World Help founder and Liberty University graduate Vernon Brewer kicked off LU’s first convocation of the new semester on Monday.
“You don’t have to wait until you hold that [diploma] in your hand to act. You can become an activist today. You can make an impact. You can change the world right here from Liberty University,” Brewer told students in a message about reaching out to those in need.
He recalled a powerful story about how a mission trip several LU students took a few years ago helped change one little boy’s life forever. At the time, Brewer was on the LU staff as the vice president in charge of student missions, and he was leading about 50 students on a short-term mission trip to Brazil. The team worked on a construction project and also put on Christian musical performances in the street.
After one of the performances, his two daughters, who were in high school at the time, came to him with tears in their eyes. They had a tiny 5-year-old street orphan with them, who was wearing only dirty underwear and no shoes, and he was hungry. Brewer gave his daughters money to buy the boy something to eat, and the boy crammed it into his mouth quickly.
Next the girls asked if they could buy the boy some clothes. Brewer reached into his pocket again, and the girls went to a local mall along with another missionary to shop for the boy. He came back proudly wearing a yellow jogging suit and a pair of sneakers.
Meanwhile, the mission team had finished another street concert, and the police told them they had to leave. In the shuffle, the little boy was left standing in the street, waving at the team as they drove away. It moved one of the LU students — also once an orphan — to tears.
Back at the team’s hotel, after listening to his daughters talk about how they couldn’t just leave the boy on the street, Brewer got on the telephone and found a Christian children’s home that would take care of him for $400 a year.
The LU students hardly had any money left with them because they were nearing the end of their trip, and another pastor tried to comfort Brewer by saying there are 1 billion street children in Brazil and that they couldn’t help all of them.
“But we can help this one,” Brewer said.
He told the students he was passing a hat for Jesus, and they filled it with $800. The group then went back to find the boy.
“It took them nearly an hour to find him two blocks away, huddled up in an abandoned warehouse, beaten by the older street kids who had stolen his jogging suit and stolen his shoes. I will never forget the sight of my daughters holding that beaten little boy in their arms, walking back with tears in their eyes,” he said.
They asked the boy if he would like to live in a Christian home, and he said yes. The group attempted to give him a shower before they took him to the home, but he wouldn’t take off the new shoes they’d bought him. Brewer ended up holding the shoes up so that the boy could see them the entire time he showered.
Later, Brewer told his daughters how pleased he was with their compassion.
“If you never do another good deed the rest of your life, you have changed this little boy’s life,” he said.
A year later, Brewer went back to Brazil and found the boy — clean, healthy, high-spirited and a follower of Christ. He handed the boy a framed picture of his family, and the boy exclaimed that it was his American family. He carried the photo everywhere.
Brewer used this story as an example of how young people can make a difference for Christ. Besides impacting a single orphan boy, that trip to Brazil made a profound impression upon the students themselves. Six of them later became full-time missionaries; five more joined the World Help staff; two are serving as local pastors. One is a missionary in Iraq, and one is Michael Tait, the Christian recording artist formerly of D.C. Talk.
After telling his story, Brewer contrasted the lives of two sets of older people. One woman died after spending her life helping others, and the other couple retired early and spent their life cruising around, playing softball and collecting shells. The first lady’s death is less of a tragedy, Brewer said, telling students that the other couple may only have seashells to show Jesus when they give an account for their lives someday.
“Every day I try to live my life in such a way that I’ve accomplished at least one thing that will outlive me and last for eternity, something that will change the world. Every one of us this morning has an opportunity to do just that,” said Brewer, a cancer survivor.
He encouraged students to consider taking one of the 11 short-term mission trips that LU will offer this year. Brewer also informed students about World Help’s latest project – Cause Life. More than 1 billion people in the world lack access to clean water. Drinking unsafe water causes than 2 million deaths each year, and 90 percent of those deaths are children. Cause Life aims to change that.
“I challenge you, change your perspective. Change your life, and while you’re at it, change the world,” he said.
World Help, a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization founded to meet the spiritual and physical needs of hurting people around the world, has conducted international evangelistic campaigns and rallies in more than 67 foreign countries and has taken over 4,000 people into the mission field. World Help’s headquarters are in nearby Forest, Va. Look for an article about Brewer and his son, who currently attends LU, in an upcoming edition of “Liberty Journal” magazine. Click here to read Brewer’s blog about Monday’s convocation.
A new choir of World Help’s Children of the World singers delivered its first U.S. performance at Monday’s convocation, prior to Vernon Brewer’s talk. The choir drew strong applause from the student body. The children, from nations all around the world and dressed in clothing from their respective countries, sang and danced to inspire students to take their Christian vision to a global level.
Liberty University's Campus Praise Band led three worship songs at Monday's convocation: “Praise is Rising,” “Famous One,” and “Everlasting God.”
Campus pastor and LU's Vice President for Executive Projects and Media Relations Johnnie Moore delivered the opening prayer at Monday’s convocation. Later, he told students, “You are in a different university… . Our mission flies in the face of the narcissism of this world that says, ‘I matter the most’ and of the hedonism that says pleasure is the number one priority. Welcome to Liberty.”
Moore made several event announcements:
• LU’s first missions meeting is tonight (Monday, Aug. 24) at 8 p.m. in the Towns Alumni Center
• Campus church (Aperture) starts this Wednesday in the Vines Center, and LU is looking for a crew willing to help with it.
• Liberty’s “All Night of Prayer” tradition is this Friday.
• Saturday is the grand opening of the Snowflex Centre at 1 p.m., followed by the Block Party at 5 p.m.