Crystal Villalobos-Lewis was part of the first Chi Alpha group at Loyola University New Orleans, which was pioneered by Matt and Jen DeGier. After graduating in 2005, Crystal worked the next 11 years in Human Resources for a local hospital in Baton Rouge. Along the way, she met her husband Aaron, who is a Chi Alpha alum from Kansas State University. They married in 2011, and they now have two beautiful daughters, Katelyn and Kayleigh. Recently, Crystal stepped away from her career to focus on raising her family and serving in ministry her local church in Louisiana. Crystal shares how her experiences in Chi Alpha has prepared her for her current season in life and ministry.
Describe the impact Chi Alpha had on you as a student.
For my first two years at Loyola, Chi Alpha did not exist at my university. Just before my junior year, through a divine “right place, right time,” I met Matt and Jen as they were prayerfully considering pioneering Chi Alpha in New Orleans. The difference in my university experience after that moment was profound. I found a purpose at my university beyond my studies. “Faith, Community, Action” was our local motto and it became a way of life for me, even to this day. We had very rich and creative times of prayer. It completely changed my prayer life. Lifelong friendships grew from those times of prayer, fun activities, and service events, whether painting houses or playing with orphans in Mexico. “Sharing faith” once meant telling others about Jesus. It changed to asking God to use me to meet practical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
What was it like transitioning from your Human Resources career path to a ministry path?
It was definitely a step of faith! I believed in my heart that this was God’s purpose, but making the decision to leave a job I loved (and all that came with it!) was difficult. I came to realize that my work was not my identity; it was my assignment. That assignment was completed and God had new orders for me. I wasn’t losing a part of me. Instead, I was taking all that I learned into a new season.
How did Chi Alpha prepare you for your current role in church ministry?
My years in Chi Alpha were some of the most influential of my life. It was a great transition from being in “youth group” at church to taking on leadership as an adult. My campus missionaries were incredible and their mentoring caused me to grow in many aspects of ministry. Part of my role as a pastor is to help those who come to our church feel welcome and connected in addition to facilitating ways for our church to serve the general community. These ideals are greatly inspired by my time in Chi Alpha.
Share how God brought you and your husband together.
In 2005, I relocated to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina destroyed my home and my community. In 2007, Aaron relocated to accept a job as a mechanical engineer. He sat behind me at church, and we soon became friends. I marvel at the way God led us to our future, even at the darkest hours of my life!
What advice do you have for Alumni who feel called into ministry?
- Be faithful in your current season. We tend to think of ministry in certain “roles,” such as pastor or teacher. Ministry is more of a lifestyle than a title. Seek to serve others, and seek to do it well. God will increase your capacity to serve and place you where He needs you.
- Recognize the gifts and abilities that come from your education and work experience. There are countless ways God can use you. I believe every experience you have is preparation for His greater purpose. Think of ways your unique experiences can be used to serve others!
- Protect your relationship with God. Keep Him first in all that you do. He is the reason you do what you do! Seek His guidance. Ask him to help you lead with integrity. Your ministry should be an overflow of your relationship with God.