Burdened by the number of students pouring across the bar-lined street directly in front of a freshman dorm at Texas A&M University in College Station, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries director Eli Stewart and staffer Jonathan R. Bryce began to visit the district and pray. One Friday night they took their Bibles with them to preach and read Scripture to passing tavern patrons.
That same night, a student celebrating his birthday overdosed on heroin in a Texas A&M Sigma Nu fraternity house where police found LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and several prescription drugs. Officers arrested four frat members.
The student died in the house’s foyer. He was 19 years old.
Five years later, Texas A&M Chi Alpha is buying that same dwelling.
The journey to owning the 12,000-square-foot, 25-bedroom mansion two miles from campus, began when its owner offered Chi Alpha students work cleaning the building to prepare for the next tenants. Micah Flippen, who had bought the house in 2002 to launch a private Christian dorm, attended Mountain Valley Fellowship, the Assemblies of God church planted simultaneously with the Aggie Chi Alpha. The arrangement worked well for a season. Flippen lived in the facility for four years and he taught regular Bible studies in the home’s family room.
But in time, those students graduated, and Flippen couldn’t find replacements willing to sign a code of conduct that included points such as no swearing or screening R-rated movies. He found himself without tenants, yet still required to pay the mortgage. So he leased the property to a succession of fraternities.
Meanwhile, Chi Alpha had a need for a large housing facility. The chapter, relaunched in 2016, is starting this semester with 175 small group leaders holding evangelistic Bible studies. During COVID-19 restrictions, around 350 students attended the large group meeting in an amphitheater in a College Station city park.
By early last year, 20 alumni wanted to intern with Chi Alpha and another 15 had opted to stay an extra year after graduation. That’s when Chi Alpha leaders wondered about the possibility of buying the property.
What Stewart and Bryce found inside shocked them. The Ten Commandments had been posted on every door, a vestige of the years when Flippen operated the building as a Christian dorm. But drug paraphernalia — including a machine that creates a marijuana-derived drug called glass — and other filth littered the house.
“It made me so mad and sad,” says Stewart, 41. “On every door was the most beautiful law known to man, but absolute disregard for it.”
“Eli really wanted the building, and I really wanted him to have it,” Flippen says. But Flippen’s hands were tied by a binding legal agreement: a fraternity had signed a lease through 2025.
In July 2020, Stewart prayed: “God, will You let us have this building so we can use it for Your Kingdom?”
“The Bible says my God shall supply all my needs,” says Bryce, 36. “Jesus also says to go and make disciples. That’s the most important work.”
However, the two-acre property had a $2 million valuation. Raising that amount of money seemed impossible.
Still, in January 2021, Stewart asked the 40 who would be living on the property to not renew their own apartment and home leases, trusting Chi Alpha would be able to buy the mansion. Students and staffers set daily noon alarms to pray that God would give the house to the Chi Alpha chapter.
“And then miraculously, one couple called and said they wanted to give $100,000,” Bryce says. With that, plus cash reserves, the chapter had $400,000 for the down payment. The North Texas District church planting loan fund reviewed the repayment plan and approved a $1.4 million loan. The house includes four giant meeting rooms, has parking space for 75 vehicles, and is across the street from an A&M bus stop.
Because of unpaid damage to a pool table, the frat lost its contract. The tenants had to be out by July 11. Chi Alpha interns moved in Aug. 1.
Students in the chapter have been cleaning up the property, painting, and removing carpets. They’re also holding fundraisers to pay for renovations for the home, which will house interns and some students.
Flippen is pleased with the arrangement as well.
“I’m excited to see Eli kind of take my hopes for the building and turn it into something so much better than I could have ever done by myself,” Flippen says. “They’re going to be trained in taking the gospel to the nations.”