Wes Pfuntner, a Cru® intern at the University of Central Florida, helps move equipment for the group’s meetings. In January 2023 a room wasn’t available, so they gathered on the roof of a parking garage similar to this one. More than 260 students attended.

Redirection Happening Within a Central Florida Campus

words by

Danielle Montgomery

photos by

Mick Haupt

published in

June 2024

Wes Pfuntner loads equipment onto the trailer for Cru®’s weekly meetings at the University of Central Florida. Each Thursday evening, rain or shine, he sets up and takes down gear.

He works hard to create a functional space for Cru’s student members to enjoy despite challenges he's faced personally. Wes experienced pushback from his family when he chose to accept a one-year ministry internship with Cru rather than jump right into his engineering career after graduation.

CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner Giulianna Muñoz-Ortega, a part-time Cru® staff member at UCF who works with the Greek system, shares a message with about 300 students at a weekly meeting. Students gather for “Cru Thursday” at Live Oak event center on campus to worship, hear testimonies and listen to messages.

“Yeah, sure, I could have been doing engineering. I love engineering. But since I’ve been here — what, two months? — it’s been incredible. It's been hard,  but I definitely see why God called me to do this for a year.”

Wes Pfuntner, about his internship

He sensed God’s call, however, and chose to follow.

That redirection of his life only reflects a pattern of what God did in his faith earlier, and what God is doing in the lives of other UCF students. And each such redirection is proving to significantly shape the faith of UCF's Cru students.

While growing up in Tallahassee, Florida, Wes only heard about God when he visited his grandparents. Not until his senior year of high school did he become a Christian, thanks to a church in Tallahassee that sought out high schoolers.

After graduating in 2018, he went off to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. There, Wes and one of his friends met a senior who took them both under his wing. This same senior invited them to Welcome Week events on campus and to game nights where pizza was served. Wes also got involved with Cru on the nearby University of Florida campus.

CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner Though ministry and cultivating friendships take up a majority of Wes’ schedule, he enjoys hitting golf balls on the driving range in his downtime.

“I will never forget that intentionality. … I definitely remind myself [that] I can have that same impact on someone coming to campus. We all come into college [and] we’re on our own.”

Although Wes was a Christian for some years and wanted to help others, he says he felt ill-equipped to lead despite being challenged by Cru staff in Gainesville to step into a leadership role.

He was motivated to get the experience he needed on a 2019 Lake Tahoe summer mission trip sponsored by Cru. There, he experienced sharing his faith for the first time. He and another student approached a man who vehemently shooed them away after hearing they were Christians. It proved to Wes that he could weather good or bad outcomes while stepping out in faith.

“Came back from that and I was like, alright, I feel confident leading the group… That was the big change for me.”

Wes transferred to UCF in 2020. His positive experience with Cru in Gainesville while attending the University of Florida Cru weekly meetings made him willing to step out and move into a leadership role on campus.

Gabe Barker (freshman) Wes meets with Gabe Barker to work on Gabe’s testimony, which he will be sharing at an upcoming Thursday night Cru® meeting.
CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner Cru® staff members at UCF take time to approach students on campus, get to know them and share the gospel. Wes (right) and another staff member, Juliet Hardway, sit across from a young man as they initiate a spiritual conversation with him.

Three years later, during the 2022-2023 school year, Wes also served as student vice president of Cru at UCF. In that role, he shared oversight of the weekly Thursday meeting —  an important connecting point for students to hear encouraging spiritual messages and experience Christian community together.

CSL UCF stort on Wes Pfuntner Hundreds of students gather atop a parking garage on campus to kick off the spring 2023 semester. (Photo by Bobby Hegedish)

At the University of Central Florida, it is not unusual to host events at the top of a parking garage, enjoying warm weather year-round. Bands even perform there.

In January 2023, Wes realized that Cru needed to rely on the unconventional meeting place, too, when he couldn’t secure the group’s usual location. Within a few hours, he had hauled all of the equipment into cars to drive up the several levels of the garage. Waiting at the top, other students and Cru staff set up everything for a night of worship, followed by a testimony and an illuminating message from the speaker for the group of 260 students who gathered.

Since January 2023, Wes has grown tremendously in his relationship with the Lord and his ability to surrender more to God. During one of Cru’s winter conferences that same semester, Wes felt a deep nudge from God — calling him to intern with Cru.

CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner One of Wes’ downtime joys is rebuilding a 1969 Camaro — using his engineering knowledge and love of problem-solving to keep his engineering skills sharp.

“Working for Cru was not an idea I had in my head. Not even a little. I was dead set: I’m going to be an engineer.”

Though a jump start on his engineering career after college would’ve meant a bigger paycheck, his family’s approval and being able to apply his degree quickly in the workforce, Wes says that he could hardly contain himself when he felt the weight of God’s calling aching inside his chest.

“At that moment, it really burned inside of me, like, you got to do this. So I eventually just accepted [it]. ... [I] got up and pulled Aaron [my mentor] aside and told him.”

CSL UCF story about Wes Pfuntner Cru® staff member Bobby Hegedish works with Wes. Together, they travel to the Florida Institute of Technology in nearby Melbourne to visit the Cru movement there.

After graduating in May 2023, Wes began his internship in August. Since then, Cru staff member Bobby Hegedish has seen Wes really “own” his faith.


“I’ve seen him grow significantly in his personal faith since he applied to intern,” Bobby says. “He hates letting people down. … When he decided after winter conference he was going to apply, despite what his family and specifically his dad would say, that was huge. That was a turning point.”

Bobby Hegedish
CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner Wes leads several men in his community group on Wednesdays. He enjoys taking them out to eat and checking in with them frequently.
CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner At the end of each semester, the community group leaders whom Wes (center) mentors engage in an intense night of laser tag. Strategy and laughter fill the moments between sessions.

“[Wes] always seems to have a smile on his face, and he’s just super happy to be there [at Cru].”

Carlie Cichielo, a student leader at UCF

Wes leads a community group of guys who live in the Academic Village, a group of dorms on campus. Though this is not the job he thought he’d have just a year ago, he’s encouraged.

During a student leaders’ meeting in spring 2023, students had been challenged prior to consider becoming leaders for the upcoming year. Carlie noticed many students from Wes’ group stand up.

Leadership multiplication happens, Wes believes, when student leaders like himself continue challenging their friends to step up. Sometimes a student voices hesitancy about his or her ability to lead, as Wes himself once did. Those students are then invited into ministry opportunities where they can gain the skills and confidence they will need — a valuable redirection. 

Julia Gibbs, Cru president 2022-2023 at UCF, also attributes the growing number of student leaders to campus outreach. For example, at one freshman orientation event, students poured out of the arena and toward the football stadium, passing tables manned by various clubs — including Cru. Both freshmen and upperclassmen expressed curiosity about Cru.

staff and students hand out free hot dogs During a football game tailgate party on campus, staff members and student leaders hand out more than 1,100 free hotdogs as a way to connect with students and spread the word about Cru® at UCF. Student leader Emily Oldham (left) helps students load up their hot dogs with condiments.
CSL UCF stort on Wes Pfuntner Cru® works to maintain good partnership relationships with other campus ministries, like Reformed University Fellowship.

Student leaders and staff members provide other reasons for multiplication on the UCF campus.

Wes Pfuntner estimates that at least 20 more student leaders serve with Cru® in Central Florida this school year than last, which brings the total to between 80 and 90 student leaders. 

Carlie Cichiel, a sophomore at UCF,  attributes the sudden increase in student leaders and new Cru staff members to two things: staff positivity and personal challenges. She remembers seeing staff members express joy while God worked through them. And she, too, was challenged when she was not sure about leading but later said yes.

Cru staff member Bobby Hegedish , says, “The average student is kind of coming out of COVID and coming back to campus for the first time and just wanting to be around others.”

Julia Gibbs, current student leader and president of Cru during 2022-2023, agrees. “Building momentum after COVID has really helped,” she says. But she also adds that “most people in Cru, especially the leaders, are ‘all in,’” which she believes increases engagement for students.

Wes continues to encourage students and student leaders. He hopes to impress upon them what their faith could look like when they surrender their life to God as he did last spring.

Cru Preview Weekend at Lake Hart in Nov 2023 At this November 2023 preview weekend for prospective Cru® interns and staff members, Wes shares why he decided to intern and what the experience has been like.

In spring 2024, Wes will be one of several Cru leaders helping to shepherd a mission trip to Bosnia for college students. This will be his first trip serving with Cru as a nonstudent.

CSL UCF story on Wes Pfuntner The University of Central Florida is the second largest university by enrollment in the U.S. It boasts a student body of over 59,000 undergraduates, not counting graduate students and M.D. students. A pride of the university is its marching band, with 416 musicians and cheerleaders.

While Wes awaits his departure to Bosnia, there will be plenty of other Cru mission trips taking place at the same time. As Wes learned in Lake Tahoe, mission trips can be a great way to boost anyone’s confidence to eventually shepherd others.

And Wes also experienced God’s care as the Lord’s plan for his life used a redirection Wes didn’t anticipate through his Cru internship, but one that helped him mature spiritually as he also ministered to and served others.

Next Steps

Wes made it a point to become more confident in his discipleship capabilities. Learn how you can grow in this area too.

Next Steps

Wes encouraged prospective freshmen to consider an internship with Cru. Find out more about interning with Cru.

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