Apr 28, 2009
by Aubrey Blankenship & Brooke Mcdowell
Each Saturday morning while most students are still sleeping off a full week of classes, a group of about 200 students make their way to room 1114 in DeMoss Hall. After a time of praise and prayer they split off into 12 groups, drive off campus and disperse into the Lynchburg community. Meet CampusSERVE, a student-led ministry.
“Liberty University is not just some private college on the mountain. We care about others, we care about the city of Lynchburg, we love the Lord and we’re willing to serve in any way possible,” sophomore Hannah Eason said.
This ministry offers students the opportunity to help others in the community. “(The students) get a chance to look at people different from them and say, ‘I want to use my life to reach out to them,’” CampusSERVE Supervisor Kevin Mahan said.
CampusSERVE spreads to 12 different sites — eight urban, two elderly care, one evangelism and one service project called Helps – in order to minister to community members ranging from inner-city children to the elderly. Like Eason, who serves at the College Hill site in downtown Lynchburg, most of the students spend time with children each weekend.
“We go around the neighborhood and pick up any kids whose parents grant permission and then take them to the community center and park a few blocks away,” Eason said. “I have left CampusSERVE feeling on top of the world because a little kid said he had fun and his parent smiled when we returned him.”
Others spend time talking, reading and singing with the elderly at senior living communities.
“Most of the residents do not have constant visitors or companionship, and they begin to lose their hope and faith,” junior Brianna Crockett, site leader for The Summit, said. “The relationships that we form with them are some of the most honest and loving relationships that we have. Many of them will ask each week if the students are getting paid.”
Regardless of the site, all students involved in CampusSERVE hope to show the people of Lynchburg that they care and point them to the love of Christ.
“The goal of Helps is to evangelize and disciple people in the local community through building relationships by way of meeting practical needs first,” sophomore Wesley Winebarger said. Winebarrger is the site leader for the service project branch. “We have been able to repair homes, yards and have even begun to repair broken lives.”
Students feel privileged to receive back from the people they serve.
“Some (residents of Lynchburg) have offered us help in return (through) food or drink, delightful conversations and any number of other things,” Winebarger said. “The best thing that they have offered is their friendship. One of my best friends is Martel, a 20-year-old guy in downtown Lynchburg.”
CampusSERVE’s consistent ministry draws thanks from the community. The Helps group knocked on the door of Jenny West’s house in downtown Lynchburg and helped her with yard work.
“They were all delightful. They had pleasant and wonderful personalities,” West said. “I’m glad I had a chance to meet some students from Liberty. They enlightened me and gave me a positive view of Liberty.
Although they return to the same sites each week, students seek creative ways to minister., like a pair of weekly student-led Bible studies that have sprung up through Helps ministry in area homes.
“It has been incredible to witness the changes in lives that have already come through the Bible study,” Winebarger said.
In order to relate to more people at The Summit, students have developed new ways to reach the residents.
“We used to only visit the rehabilitation and permanent residents where we walk around and make conversation, read passages from the Bible and pray,” Crockett said. “But now God has given us the ability to expand and do a church service for the assisted living residents.”
The philosophy of CampusSERVE is about having an impact on others’ lives through developing personal relationships.
“Any time you build a relationship with someone their life is changed,” Mahan said.
Their ultimate goal, however, is to point people toward Jesus and have them transformed by a personal relationship with him.