Participants in the Light Company’s “Survival Run”
by Emily Parker
Salt Company in Indianola has undergone major transformations since last semester. Rebranding has allowed the ministry to morph into a new group, Light Company, drawing attention from more Simpson students.
Light Company, led by pastor Geoff Safford, is the college ministry of New Heights Church in Indianola. It hosts 75 Simpson students every Thursday night. “The main goal of Light Company is to help students grasp the story of God and their place in that story,” Safford said. Light Company, a ministry for college students, grows out of local churches. It emphasizes authentic worship and applicable, relevant lessons from the Bible. Safford started Salt in Indianola in the fall of 2012 after helping found New Heights, where he serves as the lead pastor. When Salt began in Indianola, six students regularly attended the weekly service.
Salt recently shifted its focus as an organization, pursuing colleges with over ten thousand students. It already had branches in Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Falls. Indianola’s location could have been grandfathered in but would not be allowed to plant new Salt branches, so the leadership team made the decision to rebrand. “Everybody gets it when we’re supposed to be a light to the world. They understand spiritual implications of the word. People get ‘Light Company,’” Safford said. Simpson is the first branch of Light Company. Southwestern Community College in Creston has established a branch, and Grinnell College, Western Iowa Community College, and Buena Vista University have plans for branches of their own.
“The main goal of Light Company is to help students grasp the story of God and their place in that story,” Safford said. Light Company, a ministry for college students, grows out of local churches. It emphasizes authentic worship and applicable, relevant lessons from the Bible. “Everybody gets it when we’re supposed to be a light to the world. They understand spiritual implications of the word. People get ‘Light Company,’” Safford said.
Simpson senior Erica Heidler works as an intern for Light in Indianola. “Salt’s idea didn’t change. We stayed true to who we are, and our missions are the same,” Heidler said. She has attended Salt since the beginning of her freshman year. Heidler believes in the power of this ministry on campus, as she has gained the ability to talk about her own faith and have deep conversations with others. “We want to be a light for this campus because there is a lot of darkness, and we are equipping students to live out their faith in a way that shines light,” Heidler said.
Several opportunities for student engagement lie beyond the weekly worship and sermon. Connection groups meet weekly, allowing students to break down the messages in small groups led by upperclassmen. Mission trips and service outings throughout the year provide ways for students to live out their faiths. These trips might be offered through Simpson for May Term credit in the future.
Simpson sophomore Alex Hoffman started going to Salt last spring. According to Hoffman, the atmosphere has remained the same throughout the rebranding process. “At the end of the week, I can feel kind of drained, and Light does a good job of challenging me and pushing me to reflect God more in my life,” Hoffman said. He also serves on the leadership team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus.
Light is not affiliated with Simpson, and since it is not part of the college’s Religious Life Community (RLC), it cannot meet on campus. “Our perspective is to be completely inclusive in our invitation but exclusive in our message: Jesus alone is life,” Safford said. Light sees Christianity as the only way to get to Heaven, while religious life at Simpson accepts any belief.
These opposing theological beliefs explain why students don’t often attend both programs. All on-campus religious life programming must be approved by Simpson College Chaplain Mara Bailey. She abides by religious life guidelines set for the whole campus, assessing whether or not RLC already provides the services requested. Bailey is the pastor for Simpson’s campus worship service, which hosts 30 students every week. She says the nondenominational service meets the needs of those who “are spiritual but not religious.” Simpson RLC works to meet the needs of every student, regardless of religious affiliation. It offers Bible studies and small groups, differing each semester based on demand. Fall and spring break trips across the country offer service opportunities for students. The interfaith community explores different beliefs by hosting various events meant to teach students about other religions and beliefs.
Bailey meets with Safford every semester to catch up and see how the two organizations can support each other. “I really appreciate everything RLC provides for Simpson students and their emphasis on reaching as many students as they can. They do a phenomenal job of connecting with students,” Safford said. New Heights Church, home to Light, occasionally provides a meal for Food for the Soul, a weekly dinner free to students hosted by RLC. “RLC is ecumenical and representative of different traditions. We find a way to bring a variety of beliefs to one place and gather as a community. We don’t have the identity of a specific denomination like Light Company. We just have different missions and approach them differently,” Bailey said.
While Light Company might not be affiliated with Simpson, it still captures the attention of many of its students. Students seeking a college ministry focusing on a the Gospel message of Jesus’ redemptive power can go off campus to find it. They just have to walk a couple blocks.