those in Time Square in singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and New York’s faith in Santa is restored, along with Walter’s own belief. 

The robbers enter the McCallister home on Christmas Eve night, not guessing that the nine-year-old kid has booby trapped the entire establishment. They undergo painful experiences including blowtorches to the head, Legos to the feet and irons to the face- but eventually come out basically unscathed. After succeeding in saving is home, Kevin wakes on Christmas morning, disappointed that his family has not returned. The movie ends happily, however, with the reunion of his mother and relatives after their frantic return from Paris. This movie requires its audiences to suspend their belief for an hour and a half and accept that the multiple injuries Marv and Harry sustain do no permanent damage to them physically or psychologically. In fact, especially empathic individuals should probably refrain from watching the movie, as its antics grow exceedingly wild- although hilarious. 

2003-Elf: Director Jon Favreau’s riotous comedy starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, Zooey Deschanel as Jovie, and James Caan as Walter Hobbs is perhaps one of Ferrell’s most popular works. It even inspired the 2010 Broadway production, “Elf, the Musical”. 

Brick Streets Hosts Santa Crawl in Spirit of Christmas Season / Gracie Lee

The holiday season has arrived, and nostalgic traditions and events are just beginning. Residents of Olde Towne Clinton can usher in the holiday season with a “Santa Crawl” hosted by the Main Street on Thursday, December 2. The event will take place from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Early admission is $25 and $30 the day of the event. Guests also get to keep of a fun mug, which they can use to drink cider throughout the night. Participants can also register for a doorprizes at $50 values from the surrounding businesses. The festive tradition, planned by Tara Lytal, Program Director of Main Street events, began in 2012 when several retailers of Clinton wanted to put on a holiday social for downtown locals. “[Then] the Santa Claus Crawl was born,” Lytal said. 

         Although it derived its name from a pub crawl, the only drinks served at the party are cider, in order to keep the gathering family friendly for all ages. Each Old Towne business contributes their personal recipe and competes for the title of best cider. The rest of the activities include a scavenger hunt through the downtown streets, with food and drinks.  

The social’s purpose is to promote shopping local and supporting one’s community and neighbors. Santa will be the celebrity of the event and holds the honor of handing out the door prizes to lucky winners. The businesses to be featured include Wyatt Water’s Gallery, The Clinton Courier, Jillian’s Salon and Boutique, Melanie Bryant Interiors, Olde Towne Barre, Meme’s Bakery, and many more. Hetrick Real Estate and Life Time Ventures LLC are sponsoring the gathering. “This is a signature event for us. At this time, no other community holds a similar event,” Lytal said. 

Grateful to be Across the Pond / Jace Aymond

England is a country with an insurmountable love for football, or soccer as we like to call it in America. With all the soccer teams that England has to offer at all levels, the United States has much more due to its larger size and population. For many aspiring players across the pond, they will choose to start, continue, or end their careers in the land of the free and home of the brave. Coach Adam Johnson with the women’s soccer team fits perfectly into this category.

Born in Huddersfield, England, Johnson played soccer for most of his life but also graduated from the University of Huddersfield in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business. At around the same time, Johnson won multiple championships with Albion Park in Australia and also played semi-professionally for Thackley FC in England. 

He made his transition to America a few years later where he attended and played for Hinds Community College in Raymond. There, he graduated with an associate’s degree in 2011 and made the All-Region team that same year. As he closes out his now 10th year with the Mississippi College women’s soccer team, he’s also coached at Jackson Academy and is the current Director of Player Development with the Brilla Juniors here in Clinton. 

Johnson claims that his start to soccer gave him new insight on the game, saying, “I was educated on soccer in the streets of England. I didn’t really play for a coach and the game taught me. When I started coaching, I went to Australia and I came here, so I’ve got a whole new perspective. I have much different thoughts on the game of soccer than I did 10 years ago when I came here.” 

He also points out the vast difference in how the game is played amongst different countries, as “here, it’s a very physically athletic game with a lot of speed. In Australia and Europe where I played, it’s more advanced and strategic.”

Ironically, it was Kevin Johns, the men’s soccer coach, who introduced Johnson to Head Coach Darryl Longabaugh. After talking and getting along well initially, Longabaugh felt “at ease in making him the offer to join our staff.”

His players here at MC also enjoy his being on the staff and the positive attitude he always brings. 

Junior midfielder Avery Hederman is thankful that “with him, it’s a lot easier to understand what he’s saying when we do talk one-on-one so we’re able to have a regular conversation. Adam [Johnson] does a really good job of trying to make soccer a lot of fun. Whenever he’s around, it’s always really lighthearted and he tries to keep the mood light. He also makes it more fun to learn about the game and so the way that he coaches makes the girls a lot more interested in learning about the actual tactics of soccer.”

But most importantly, Longabaugh is more than glad that he welcomed Johnson onto his staff 10 years ago.

“If he left tomorrow, he left the program better than it was when he got here,” Longabaugh states. “From professionalism, to tactics, to recruiting, he’s come up with some great ideas and we’ve implemented them and they’ve done very well. He would have left the program in better shape than it was when he got here.” 

With all the people he’s met and experiences he’s shared with his team, Johnson truly knows that “it’s an amazing job to be able to not only coach soccer, but impact young persons’ lives. This job doesn’t exist where I’m from, but soccer has given me a lot of opportunities around the world, and this is just another incredible one. It’s really exciting and I’m extremely grateful for everything that I have here.”

In his now 10 years at Mississippi College as the Associate Head Coach, Johnson has accumulated an impressive 131-48-14 record and was here for the program’s transition back into Division II. The women’s soccer team at Mississippi College has seen tons of recent success, and it’s obvious to see that Adam Johnson has been one of the major factors of this in his time at MC. Now living in Madison, Mississippi, it seems that making the trip across the pond was a decision he’ll never regret.

Wrapping Up the Semester with Campus Ministries / Rachel Faulk

Campus ministries are an important part of life at MC, providing opportunities for students to find Christian community and grow in their relationships with Christ. This article will spotlight three of the most well-known ministries on campus—RUF, BSU, and FCA—and how they have served the campus community this semester. All three of these ministries welcome any and all MC students to attend their events and get involved.  

The Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America which meets weekly on MC’s campus. According to MC’s Campus Ministries webpage, they “strive to provide an in-depth ministry to college students based upon the authority of the Word of God in every area of life.” 

Stephen Griffin, an MC senior and member of the RUF ministry team, has been involved in RUF since his freshman year. He explained that RUF serves campus through a variety of “avenues of ministry.” One of these is RUF’s weekly large group, which meets in Provine Chapel and includes worship and teaching by minister Jeff Jordan. Other avenues of ministry, according to Griffin, include “guys and girls small groups, one-on-ones, and fun events like our semester swing dance, movie nights, and more.”

RUF’s main focus is to serve the campus community well by being “consistently available to students,” Griffin said. But they also occasionally partner with local churches for events such as “RUF Sunday,” where members of RUF may help lead worship at the church and have the opportunity to talk to the congregation about the ministry. 

With Christmas approaching, RUF tentatively plans to hold their yearly Christmas party on Sunday night, Dec. 5. “We’ll get together to hang out, eat Christmas snacks and desserts, and sing lots of carols!” Griffin said. Updated information about RUF events can be found on their Instagram, @rufatmc. 

The Baptist Student Union (BSU) is another well-known ministry on MC’s campus. According to the Campus Ministries webpage, BSU’s focus is “to be a student-led, Christ-centered ministry that seeks to provide opportunities for spiritual growth and Christian community.” With a lead team of 28 students overseeing six different branches of ministry, BSU accomplishes this mission through a variety of different forms of outreach. 

BSU’s weekly Vision worship service, which meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday nights at First Baptist Church Clinton’s Activities Building, is one of their most popular ministries, according to BSU director Mandy Phillips. “That’s kind of our weekly touchpoint where people get to be with a large group and get to know the crowd. But we also consider our small group discipleship groups another place where that depth happens.” Throughout the week, students meet for Bible studies in co-ed or gender-specific small groups. BSU also provides one-on-one discipleship and mentoring opportunities. 

“The goal is that anyone who wants to be a part of BSU feels a part and can find a place to serve and grow and be encouraged that we’re loving them,” said Phillips. She mentioned that the recently acquired BSU house, located next to Cups, has played a big role in this, as a means of “showing hospitality and letting people study here and hang out.” 

BSU’s campus connection team plans a number of events to serve MC’s campus. Some examples of BSU’s outreach on campus this semester included a Trunk or Treat, a giveaway of copies of The Case for Christ, and their annual Friendsgiving dinner. BSU also has an international student ministry called Ethnos, which fosters friendships between international and American students. They often partner with the International Student Association for events such as pumpkin painting and carving in October. 

BSU is also active in serving the community. One of their most popular forms of community outreach is their apartment ministries, where students go out to an apartment complex near Clinton on Wednesday afternoons and put on a backyard Bible club for the local kids. Along with that, BSU offers opportunities to serve with We Will Go ministries in Jackson, partners with local churches in their community outreaches, and seeks out other opportunities to serve the local community. 

Beyond the local community, BSU is known for their missions program, which sends students around the U.S. and worldwide. Although due to COVID restrictions they are unable to do their traditional Christmas in Asia mission trip this year, they are looking forward to their spring break and summer missions opportunities. They also sent students on a disaster relief trip to St. Rose, Louisiana in early November to help provide relief from Hurricane Ida. 

As Christmas approaches, BSU will hold their final Vision service on Dec. 6, which will be a “relaxed Christmas worship service” along with some annual traditions including a gingerbread house contest and an ugly sweater contest, Phillips said. “That’s become kind of a fun last hoorah that doesn’t go super long, and people can come for parts if they want to. It’s got that mixture of keeping the focus on the Christmas story but also just having some fun with other lighthearted traditions.” More information about BSU events can be found on their Instagram, @mc_bsu. 

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is another prominent ministry on campus. Although the ministry is primarily targeted toward athletes, all students at MC are welcome to get involved. 

Currently in the process of hiring a new full-time staff member, FCA has been almost entirely student-led this semester, and the team has made some changes from previous years. One of the most significant regards FCA’s large group worship services, traditionally held every Monday night at 8:30 p.m. in the Coliseum.

“We came to the conclusion that although our corporate worship is great and it has a place, we felt like we needed more discipleship opportunities and we needed more opportunities to build relationships with people,” said Cooper Gadman, a member of the MC baseball team and head of the FCA executive team. “So one thing that we’re doing differently this year is instead of every Monday night doing worship, we’re doing that every other Monday night. And so on the opposite Mondays we’re doing what we call team huddles, which are just small groups.” 

Huddles are divided by sport, but there are also guys and girls huddles for those not involved on a sports team or whose sports team does not have a representative on the FCA lead team. “By the end of May we want to have a huddle for every team on campus,” said Gadman, “so we still have I think five or six that we need to target for the spring, but that’s the goal I set for myself and for the team, and it’s going really well.”

FCA is working on expanding their community outreach and hope to plan a serve day in the spring, but this semester they have hosted a couple of events seeking to involve the campus community. One of these was Fields of Faith, a campus-wide night of worship, prayer, and teaching held on the baseball fields in October. Gadman was pleased with the turnout at the event: “It was really cool just to see new faces out there that we’d never seen,” he said.

The other major event hosted by FCA this semester was a packing party for Operation Christmas Child. They encouraged sports teams, clubs and tribes, and other groups on campus to purchase items to fill Operation Christmas Child boxes. Then on Nov. 8, they held a packing party in the Coliseum, providing coffee and donuts for students in attendance. Students packed boxes, wrote notes for the children who would receive them, and prayed over the boxes. Over 250 boxes were packed through this event. 

While Operation Christmas Child was FCA’s main event for Christmas, they will also hold a worship night on Dec. 6 which will most likely be Christmas-themed. More information about FCA can be found on their Instagram @mc.fca.

Do Students Feel Safe in Jackson? / Evan Espinoza

Many students at Mississippi College do not confine themselves to the boundaries of Clinton. Many students frequently visit the Jackson area for many reasons ranging from church on Sunday morning to a night out to eat with friends. However, safety can often be a concern when visiting Jackson. As of Nov. 8, there have been 127 homicides in Jackson, which puts the city on track to reach a record high by the end of the year. With the homicide rate so high in a city so close and popular to campus, whether or not students feel safe in that area is in question. 

When junior Brennan Heard reflected on the homicide rate, his heart went out to the many families in Jackson. “There’s families with newborns that probably have to consider living in areas that aren’t safe… It also definitely makes you rethink staying around Jackson after you leave Mississippi College, or at least stay in the safer areas.” 

Heard’s words reflect what many families in Jackson are thinking as many of the recorded homicide victims and suspects are young men and women, as well as children. As students graduate, many do not stray far from campus, seeking job opportunities or even a life of marriage in or near Jackson. The Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office provide up-to-date data and maps detailing the year’s homicides for the benefit and safety of the public. 

Although our campus is not in the middle of the city, Clinton is only a short drive away from the outer limits of Jackson and some of the more dangerous areas. Officer Travis of the Mississippi College Office of Public Safety provided further insight into how campus safety protocol keeps students on campus secure. “We always have at least two to five security officers present, as well as Clinton police… We also try to build a rapport with students so they are comfortable reporting anything to us that makes them uncomfortable on campus or the surrounding area.” There are also a number of security cameras in place around campus as well as the “blue poles.” These poles exist for all students to use if they are somewhere on campus where they feel unsafe and need to get ahold of the security office. The campus security office can also be reached at (601) 925-3204. Officer Travis also made note that many of the homicides in the Jackson area can be attributed to gang violence, but some other crimes that can flow into the areas around Jackson are drugs and theft. 

Junior Nathanael Smith has lived in Jackson for most of his life. He discussed some of the dangers he experienced growing up and how best to approach safety in the area. “One thing is just understanding the layout of Jackson. You can be in the niceness of Fondren then the next thing you know you’re in the middle of sketchy industrial areas.” Smith stressed that while the “safer” areas of Jackson are largely sectioned off, it is important to know your surroundings and to travel with a buddy if possible. He also noted that come nightfall, it’s best to just avoid some of the higher risk areas. “We had a lot of car break-ins even though we lived in a nicer neighborhood, so you should always make sure nothing valuable is visible if you leave your car.” While homicide is scary and especially prevalent this year, vehicle theft is another leading crime students should be aware of when in Jackson.