As a student at U.Va., Jodie Berndt spent a lot of time at this place--studying, writing papers, and attending a fellowship group. The fellowship group, she notes, had a lot of "draws," including the cute guys, one of whom would become her husband, Robbie.
"Between the two of us," Jodie says, "Robbie and I probably represent where a lot of University students are today. I came to U.Va. as a pretty excited Christian, eager to grow in my faith and share it with others. Robbie grew up going to church, but he'd be the first to tell you that his head knowledge about who God was didn't make a whole lot of difference in how he lived his life. When he came to U.Va., finding Christian fellowship wasn't even on his radar.
For Jodie, the Study Center was a place where she could invite her friends, classmates, and sorority sisters, knowing that they could come and see what Christianity was all about. "The Center was geographically easy for studnets to access," she says, "and spiritually, it wasn't at all intimidating. It was full of bibrant, interesting people. It was fun."
For Robbie, whose spiritual curiosity was piqued via conversations with Jodie and other students, the building represented a place where he always felt welcome. It didn't matter that he was--as Jodie describes him--a "lacrosse-playing, beer-drinking, fraternity rush chairman," he knew he could come to the Center to talk to the staff and ask hard questions about faith and life.
Robbie and Jodie were married just a few months after he graduated, in 1985. "As a young married couple, we began supporting the Study Center financially," Robbie remembers. "I think we gave $15 a month. Back then, we could not have dreamed how that investment would pay off as we saw the Study Center flourish--and, 25 years later, play a role in impacting the spiritual lives of our own children."
As parents of two U.Va. daughters (with two more Wahoo hopefuls in high school), Jodie and Robbie delight in seeing how the financial gifts of so many people over the years have positioned the Study Center to have strategic and measurable spiritual impact on a top-notch university. "I love knowing that U.Va. students--our kids or others--can come here for a simple cup of coffee," Jodie says, "or to engage on a deeper level, through small groups and thought-provoking lectures. I love that they have a place where they can go (especially when they are confused, stressed-out, or hungry), where they will find a staff member who can come alongside them with the hope of the Gospel. I love that this is a place where kids can find out about professors who might share their worldview, find a fellowship group, or make new friends who cross typical U.Va. lines. And," she smiles, "I love thinking that maybe one of our girls' husbands might just be here, too."