It took eight years for local minister Don Thomas' young adult bible study group to become what he had envisioned.
"The Christian Campus House was founded to give students a safe place 'to be', for lack of a better term, and to be together and fellowship," said Thomas, minister for Central Christian Church, which sponsors the house. "I wanted something that is open-minded and open book where a lot of people's opinions are welcome."
Laughter rang through the house located on the Eastern New Mexico University campus Tuesday night as members of The Spectrum bible study gathered for their last meeting of the semester.
Christian campus house director Don Thomas, left, jokes and laughs with more than 40 young adults in the house on the Eastern New Mexico University campus on Tuesday night. Thomas said after starting the program eight years ago, he feels like he has finally achieved his goal of what eh wanted The Spectrum bible study to be, a place for people to mingle without judgment.
More than 40 were present, laughing and joking with Thomas and as they ate pizza and sipped coffee.
"The only opinion that's not welcome is derogatory opinions towards someone else," Thomas said of the bible study. "You can disagree with others, just do it nicely. I think it has really resonated with them because they are accepted and not judged, no matter what."
Thomas said the bible study includes ENMU students and others who are working young adults within the community.
"We don't have a lot of free time, so it's a nice way to get out and meet people and spend time with them," said 22-year-old Tyler Pullen, who is expecting his second child with his wife, Amanda, 21, who is a full-time student and also attends the bible study.
"It is nice to go and have the social time," he said. "A lot of the girls in the Bible study are very good friends outside The Spectrum, which is nice for Amanda because she can have girls' nights sometimes."
Pullen said he has approached Thomas several times at the end of meetings in regard to issues he might be struggling with.
"He'll tell you right there that he may not have the right answer but he wants to find it with you. He's just a great leader," Pullen said. "We've been going to the Spectrum for three years now and it's home."
Rachel Whitt, an ENMU senior from Albuquerque, said the Bible study became her home away from home after she began attending school in Portales.
"My first couple of years here, I was dealing with home sickness," Whitt said. "The Spectrum helped me find a small family environment and a support system."
"It's nice because it's non-denominational, so you're not focused on one view, so you learn to look at things from different aspects," added Shelby Stevens, who works at the New Mexico Christian Children's Home.
Said Thomas: "It's not as much a preacher and a praise band as it is coffee and conversation."