Seven years ago, Jeffrey M. Chalko-Mique took the only available seat at an Assemblies of God ministry luncheon. The connection created during the meal would change the course of his life forever.
Chalko-Mique, now 30, had gone to the gathering with the intent of meeting a U.S. Navy recruiter to discuss the possibility of becoming a chaplain. Instead, he sat across from Zach Robson, who told them how Brandon and Kendra Kerston planned to launch a Chi Alpha Campus Ministries chapter at San Diego State University. Now, Jeffrey and his wife, Kelsey, are embarking on their own journey to pioneer Chi Alpha in Hawaii — a state that currently has no active Chi Alpha groups.
Soon after the luncheon, Jeffrey attended a Chi Alpha pioneering training conference . Then, in 2015 he connected with Kelsey, a fellow student leader serving with Chi Alpha at San Diego State. After Kelsey graduated, they married and continued serving as Chi Alpha staff members.
Today, the couple serve on the Chi Alpha Diversity Task Force, working to help campus missionaries from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds itinerate successfully and serve at universities across the nation. As an interracial couple themselves, Kelsey and Jeffrey are part of an Asian American/Pacific Islander resource group. Jeffrey is Filipino-American and Kelsey is white. The couple hope that their own experiences and identities continue to open doors for their ministry and help partners buy in to the call God has placed on their lives to plant a Chi Alpha ministry. Jeffrey and Kelsey hope to pioneer in Hawaii in 2022.
Even though they live in a seemingly idyllic setting, students at the Hawaii school where Jeffrey and Kelsey intend to go ranked as “least happy” in a recent Princeton Review academic study. An 80-question survey of 138,000 students at 384 schools showed University of Hawaii-Mānoa students as the fifth least-happy overall.
Despite year-round perfect weather, gorgeous nearby ocean beaches, and low crime rates, Hawaii students overwhelmingly found the college experience stressful. Campus counseling centers are overrun with students struggling with unhappiness and disconnection.
“If you don’t have Jesus, it doesn’t matter what environment you live in,” says Kelsey, 25. “There is only emptiness and longing without the meaning and joy that He provides.”
Both credentialed Assemblies of God ministers and U.S. missionaries, the Chalko-Miques plan to pioneer Chi Alpha at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. One of the most diverse campuses in the United States, this university is a strategic mission field, with students from all 50 states and 142 countries among its student body. Whites represent only 18.4% of the undergraduate student body, trailing Asians (36.9%) and multiethnic enrollees (24.5%).
“Diversity is a Kingdom value, and that value is already in place there,” Kelsey says. “When we visited, we saw students embrace one another’s differences without any segregation.”
While in high school and college, Jeffrey attended International Christian Center in Chula Vista, an AG Filipino-American church. And now, in addition to serving with Chi Alpha, the Chalko-Miques serve as national youth directors for the AG’s Filipino-American Christian Fellowship. Through this position, they have already started building relationships with local pastors and partners in Hawaii, including Alan C. Bartolome.
“We need Chi Alpha here,” says Bartolome, lead pastor of Bethel Chapel in Waipahu. “Right now, local churches are working to connect personally to young adults and college students, but without a central pathway. Through Chi Alpha, we could steer college students to one place and help them get connected to ministry.”
Bartolome, 48, says students need a campus pastor who can be in their corner and facilitate activities that put Christ-following students around fellow believers. While local congregations connect the upcoming generation to older Christians, Chi Alpha is currently a missing link for many local bodies. With a business degree from Vanguard University, Bartolome understands the benefits of working as a team.
“We need them here,” Bartolome says. “When Kelsey and Jeffrey arrive, every church can lean on them for ministry to their students, and we will all be working more closely together to see the kingdom of God grow among students on our campuses in Hawaii.”