Salute Our Heroes: Couple serves Washburn students for 24 years

13 NEWS at 10 p.m.
Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 9:52 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Craig and Janene Freerksen started working with students here at Washburn University 24 years ago and they’re still going strong.

“We had the privilege to come to Washburn in 1998,” he said.

Through the years, Freerksen has seen a major transformation on the Washburn campus, especially with many more students living in residence halls.

“When we got here, there was two dorms -- Kuehne and West,” Freerksen recalled. “There were 80 students in dorms on campus, and now there’s over 1,000 possible in the dorms. And this year, most of them are full.”

That’s significant, because Freerksen and his wife work directly with Washburn University students through an organization known as Christian Challenge.

Though it’s associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Freerksen says Christian Challenge is non-denominational in nature and reaches more than 100 students each week from a variety of backgrounds. Students who attend Christian Challenge gatherings represent more than 15 local churches.

Freerksen says one of his greatest satisfactions comes from walking alongside college students as they navigate their way through life.

“These are the most significant years, we feel like, in a person’s life,” he said. “You’re making some of the most significant decisions. We want to help students as they are becoming all that God has designed them to be. And you do that through relationships.”

Through those relationships, Freerksen said, he and his wife have been able to offer to support to students when they go through difficult times.

“To be able to help students that are in the midst of tough stuff -- because, we’re all broken in some way, shape or form -- we all have things that come at us that we can’t handle,” he said. “To be able to help students in the midst of those times is probably the most satisfying. To help them get through things, to get on top of things, and then to be able to move forward -- there’s nothing better than that.”

Christian Challenge offers a number of student-led Bible studies throughout the week. It also has a larger gathering on Thursday nights at the Peak, located in the 1900 block of S.W. Gage. The building is located just south of First Southern Baptist Church, 1912 S.W. Gage.

Said Freerksen: “We meet on Thursday nights for a large group -- worship, teaching, relationships, food, fun -- giving them an opportunity and a place where they can just gather and be safe and be cared for and be valued.”

Mitchell Miller, a Washburn University senior from Topeka, said he’s been a part of Christian Challenge since his freshman year.

“I would say the biggest attribute of Christian Challenge that’s really kept me there is just the connections,” said Miller, a graduate of Seaman High Schoo, “the mentorship through the staff there, just the relationships that have been built, and everything that I’ve learned through them, and just all the support that it’s brought me.”

Freerksen said he raises his own support for his ministry to Washburn University students.

For more information, check out Christian Challenge at Washburn University on Facebook.