ENCOUNTER
College Missions
Since 2015 Johnny Lieske has served on Encounter's staff as our Director of College Missions. The Campus House near UAB is Johnny's home and home base for mission outreach to Birmingham college students.  Please read more below for updates on this exciting adventure.

If you would like to support Johhny's work you can help fund and fuel ministry by making a one-time or recurring tax-deductible donation at the button below.
December, 2016

Dear Friends,

Fall semester at UAB is complete and so is my third semester as the Director of College Missions for Encounter Ministries. We’ve seen positive growth at Campus House in ways I could not have predicted.
  • We enjoyed a consistent semester of quality over quantity attendance. Students began connecting in more life-on-life ways, their spirituality grew as they invested more in God, the place, and one another. Battles with depression, anxiety, and overall confusion were shared and prayed over in a safe and caring Christian community. The growth in connectivity between students has been very encouraging and is something that will be expanded during the spring semester.
  • A student volunteer leadership team was created. I invited three female and two male students to join me in leadership which includes weekly planning meetings. They assist with leading small groups, planning events, and reaching out to students in ways that only students can do well. They have really grown into their roles as shepherds and servants and have developed as leaders and servants in the community as they draw closer to God and to one another.
  • A weekend retreat was the first one Campus House has had in over 6 years! We rented a Christian Retreat center an hour north of Birmingham, away from all distractions.  We got away for two nights to learn about our callings in life as they relate to spirituality. During this weekend, students became more deeply invested in one another’s lives in more meaningful ways. At the Tuesday night meeting following the retreat, a girl commented that as a result of the retreat, this was the first Tuesday night she had ever really looked forward to being at Campus House.
  • Partnering with Homewood Church of Christ to feed the homeless once a month: I look for ways to involve students in the activities of my home church and this one is a student favorite.  They participate in feeding the homeless of Birmingham every third Thursday of the month. Students serve, interact, and love on those in our city who struggle the most and are in need of love and kindness. Our students come away with a greater appreciation for the blessings and opportunities in their own lives while also developing an affection and heart for the hurting in our community. It takes the blinders off and allows us to come face-to-face with the realities that exist outside our own small worlds.
  • Providing consistent Christian community for those of college age who are not enrolled. A supporter from back home in Illinois reached out to me regarding family friends of his. This missionary family served in the Philippines and had returned to Pennsylvania. Their son had taken a job several states away in Birmingham, Alabama, where he did not have many connections. The supporter shared this young man’s contact info with me. After several exchanges and invitations, Jesse showed up at Campus House and became a regular attender of our Thursday night Bible studies. Consequently, his Christian fellowship has increased at Campus House and he has been able to reach out to other believers his age in the community. These are my favorite type of interactions that come as a result of God’s people connecting and acting on behalf of those whom they love.
Some personal highlights:
  • I’m engaged to my beautiful fiancé Avery!  She’s Godly, caring, loving, talented, smart, outgoing and fun-loving.  And she is a great helpmate to me in ministry. We have not yet set a wedding date.
  • A prison ministry trip with Encounter Ministry.   An important part of Encounter’s ministry is its outreach events in prison ministry. In September I was able to go along for the first time for a weekend to a prison unit in Winnsboro, Texas, and help conduct a Wild at Heart themed bootcamp for the inmates. We spoke to about 70 inmates, and with God’s leading, helped guide them to the beginning of the spiritual healing process from years of wounds and abuses. It was an honor for me to personally pray with four inmates and lead them to Jesus.
  • I was blessed to be asked by the lead pastor of my church to audit his overture class in Fresno, California. Pastor Bret is working on his Doctorate Degree in Transformational Leadership from Bakke Graduate University and the class consisted of 30 some students from around the nation and world (including Ethiopia, Alaska, Illinois, etc.) It was a powerful learning experience to listen to wise professors and experts in their fields in Fresno. We sat in meetings with the mayor and many other public figures and learned ways in which one can strive to reach and connect their neighborhood to Jesus and work together to achieve God’s shalom.
  • Officiated my first wedding. A college friend/roommate from Illinois State University asked me to perform his wedding ceremony so I received my ordination through my local church in Birmingham.  The ceremony itself was not spiritually inclined, yet I was able to insert scripture and pray openly and publicly for the two of them during the service which led to some powerful conversations afterwards with other wedding guests.
I am so thankful to God for allowing me to be in this position of learning and serving others in Birmingham and across the nation. Your support in prayer, friendship, and finances is what fuels all of these things. Through your generosity, God is taking care of every need I have. It is for that reason I am so grateful to you all for being a part of this larger story with me. I invite you all to call, email, or facebook me anytime with questions or comments when you wonder what is going on here in Birmingham and in my ministry with Encounter.

Moving Forward.  I will be meeting with my boss, Chris, and the student leadership team to develop strategies for the spring semester for reaching out on campus and finding the lost and lonely who are in need of a Christian home to join. We will likely plan a spring get-away.  We will be looking for ways to continue to grow our community from the inside while expanding it and inviting others into it.

Prayer Requests.  For continued financial support as we head into a new year; for new opportunities to better reach and engage UAB students; that more lives turn to Christ; and for spiritual and leadership growth for the student leadership team.

Fundraising Update:  17 for ‘17 Campaign.  Ministry efforts like this have been enabled by God’s grace and the financial support of friends, family, and co-ministers like you. Please consider making a one-time or regular gift of at least $17. Or double it to $34. Or come up with a number that has 17 in it such as $117, $2,017, or even $17,000 (we wouldn’t turn that down.)
Checks can be mailed to:    
Encounter Ministries
                PO Box 841
                Alabaster, AL 35007

To make a secure online donation, please click the DONATE button on this page.


In His Service,
Johnny Lieske
815-742-2746
jplieske2@gmail.com



May, 2016
Dear Friends,
The spring semester at the Campus House is over and summer is upon us. It is amazing how quickly the time has gone.  Here are some of the highlights:

Guest speaker Joseph Carrion shared his story of being redeemed from a life of growing up prostituting himself as a 10 year old on the streets of Birmingham, to being a practicing Satanist for over 25 years, to serving many years in prison, to accepting Christ in prison and ultimately being released. He now shares his testimony wherever he can before the cancer that afflicts him claims his life.

Community volunteer opportunities allowed students to get out and show the love of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus to strangers. They fed the homeless, collected and gave clothes to the homeless, and visited an assisted living home to spend time with elderly folks in need of companionship, letting them know they are not forgotten or alone but loved.

Easter gathering for international students.  The Campus House hosted an evening of great food, fun, and a presentation of the Easter story and Gospel to over 30 international students and their friends. The friends of the Campus House who put it on did a fantastic job sharing the love of God and the story of Jesus while providing the opportunity for some of the students to come and get involved on Tuesday nights and join the community of existing believers.

Kayak trip to Crystal River, Florida.  Four Campus House students and I joined a UAB Recreation Center trip for a weekend at Crystal River to kayak and swim with manatees.  It was a great trip taking in God’s beauty and creativity in creation. Not only was this was an excellent opportunity for Campus House students to bond, but it enabled us to reach out and meet other UAB students and invite them to Campus House. Some of our new friends did indeed come to the Campus House and brought friends.

Volunteer Student Staff Team.  This team met with mixed success but overall I am still pleased with its outcome. Four male students collaborated with me on ideas of how to build the community by putting on different events, praying, and serving the ministry in different capacities. The team will continue to be developed, but at face value it was a good learning experience and produced some good results for the ministry as a whole.

I preached my first message at a Campus House meeting. This was a personal highlight for me in February and even my sister drove down from Nashville to attend.  I spoke on spiritual warfare and how we have an Enemy that actively works to cause us to make agreements with him about ourselves that are not true. Then we, in turn, believe and accept these agreements and live them which can hinder us and prevent us from our potential to share God with others. The message was very well received and I gained much positive feedback. God gets all the credit and glory, though, because it’s the trials and tribulations He’s put me through and brought me through that’s given me the perspective and understanding to share with the students.

The overall numbers of Campus House attendance and the consistency of involvement were very encouraging.

With one year of campus ministry work under my belt, I feel grateful and indebted for having the opportunity to do this as a job. I cannot thank you enough for your financial and prayer support that have helped me carry out the work the Lord had prepared in advance for me in Birmingham with Encounter at The Campus House. Every last bit of impact that has been made on these students’ lives this year is a result of and in direct correlation to your generosity. Your support has been everything in this process and I thank God He has blessed and provided in such a way that only He could do.

The road ahead is long and there is so much more Kingdom-building work to be done. This year was just the beginning of what I feel like is about to be something big and meaningful at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I thank you for being a part of this journey and hanging with me over the months as I’ve adjusted to ministry life and discovering exactly what that means in ways of which I never would have predicted. This summer I will be working on plans for next school year.

“The Campus House definitely changes lives. One student at a time. I remember feeling super lost the first day of classes in every sense of the word. Campus House provides that structure I wasn’t sure I was looking for but absolutely needed”
--Freshman Student from Campus House

In His Service,
Johnny Lieske
Director of College Missions-Encounter Ministries
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December 2015
Dear friends and supporters!
The semester has wrapped up and many great encounters, events, and life changes have come about through the Campus House. Thank you so much for your support in prayer, encouragement, and finances this year. Your support has helped us to:
-reach around 40 students every Tuesday night (still looking to greatly grow that number) for a meal, worship, message, and community here at the Campus House.  
-reach students weekly in small groups on Thursday nights
-provide service opportunities two times a month, such as feeding the Birmingham homeless
-develop outreach to international students. The Campus House facility hosted a faith-based International Thanksgiving meal for students who had nowhere to go for the holiday.

One highlight was hosting an outreach night featuring Todd Geralds, local author of the book Woodlawn. It tells the story of how a high school football team (actually located 10 minutes from UAB’s campus) overcame racial issues in the 1970’s after their entire team gave their lives to Jesus. Todd is the son of the coach from that team. I highly recommend you see the movie, read the book, or both. Over 95 people showed up that evening, and not just college students. Older folks from local churches and the community came to see what the Campus House was all about.

A Thanksgiving dinner was held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break. Over 40 students showed up for this feast and we had a student-led worship in which I got to pretend to be a student again and play the piano =). The highlight of that evening for me came when we took turns going around the room saying something we were thankful for.  Without being prompted, so many of the students shared their hearts about what the Campus House has meant to and for them. I learned that night that the influence of the Campus House runs deeper than I had ever thought (shame on me for doubting that at times) and that the potential of the Campus House can be greater with meaningful impact individually and as a community.
One of my favorite stories is of a Junior girl who came to Campus House for the first time on a Tuesday night in October.  She learned of the opportunity to serve food to the Birmingham homeless and joined us there two days later. Then she checked out the girls’ small group after serving. She shared this reflection and revelation on social media of her experience.

“Tonight was overall one of the best nights in a while. I had the opportunity to help feed some of the homeless people in Birmingham through The Campus House at UAB and it was such a rewarding experience. I also made a new friend in a church group (one of the volunteers serving with us) who has cerebral palsy and I talked with him the entire time. He told me "we need more people like you who want to spend time with people like me" and I feel like that was God telling me what I should do with my life. So I have officially decided that I want to be a PT and work with people with disabilities or special needs! Also I got out of my usual comfort zone and joined a new small group with new people. So grateful for these opportunities and all of the glory goes to God”

Stories like this excite me. They show God is moving in people’s lives through the Campus House and that He is alive and active through this place but that there is still so much to be accomplished.

Men’s small group has continued to flourish. These guys have really been excited about getting into the Bible every Thursday night and discussing and expanding our views on God together. The girl’s group is in transition and requires prayer for next semester as we determine the best strategy to continue to develop leaders to grow the female relationships with each other and in Christ just as the men have done.
I continue to put in unseen work behind the scenes around the House and have been able to deepen relationships with many of the students. In my spare time I continue to work on pursuing my online Advanced Biblical Studies Degree from Liberty University in Virginia. This ministry is still an adjustment period in my life in many ways and I can only look to God for strength to trust that He has everything in His control and that His ways are indeed better than my ways.

This is a powerful story I shared on social media:
December 2 -- “I had two powerful encounters with homeless folks today in Birmingham that I feel are worth sharing if you hang in there. The first was a girl who looked to be in her late teens or early 20s named Ayeisha. She asked for money while shivering in her weathered t-shirt. I told her I didn’t have money for her but had actually just brought down a lot of clothes from Illinois to give away to folks in need and could provide her with a warm jacket to keep. She gratefully accepted it and it was a huge blessing for me to help her put it on and she walked away with a thank you and a big smile. The second encounter was a 51-year-old man who went by the name of Cotton. He admitted to struggling with alcoholism and said he had made a lifetime of bad choices. I gave him some food, and he spotted my piano. He asked if I would play him a song. So I played him the old Hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”. After listening to it he asked if I could play him a hymn his mother used to like. It took him some time to remember the name of it. “Amazing Grace”. I played it for him as he looked in deep thought and said he was trying not to cry. It amazes me just how much we can do for others by doing so little. If we could get out of ourselves and show God’s love to others this world would be a much merrier place. I do not share these stories to give glory to myself. I have failed God and others incredibly throughout my life and realize that since being saved by Jesus it is a joy to share that love and hope He offers with others. It is my hope that you all will find and then show that love to others in your lives as well.”

I look forward to seeing how God continues to move here in Birmingham in the lives of the students and the lives of those we come in contact with on a daily basis. We still do need your help! You can help by making a year-end donation by Dec 31 to get it on your 2015 tax receipt.  Or you can help by making a monthly commitment. Either can be done by clicking http://www.encounterministriesonline.org/college-missions-updates.htm and clicking donate.

Some of the goals I will be working on for 2016 when the new semester starts up are:
-Continuing the weekly meetings and expanding outreach to campus
-Expanding outreach/service opportunities for students
-Developing (mobilize, build, and expand) a Student Leadership Team for the Campus House
-Overseeing (recruit and equip) a college team for prison mission trips

Thank you again for your support in prayer, encouragement, and finances. Great things are happening through Encounter Ministries work at the Campus House as we continue to provide a place for college students to connect, grow spiritually, and develop a positive Christian community!

I hope you all have a blessed Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

In His Service,
Johnny Lieske
Director of College Missions-Encounter Ministries

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”  Acts 20:24
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October 2015
Dear friends and supporters,

Greetings from Birmingham, Alabama!

It’s been nearly two months living in Birmingham full-time and working as the Director of College Missions for Encounter at the Campus House.. Now that the semester is under way, it’s time to update you about how engaging students through the Campus House ministry is going at UAB.

The first seven Tuesday night meetings have been nothing short of encouraging. We have seen a place that was in much need of revitalization make a great turnaround, which is entirely encouraging to those of us on staff here at Campus House. Our numbers have been consistently above 25 students weekly with as many as 52 one week. This whole process is about reaching out to the campus and students in order to better provide them a place where they can engage God and other believers on a regular basis. And that is being done. New folks are starting to bring their friends, and the whole place has a brand new atmosphere to it thanks to God’s leading in many different ways.

For the first time in at least four years we launched small groups for guys and for girls. I lead the young men who show up (we meet at a creek where I built a bonfire pit out of stone right next to the water). A recent UAB grad named Lauren, who felt led to use her talents to help the Campus House grow, leads the girls.

Our guys group has had as many as 10 get together on Thursday nights to study certain passages of Scripture and then have a guided discussion that follows. This results in some incredible insight and views into who God is and what our response should be as a result of who He is. Those who attend really enjoy it and are growing spiritually.  One of the girls who has been attending the girls group shared as to what having that community has meant to her:  “I feel so lucky to find this women's group. I feel like God put me here because I am so happy when I'm heading to bed on Thursdays nights”

Bonds are beginning to form among the students. Those that were once strangers are now spending time with each other outside the four walls of the Campus House, forging their own relationships and growing together.

The majority of my time has been spent behind the scenes during the week as I keep up the grounds of the Campus House both inside and outside and do my best to meet with students to invite them into a place where they do not have to be alone on their college journey.  These encounters occur in such places as the UAB Rec center, on the quad, and even in the crosswalks. God has opened doors in some interesting ways.  All it really takes is His prompting and some intentionality.

Activities we have provided students are movie nights, a bowling night, going out for dinner, volunteering by feeding the homeless of Birmingham, taking students to Sunday services, and even making meals together at the House.  

One story that did not involve students was an encounter I had with a homeless man on the street near our property. He was a bit disheveled with dreadlocks that ran down to his shoulders.  It was clear he was not the type of person to just trust any stranger. In approaching him I asked if he was hungry. He said, “Yes.”  I asked him his name and he said, “Nothin’ personal, but I don’t give out my biological name to no one. You can call me Dreads.”  So I heated up some leftover burgers and hot dogs for Dreads from the previous night’s student dinner. I put together a to-go box and several bottles of water. Before sending him on his way back onto the street I told him, “You know man, I don’t know your story but God loves you and He has something still for your life.” He smiled at me really big and extended his hand and as we shook he said, “My name is Eli,” and he walked away. I haven’t seen him since but it was a really powerful encounter to be able to provide for someone in need in this way and to show God’s love to a stranger who was hungry. God’s abundance had first provided for the Campus House students and subsequently to this man on the street.

There are other really unique stories that have come as the result of God’s prompting and a lot of intentionality which I would love to share upon request.

I certainly feel this is the precise place for me.  I am so thankful for God’s leading and for the financial support, encouragement, prayers, and friendship all of you have offered along the way. Being able to share the love of God with others helping to build bridges of connections for them to subsequently show that love to others is the greatest job I could ever think of having.  Isaiah was entirely correct when he said that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our own. This was not a place I would ever have predicted myself to be but through it all, though it has not always been easy and sacrifices have had to be made along the way, it has been entirely worth it.

Here’s an extremely meaningful and encouraging text that one of the students sent me out of the blue one evening:  “Warning, this message is kind of long lol but man, I was up thinking and just wanted to tell you, I guess on behalf of everybody else (since I'm not sure anyone else would say something) that I sincerely appreciate the work you've been putting in and all you do. I don't think any one of us have or could have filled the boots you're walking in. Sometimes we can be more talk than action, but you're about action and getting stuff done. I know a lot you do seemingly goes unnoticed, but it doesn't. People see it and feel it. There's a different atmosphere surrounding campus house. It's more intentional and we owe that to you because you let God use you. Your leadership is latching on to others who've wallowed in dormancy and student leaders are truly emerging. So thanks buddy. We all owe a lot to you stepping out of your comfort zone on the chance that some college students might experience some life change.”

The credit and compliments all go back to God for allowing me to be used in this capacity. Thank you all again for helping make all of these life changes possible.  God bless.

In His Service,

Johnny
“Not always easy, but worth it.”
​If you'd like to donate to help support the work Johnny is doing through Encounter at the Campus House you can make a secure online donation via Paypal by clicking the DONATE button or sending a Check to Encounter PO BOX 841 Alabaster, AL 35007 (note Johnny in the memo)