Alumni on Campus Spotlight: Bryan and Hannah Bessette

Bryan Bessette graduated from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire in 1998 with a BA in Physical Education. While at Plymouth State, Bryan served in the student leadership of Chi Alpha, where he met his wife Hannah, who graduated in 2000 with a BA in Music Education. Bryan and Hannah received a calling to pioneer a Chi Alpha chapter at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, where they have been campus missionaries since 2002. They have been married since 1998, and are the proud parents of three children: Ethan (12) Micah (9), and Libby (6). They also run the Freedom Café, a coffeehouse that exists to raise awareness of the very real problem of human trafficking.

Bryan shares his campus ministry experiences at UNH:

How has it been as an alumnus of Chi Alpha to be able to give back to the ministry by starting up a new chapter?

Bryan: I have learned so much from Chi Alpha and am grateful to be a part of a supportive and gracious community of leaders. Chi Alpha has both equipped and created space for me to serve Jesus and develop creative ways to engage the campus and minister to students.

What are some of the things UNH Chi Alpha alumni have been up to since graduation?

Bryan: We’ve seen students move on into a number of different careers and spread out all over the country and world. A couple of our alumni are serving in youth and church ministry in the Assemblies of God. One of our alumni is a New Hampshire State Trooper and a few now serve in the social work field. I had the privilege of performing a wedding for a couple who after graduating taught in an English school in the Dominican Republic for two years. A common thread among many of our alumni is learning to hold a faith that is grounded and can sustain a lifetime of facing the very real, dark, trauma and injustices in our world with persevering love and hope.

Share with us about the Freedom Café and the impact it has had on raising awareness of human trafficking.

Bryan: When people hear that human trafficking (a form of modern day slavery) not only exists, but is growing and thriving around the globe they are often left wondering, “How can I help?” Too often that question goes unanswered or is addressed in intangible ways. The Freedom Café is our attempt to answer that question. In our first three years we have come to see that creating a space for a progressive engagement with a social issue is necessary to bring large scale change. Each visit to The Freedom Café invites guests and volunteers to learn a little more. Too often heartfelt responses are left unresolved and unfulfilled, and lead to disconnection and decreased engagement. No one can grapple with an issue of this magnitude all at once, but one drip at a time, we learn and grow.

By combining a consistent and progressive way to learn and be involved in the process of ending human trafficking,

The Freedom Café moves individuals from disconnection to empowerment. In 2015, we worked with fifty-eight regular volunteers who collectively served 2,300 volunteer hours. We hosted fifty-eight educational events including our work with the GIFT Box and weekly Perform for Freedom Events. Based on specific event sign-in sheets and modest estimates for those without attendee sheets, we engaged more than 4,000 unique individuals throughout the year, and raised more than $10,000 for our Grant Fund.

How could Chi Alpha Alumni best support you and your efforts at UNH?

Bryan: Well, if anyone is a coffee lover and appreciates quality of craft coffee, please consider signing on for our Freedom Builder Coffee Club. Through this program you can support the ministry and enjoy great ethically sourced coffee at home, your church or your office. To make a financial gift to Chi Alpha, UNH visit AG Giving. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

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