Ryan Carver stood in front of the room in Davis 244, leaning on a table that was covered by pizza boxes. He wrote on the board, “How do you know God is good?” and beside that, “Why is there so much evil in the world?”
To the five students in attendance at the April 10 meeting, Carver, the ministry intern who leads a Christian campus organization, asked, “If God is all good why does he allow evil to happen?” He added, “That’s the one thing that held me back from even considering God.”
Known as The 4:15, the campus organization is part of Gulf Coast Community Church’s College Outreach Mission. They began meeting at USF St. Petersburg last semester. They meet for one hour of free thought, free discussion—and free pizza.
The club meets every Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in Davis 244. “The main thing about our meeting is that it’s open to all faiths,” Carver said.
Students who reject Christianity are encouraged to come. “We all have reasons why we believe what we believe, and we like to hear that,” Carver said. As a USF graduate he understands that campus organizations are meant to help students learn from each other and really wants that diversity in The 4:15.
“If we knew everything that God knew, we would be overwhelmed,” said student Sarah Partin, a political science major. “If we all had that, there would be no reason to believe in God.”
Carver provoked the group to reveal complex thoughts and doubts surrounding Christianity—opening the forum for discussion, rather than presenting answers. He turned the discussion to the story of Jesus—his life, death and how he came to serve and not be served. “He suffered for us,” Carver said, adding how that’s huge if it’s true, and that in reference to the story of Christianity, one would have to then consider whether he was just a man or God.
Emilio Marrero was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Marrero and Carver are “bros,” said Marrero, who leads a church on campus called Aletheia, which is the Greek word for truth.
He and his wife moved here in May 2011, but he has been on the St. Petersburg campus for two years. Their church started meeting in St. Petersburg in January, and it originated in their apartment downtown until they got approval from the school to meet on campus. They also have an Aletheia Tampa church at USF, which they started three years ago. They meet on Sunday evenings on campus.
Marrero said that the majority of people who come to Aletheia were agnostic or came from a rigid Catholic background that they didn’t understand. Marrero and his wife share the text of the Bible and the basics of who Jesus was.
“We chose this area specifically because we recognized it was lacking in that area,” Marrero said. He described St. Petersburg as filled with everything except Jesus. He and his wife love the city and wanted to add value to it, he said. They see Aletheia has presenting a worldview rather than a religion.
Carver said that all students have questions. A lot of people come to college and are told one thing by their parents and another thing from their professors, he said, and at that point they are left alone to make choices. The 4:15 and Aletheia both aim to provide insight on the Bible and “allow students to consider reasons for God and Jesus Christ,” Carver said.
Photo by Daniel Mutter