During the last formal Convocation of the spring semester, the American Bible Society (ABS) presented its 2014 Pilgrim Award for Workplace Evangelism to President Jerry Falwell in recognition of his commitment to a lifetime of Christian service.
ABS has existed for nearly 200 years with a mission to make the Bible available to every person in every language. The Pilgrim Award was created in 2008 and its first recipient (for whom it was named) was Texas businessman Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, founder of Pilgrim’s, one of the world’s largest chicken processors.
ABS Vice President Charlie Krueger (pictured at left), who joined Pilgrim (center) on the Convocation stage, said that Pilgrim never forgot to give God the glory and that President Falwell has done the same at Liberty.
“The vision that God put into the heart of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell many years ago to build a world-class university continues today in the heart and the life of his son, President Jerry Falwell,” Krueger said. “We are here to honor him for his leadership in fulfilling the Great Commission around the world, for the many evangelistic outreaches of this great institution, and for keeping the main thing in mind, which is to train Champions for Christ.”
Falwell said he was honored to receive an award named after Pilgrim, but noted “the true heroes of Liberty University are the faculty, the staff, and the students who have sacrificed for years at Liberty, and angels like Bo Pilgrim, who loaned us money when we were first starting out.”
“Pilgrim was one of those people who did not know much about us, but he believed in us when we needed it most,” Falwell said.
Pilgrim addressed the students, praising the work of Liberty and talking about his evangelical booklet, “Good News for Modern Man,” of which he has personally distributed over 100,000 copies.
“I love Liberty because it teaches you how to make a living, and it teaches you how to live. You cannot beat that combination,” Pilgrim said.
He then surprised students with an even larger donation — each student in attendance (about 10,000) was handed a booklet with a $20 bill tucked inside, a personal gift from Bo Pilgrim totaling $200,000. The organization also presented the university with a $10,000 donation.
|Liberty University graduates Todd Lamphere (’87, left) and Randal Miller (’83).|
It began as a burden to pray for another man’s need.
Liberty University alumnus Randal Miller (’83), an evangelist from Altamonte Springs, Fla., had been suffering for years due to kidney failure and was in need of a transplant. While on a mission trip to Germany in 2012, his teammates prayed for him. But one teammate, his pastor Todd Lamphere (’87), felt God call him to do more than just pray; he decided to find out if he was a match to Miller so he could donate his own kidney.
Though both men had attended Liberty at the same time (Lamphere first came to Liberty in 1980 before taking a break to join the military), their paths had only crossed when Miller and his wife, Dwan, became members of Lamphere’s church, First Baptist Church Altamonte Springs, in 2010.
Though the kidney ailment and treatment had robbed Miller of his energy — to the point that he was unable to preach and work full time — Miller suffered in relative silence.
“I never asked God why. I clung to God’s promises,” Miller said. “I truly believed that God knew what He was doing.”
Before the trip, Lamphere was aware of Miller’s affliction, but the severity of it became evident as the two ministered overseas. Lamphere witnessed the struggles of dialysis, and during the night he heard the sounds of Miller’s discomfort coming from the room next door. It was there he felt God compel him to do more than pray.
After feeling the call to action, Lamphere approached Miller and asked if there was anything more he could do. Miller asked if he would consider being tested as a kidney donor. Lamphere said yes.
The transplant took place on Oct. 25, 2013. Miller was in the hospital for about 10 days and Lamphere for about three. Since then, the recovery has been miraculous for both.
Both Miller and Lamphere say their time at Liberty was important in shaping them for the rest of their lives. They each emphasized the incredible sense of vision that Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, instilled in those around him and said his vision is what still motivates them to this day.
“What we all took away (from Liberty) was Jerry’s dream to produce Champions for Christ,” Miller said. “It equipped me for ministry big time.”
“I learned to be a person of vision and a person of courage to fulfill everything God has placed on your heart to do,” Lamphere added.
On Jan. 26, Miller preached for the first time since the transplant, sharing his testimony at Lamphere’s new church, The Venue Church. More than 30 people came forward to accept Christ that day. Though he is not yet able to do any all-day events, Miller is speaking regularly again and said his strength is returning more and more each day.
Though Lamphere is considered to be a hero by many — to Miller especially — he humbly dodges the accolades.
“The real heroes are the Randal Millers of the world,” he said. “Those beautiful people who battle day in and day out with life-threatening, life-altering illnesses and choose to suit up each day, put a smile on their face, love their God, and serve their world.”
He hopes their own story will increase awareness of the need for organ donors.
“There is no reason why Christians shouldn’t at least be signing the donor card,” Lamphere said. “For me it is all worth it. The big picture is that Miller is back preaching the Word, and people are coming to know Jesus. Life is good.”
Drew Dickinson, a 1990 graduate of Liberty, serves as the Midwest regional vice president of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, one of the largest insurance and financial service companies in the world. As a vice president at Nationwide, Dickinson is responsible for the growth and profitability of over 1 million automobile, home, and commercial insurance policies in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
One year after graduating from Liberty with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Dickinson began working with Nationwide’s Lynchburg, Va., branch. He worked his way up through opportunities at multiple branches throughout the country. Since 2007, he has been working in the company’s home base in Columbus, Ohio.
Dickinson said his time at Liberty was essential to his success in the business world. Liberty helped to shape him both professionally and spiritually, teaching him business tactics that would help him be successful while reinforcing his Christian beliefs and strengthening his faith.
“It’s a balance of both worlds,” Dickinson said. “Liberty provides an excellent education, which is necessary, but it also has the faith-based component, which it has never steered away from. It has stayed true to reinforcing the Christian faith and belief.”
Everyone defines success differently, Dickinson said, but for him, it is measured by faith and family — a perspective that he says was fortified while at Liberty.
Liberty was where he met his wife of nearly 25 years, Karie. The couple has three children. Their daughter, Courtney, a recent graduate, married former Flames Basketball player Jesse Sanders. Their wedding in Liberty’s prayer chapel was a nostalgic moment because the Dickinsons had been married there as well.
Drew Dickinson said he was impressed to see the university’s growth since he was a student.
“Having the new amenities on campus is as important to the social life as it is to the foundation. You want to have the faith-based component and the educational piece, but you have to have those other parts and pieces. It’s a great investment in the university. Liberty’s potential is unlimited.”
Dickinson is excited that he was able to support bringing his company and alma mater together. Nationwide has partnered with Liberty’s Alumni Relations Office to provide special discounts on Nationwide auto insurance to alumni of the university.
Dr. Allen McFarland, vice chairman of the Liberty University Board of Trustees and a theology professor at Liberty, was listed as one of the 70 Most Influential Black Christian History Makers for 2012-13 by the Black Christian News Network.
“It is very humbling for me to be named one of the nation’s most influential black Christian history makers,” McFarland said. “Leaving a legacy for others to follow requires time and effort. Honor should not be something you seek. We should seek to be faithful and leave success to the Lord.”
McFarland is the senior pastor at Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va. He received his B.A. in Pastoral Studies from Liberty as well as a Master of Divinity, Doctor of Divinity, and a Doctor of Ministry from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been a member of Liberty’s board for more than 20 years and has taught Theology 201 and 202 for 13 years in the School of Religion. He travels to campus every Monday to teach.
McFarland said his experience at Liberty has given him the opportunity to serve the Lord throughout the world.
He first visited Liberty in 1977 and soon enrolled as a student after realizing his call from God was to become a pastor. He and his wife, Doris, have five children, who have all received degrees from Liberty.
“As I rehearse the journeys of my life, I am reminded of many struggles, hardships, and challenges,” McFarland said. “Yet, God was with me all the way, and I look forward to what He will continue to do through me.”
At 29, Liberty University graduate Pat Doney (’07) has already had tremendous success in his career as a sports reporter. He has won several awards for excellence in sports broadcasting, including the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award. Working for NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, one of the nation’s five largest television markets, Doney had the opportunity in February to travel to Sochi, Russia, to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“This was a dream come true,” Doney said. “I didn’t know if I would ever get the opportunity to do something like this, and now, to have already experienced it, I can’t believe it.”
Doney spent 27 days in Russia, where he worked as much as 15 hours a day. He did live shots, feature segments, and one-on-one interviews with about 17 medalists, including gold-medal winners such as ice dancing duo Charlie White and Meryl Davis, alpine ski racers Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety, freestyle skier Maddie Bowman, and snowboarder Sage Kotenburg.
Doney is a full-time reporter and anchor in Dallas, where he lives with his wife, Liberty alumna Sheleena (’07), and their 1-year-old daughter, Barlow. His job includes following the Dallas Cowboys, which takes him all over the country. After graduating from Liberty, Doney worked his way up in the sports broadcasting arena, covering some of the largest events in the country, including the Kentucky Derby and the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
Doney said Liberty prepared him well for early success in his career. He studied broadcasting (now Digital Media & Communication Arts) in the School of Communication & Creative Arts and was impressed with the amount of practical experience he received while in school.
Coming to Liberty as a freshman, the southern California native knew he wanted a career in sports broadcasting and started working at Liberty’s student-run radio station, 90.9 FM The Light. He earned an internship at a Los Angeles television station after only one year of college.
“They said they were going to turn me away because I was a freshman,” Doney said of the L.A. station. “But they were really impressed with how much stuff I had done at Liberty.”
From doing play-by-play for 90.9 FM to writing sports columns for the Liberty Champion student newspaper, Doney said the hands-on training Liberty offered was invaluable as he pursued a job in his field.
“There is no way for you to improve in broadcasting without doing it with the red light on,” Doney said. “Liberty allowed me to do that.”
After feeling called by God to minister to his own people, alumnus Fares Abufarha (’04) founded Levant Ministries, a nonprofit organization focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with Arabic-speaking people and Muslims around the world.
Abufarha was born in Beit Sahour, a small village near Bethlehem in the Holy Land.
Abufarha’s organization ministers to Arabs by working with existing local churches, planting new churches for outreach and evangelism, hosting four to five large events per year, and presenting the Gospel directly whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“It’s a very unstable part of the world. The Arab World doesn’t need new governments as much as they need the Gospel,” Abufarha said. “We have it, so let’s give it to them.”
Abufarha has been a frequent guest at numerous Christian conferences all over the world and has produced multiple audio projects and TV shows that air via satellite channels around the globe.
Last December, Abufarha received an invitation from the Palestinian Authority to speak at a Christmas Eve program in Bethlehem, allowing him to share the Gospel with 10,000 people and millions more who watched on TV and online.
Abufarha was given the opportunity to attend Liberty in 2000 after receiving a scholarship for Palestinians created by Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell.
“During my senior year (at Liberty), God really changed my life. This was when I decided I wanted to follow Jesus,” Abufarha said. “God used so many people in my life — professors, faculty members, and staff. My life was changed, and I’m so grateful for that.”
After receiving his bachelor’s in business from Liberty, Abufarha worked in Washington, D.C., developing training systems to teach Arabic to senior linguistics and language analysts in various government and private sectors. He worked with high-ranking officers and quickly became an expert in the field. Abufarha also holds an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix.
During his nine years serving in Washington, Abufarha and his wife, Soha, actively served Arab communities all over the world, including in the U.S., Canada, the Middle East, and Australia. In 2013, God opened the door for him to start his own ministry.
“It doesn’t matter what I’ve accomplished in corporate America or personally — the most important thing is what I accomplish for the kingdom,” Abufarha said. “The mission is to share the Gospel boldly and bluntly with Arab-speaking people and Muslims all over the world. We believe at Levant that we have what it takes to get the vision accomplished.”
Liberty University’s Center for Christian/Community Service (CSER) awarded senior Samuel Morrison the CSER Volunteer of the Year Award during Convocation on April 18. The award is presented annually to a student whose work demonstrates Liberty’s mission to serve others and glorify God within the community. Morrison was recognized for the work he has done at a local Lynchburg high school, E.C. Glass.
Morrison volunteered with the high school’s football team from the fall 2012 season to the spring 2014 off-season. His supervisor, varsity assistant football coach Tim Peterson, nominated Morrison for the award because of his commitment and positive attitude.
“While fulfilling his duties, he was always willing to listen, learn, and make himself and those around him better,” Peterson said. “He was a role model for the younger players, as they were always aware of his hard work, dedication, and leadership.”
Liberty students are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of Christian service each semester before they receive their diplomas, but many students, like Morrison, go above and beyond the requirement.
Peterson said that Morrison volunteered more than 300 hours each fall semester and 125 hours each spring semester working with freshman, junior varsity, and varsity teams on the field and in study hall.
Morrison chose to coach because he missed his days playing football in high school and wanted to make an impact on the local community. In between taking students to their physical therapy appointments or staying late to review film with coaches, Morrison said he learned that serving in the community was much more than fulfilling graduation requirements.
“I coach because it gives me an opportunity to pour into kids’ lives and be there for them,” Morrison said. “It has helped me grow as a Christian because it has made me realize that this life really is not about what I can do for myself, but about ways I can help others.”
Liberty University School of Aeronautics (SOA) honored Sherwin Cook, a member of Liberty’s Board of Trustees, during a ceremony on March 13. The SOA named its aircraft mechanic training center the Sherwin Cook A&P (Airframe and Power Plant) Center, in honor of Cook’s longstanding support of the university’s aeronautics program.
According to retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics, Cook funded the equipment needed to begin the aircraft mechanic training program, leading to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval and certification.
“The program has enjoyed a 100 percent employment rate for our graduates, and without Mr. Cook’s support this would not have been possible,” Young said. “These graduates are now making a difference as Christians in the aviation industry. Mr. Cook has continued to provide assistance to the SOA, and we are extremely appreciative of his support and friendship.”
Cook has lived in Lynchburg since the 1960s and has been a successful restaurant owner. He has been a faithful supporter of Liberty since the school was founded. In 2010, Cook and his wife, Lora, provided the lead gift for the operations center for Liberty’s men’s and women’s tennis programs, called the Cook Tennis Center. Cook also donated a local tennis and racquetball facility, The Sports Racket, to Liberty. The club has five indoor tennis courts, five indoor racquetball courts, and five outdoor tennis courts.
Those who have been positively impacted by Liberty University have waved the school’s colors proudly, from mountaintops to the tundra of Antarctica.
One Liberty parent planted a red Liberty flag at the South Pole this winter. Maj. David Panzera, a pilot on active duty with the U.S. Air Force’s 109th Airlift Wing, made the excursion with a Liberty flag in tow on what could be his last deployment to Antarctica after flying there for 17 years.
At the time, his son, Jonathon, was a freshman. David Panzera said his desire was to acknowledge Liberty’s success as a university that seeks to produce Champions for Christ in every profession.
“For me as a parent, I’m extraordinarily happy that my son is in a Christ-centered environment,” Panzera said. “They (Liberty) really focus on a life of Christian service — a life of being a Christian first and then in another area second. I wanted to honor the school by taking a university flag to a place where Liberty has never sent a representative — the South Pole.”
The flag was flown at McMurdo Station and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
On the other side of the globe, recent graduate Dylan Nace took a spring break trip to New Hampshire to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 feet, and posted a Liberty flag.
Nace joined his brother, Darick Nace (’12), and their friend, seminary student Nathan Cantu. Dylan Nace said they took the flag to the peak to promote Liberty, “especially in the northeast where many people have a misconception of Liberty.”
“We want to represent Liberty in any place possible,” Nace said. “The Lord has used Liberty in all of our lives.”