Students traversing the plaza between the Lory Student Center and the Morgan Library are faced with credit card solicitors, poster vendors and salesman hawking newspapers all the time. But it’s not every day they’re told they’re going to Hell.
The Woronicki family, a globe-trotting Christian brood who visit college campuses and other public areas throughout the world, came to CSU Wednesday to spread their message about Jesus Christ.
Elizabeth, 17, shouted Scripture to passers-by between Eddy Hall and the Clark Building as her brother Joshua, 13, handed out pamphlets.
The pair wasn’t disheartened by students’ scorn.
“Nobody wants to hear the truth,” Joshua said, “that they’re headed for Hell.”
Spectators headed for class mocked or ignored the family.
“I thought it was pretty funny,” said Rick Buckingham, a freshman open option major. “It’s a nice comic relief, especially after a boring hour in class.”
Other students were heard laughing or remarking they hadn’t been aware of their impending trip to Hell.
Michael Woronicki, the paterfamilias of this fervent bunch, explained why his wife, Rachel, and his six children – Sarah, Abraham, Joshua, Ruth, David and Elizabeth – are unfazed by this kind of ridicule.
“(People) mock because they hate Jesus,” he said. “They don’t want to be told that college is a place of demons. College is a stairway to Hell.”
Woronicki, 50, graduated in 1976 from the University of Michigan, having studied sociology and psychology on a football scholarship. Growing disenchanted with college life, he began preaching to the team during his sophomore year and eventually left Grand Rapids with his wife to take his message to the streets. Over 25 years, he and his family have been as far as Moscow, throughout Europe and Africa, and just came from El Salvador three weeks ago.
“Our focus is primarily wherever people are,” he said, adding that he does not usually focus on any specific age group.
The family has begun preaching at college campuses because they have found there are fewer large crowds to target in cities. Additionally, Woronicki said young people are more impressionable and that is whom he wants to reach.
“In college, I was that guy that walks by, that tough macho guy,” he said. “I wouldn’t have come up (to someone like me) because I would have been too afraid of what my buddies would say. But there’s something else inside. I would stand in the back, but I would listen. Maybe I’m here for just one guy like that.”
The Woronickis are not associated with any specific church – in fact, they oppose organized religions in the United States. Michael attended seminary in Chicago, intending to become a Dominican priest, but said he was kicked out because his views were too radical.
“We preach against American Christianity,” he said. “It’s just Jesus, just the person of Jesus. I preach against the Catholic Church. Just look at the perversion there.”
Lannea Russell, a freshman pre-veterinary medicine student, said as a Christian she was offended by the Woronickis’ message.
“I think you’re ignoring the mercy and love part of Christianity,” she told Joshua.
He replied: “You wouldn’t know.”
Russell said she was disappointed that onlookers might see the Woronickis and develop a negative impression of Christians.
“I wish I didn’t have to be associated with this,” she said. “It ignores the grace part of Christianity. I think they’re sending the wrong message.”
Michael home-schools his children and insists the world is damned.
“The end time is near, so why invest in this world?” he said. “It’s like putting new wallpaper on a condemned house.”
Michael said the family is generally best received in Third World countries, and people are most resistant to his message in the U.S.
“Everybody from the president to the bum on the streets claims to be Christian,” but they don’t get it, he said.
The Woronickis live on the road but have a Post Office box in Eugene, Ore. They sold their California home a few years ago to purchase what Michael calls a “huge RV” in which they cross the country, going wherever the weather takes them. They’re headed to the Northwest next, to Washington, Montana and Wyoming.
Michael said he wants people to understand Christ so they will be saved from eternal damnation.
“Humble yourself,” he said. “Discover the person of Jesus – not the system, not Christianity – who is the person Jesus.”