Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Liberty gets involved

Christian service impacts the community through students

Wet paint ran down the side of the newly-built wheelchair ramp in downtown Lynchburg as Liberty University students exchanged smiles and raced to catch the drips with their already-saturated brushes. Last year, 305,000 community service hours were performed by Liberty students through activities such as building wheelchair ramps, remodeling homes, or visiting with people in the community. Many opportunities are listed online each semester on Liberty’s site to enable students to get involved in their local community impacting the lives of others as they gain Christian service hours.

Since the founding of Liberty in 1971, Christian service (CSER) has been required from students. According to Liberty’s website, both Jerry Falwell Jr. and Jerry Falwell Sr. have described this graduation requirement in previous years as a way for Liberty students to put biblical knowledge into practice and to emulate Jesus’ servant-like attitude.

“Love God, love your neighbor, leave a mark,” Will Honeycutt, the assistant director for CSER, said. “If we’re out there, loving on people and serving them, it gives us an opportunity to share the Gospel.”

According to CSER Coordinator Darren Wu, students were able to branch out to service activities off campus beginning in the 1990s.

“It can easily become a homework assignment, when in reality it instills values,” Liberty senior Audrey Anderson said.

According to Liberty’s website, students are able to complete their CSER at the YMCA, Special Olympics Virginia, American Cancer Society, Alliance for Families and Children of Central Virginia, Sparc House, Jubilee Family Development Center or even serve as decoys for search and rescue dogs of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, among others.

“I plan on seeing what the needs are in the community and getting involved by showing love and compassion,” Liberty transfer student Josh Baker said.

Sometimes, Liberty students reach out to a struggling member of society and quickly become a monumental influence in that person’s life — such as with Bridgette Wells, a junior at Liberty.

Wells became involved in Christian service through Rebuilding Together, an organization that rehabilitates the houses of low-income homeowners. It was through this program that Wells met Debbie, an elderly woman who Wells bonded with over house work.

“While this project’s purpose was for me to help Debbie, she honestly really influenced my life,” Wells said. “She taught me how to love unconditionally and how to designate my time and effort to a specific person and project.”

According to Wu, CSER requirements are generally well received by students.

“When asked if Liberty should continue to require CSER, only ten percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the CSER requirement,” Wu said.

CSER also allows students to gain practical experience in their designated area of study. Jinkyung An, a senior at Liberty, is majoring in classical piano and gains extra practice by serving as the pianist at her local church. An said that this practice highlights her skill as a student pianist and allows her to list the experience on a future job resume.

“If they’re connecting their Christian service to their major, then it enhances their career fields after college,” Liberty professor Robert Van Engen said.

Students are required to obtain 20 hours of community service each semester, beginning their sophomore year at Liberty, totaling a minimum of 120 hours for four-year graduates.

“It will change your entire walk of life and with God,” Wells said. “Cling to that requirement and do more than what is asked. Twenty hours is so easy, so double that, triple it if you can.”

For more information regarding Christian service and ways to get involved, visit Liberty’s website.

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