Powerhouse Apologist Couple Working Together at Winthrop University
Meet Devin Pellew and Melissa Sturdivant Pellew, a powerhouse couple at our Ratio Christi chapter at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They are both in the undergraduate Apologetics program at Southern Evangelical Bible College within Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES).
"Devin was invited to help start the chapter by Stephanie Kimble, a local pastor's wife in Rock Hill," Melissa explains. "Stephanie was familiar with the Ratio Christi chapter at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte but knew there wasn't one at Winthrop. Devin stepped in, I came on board from the very first meeting to help him, and for a while he and Stephanie were co-directors. When she left, Devin became the Chapter Director. I help him with the administrative aspects, talk to students and invite them to attend.”
Devin Pellew was raised in Utah. For the first few years of his life his parents were Mormons.
"My parents came out of Mormonism in 1982 when I was just a few years old,” he says. “My father was led to the Lord by a pastor he worked with at his job and then became a pastor himself with Assemblies of God. But I always had a lot of questions about evolution and creationism that my parents couldn’t answer.
It was my grandfather with whom I was very close. He was from England, fought in World War II and was a religious skeptic. I had many conversations with him. About 11 years ago, I turned away from ideas about faith too, and turned to alcohol. But one night I was flipping through TV channels, and came across a debate on the John Ankerberg Show where Gary Habermas was the apologist. I accepted Jesus that night, and knowing how unanswered questions can make a person lose their faith, I became passionate about apologetics.
After a while, using my new-found apologetics answers, I had more conversations with my grandfather. He accepted the Lord at 87 years old and died only a few months later.”
Pellew had intended to start an RC chapter back in 2011 with someone else, but an illness prevented him from doing so.
"I came down with swine flu and was very seriously ill," he explains. "I was in a coma for over 20 days, and then on an oscillator. Being on the machine and in bed so often, I got nerve damage and had to rehabilitate how to talk, swallow and walk again. I still use a wheel chair or a cane, but I am fortunate and blessed. People have died from swine flu. I’ve never been bitter or angry because God is sovereign over everything, and I knew he had a purpose for me.
Besides RC, I do some prison ministry. Many people assume prisoners don’t care about apologetics-type stuff. But sometimes they are inundated with material about Islam and other faiths and they want information they sense they can trust. I've even done homeless ministry where people ask about God and the reliability of the Bible.
I’m also starting a pastoral internship at my church, Park Baptist in Rock Hill, which will go on until this June. Our pastor already does an apologetics class once a month."
Q: Tell us how you and Melissa met – it’s quite a story.
A: We met in an online Christian debating chat room while talking to an atheist! For two years after that, Melissa and I chatted on the phone. I fell for her without ever seeing her in person. I moved to where she lived and we got married the next day!
Now there is a unique way for Christian singles to meet! They’ve been married since 2004.
Melissa Sturdivant Pellew grew up in the Fort Mill area of South Carolina, near Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES).
“Living near SES, I was aware of Christian apologetics for a long time and so ended up studying it there. Nearby Rock Hill is a very stable community with many people staying here for their entire lives. There are a high number of churches and it's a very quaint southern town, but Winthrop is a very liberal college, so we felt called to start this apologetics ministry on campus. The school's journalism department is very big and draws people from outside the area, which may explain some of the liberalism. But many of the local students come from Christian backgrounds.”
Q: You had a lot of students sign up for RC at your table this past August – did many start coming?
A: Our table at that convocation event is how we got some of our current students. Some churches that have ministries on campus also had tables set up and that attracted more attention to ours. None of the students who became interested in Ratio Christi had heard about apologetics before and were very receptive. We now have about 10 students who are most active in the chapter, with other fluctuating numbers in attendance.
Q: This chapter receives support from an unlikely source – tell us about that!
A: Our charter as a campus organization is not yet approved; we’re in the middle of the process. (UPDATE: Officially approved as a campus club in April, 2015!) We have a great faculty mentor and advisor, and a student who’s ready to be the president, but we don't have access to a lot of money for holding events. Interestingly, although there are other Christian groups on campus, the atheists have been the most welcoming. The Winthrop Organization of Freethinkers has actually sponsored our two main events on campus so far.
But we also get apologetics help from Matthew Graham, a Southern Evangelical Seminary graduate. He's part of the SES speaking team and has been a great resource for us for questions and answers with the Freethinkers (and sometimes at events).
Q: Where do you hold most of your chapter meetings?
A: Most of our regular meetings are at the Starbucks on campus. This affords us a lot of exposure, and I often get the opportunity, while Devin is leading the group, to invite others to join us. I might add we now have an adorable two-year-old daughter, Eliana, who is very friendly. I bring her on campus and she’s helped me attract students’ attention to the ministry!
Q: You promoted your November 2014 campus event, “Is God a Moral Monster,” extensively. How did that turn out?
A: We had great attendance for that event– about 80 to 100 people – even though it was held during the week of Thanksgiving. There was a wonderful question and answer period at the end. We also had a great turnout for another event, “New Testament: Reliability or Myth.” The Baptist College Ministry allowed us to use their building on that occasion.
Q: How are the dynamics for you and Devin working in this ministry as a couple?
A: I feel we have an advantage working together. It helps us relate to both male and female students and to appeal to them as regular people – not what they think "an apologist" is supposed to be like (i.e., someone who comes on campus for a lecture and perhaps just moves on to the next town). We are praying about transitioning into being full-time missionaries for Ratio Christi as "community apologists" in addition to being chapter leaders. We do other Bible studies with young adults, some with newly released prisoners, and I also do some pro-life work.
Many people who may not come to our events or meetings have questions that can be answered with apologetics, and when we’re out in the community we help people think about these things.
Hear the Pellews on their Internet radio show:
The Pellews are on blog talk radio with “Theology Matters,” on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 EST. They host various speakers discussing different theological and apologetics issues each week, including other Ratio Christi leaders.
“Theology matters in every area of life. We shouldn’t shy away from it or believe that people don't care about it."
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