Liberty University has been involved in helping Rwanda recover from the 1994 genocide that claimed more than 800,000 lives in 100 days. In March 2011, Liberty took its first team of counseling students on a 10-day mission trip to Rwanda that would forever change their lives and the entire village. One of those students, Laura Yockey (’12), was so moved by this experience she decided to return to Rwanda to live and work full time after graduation.
“The week in Rwanda was far too short for me. While we were exposed to a variety of needs, churches, schools, and communities, and educated on the history of Rwanda, I felt I had given little as far as missions outreach,” Yockey said.
After returning to the U.S., she knew God had called her to full-time missions, a desire she had since she was a child. During the summer of 2011, she spent two months traveling in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya.
“I was seeking to know whether God had placed a burden for Africa on my heart or specifically Rwanda. While I love all of Africa, and sense the needs all around, I especially love Rwanda,” she said.
Yockey worked to make that dream a reality. She finished her Master of Arts in Professional Counseling with Liberty University Online and saved her income to return to Rwanda to stay in January. She lives off her savings and is “trusting God to meet each need.”
She started a nonprofit organization called “Love Alive International,” which uses 100 percent of its proceeds to meet the daily needs of Rwandans.
“I came here to love people and show them the love of Christ. My favorite Scripture passages are those that teach us about loving our neighbor as ourselves and instruct us that in the ways we love our brothers, we show our love for Christ,” Yockey said.
Since January the organization has placed 40 children in school, provided more than 100 pairs of shoes, assisted several families in finding medical care for their children, and helped many families find sustainable sources of income so they could provide for themselves. One way her nonprofit has helped families earn an income is by donating sewing machines for women to learn a trade. Through each project, the Gospel is proclaimed using different tools, including the “Jesus” film and Kinyarwanda pre-recorded Bible lessons.
In March 2013 Liberty sent a team to Rwanda, which was able to connect with Yockey and assist her ministry.
Liberty first became involved in Rwanda in March 2010 when Becki Falwell and university administrators met with spiritual leaders in Rwanda to assess the many needs in the country, which was still recovering from the genocide. This meeting laid the foundation for Liberty’s first team of students to arrive the next year (including Yockey).
Since then, Liberty has sent multiple teams every year and launched its Restore Rwanda campaign, through which students contributed most of the $24,000 needed to build a preschool last summer. Donations can be made at www.Liberty.edu/Restore.
On the short-term trips, students have distributed more than 1,000 pounds of clothes and shoes to widows and orphans. They also delivered 40 laptops, donated by the university, to the Star School (kindergarten through high school) for its first-ever computer lab. Liberty hopes to eventually offer online college courses at the school.
“Rwanda is a wonderful country of beautiful people,” Yockey said. “I am grateful for what Liberty is doing here to make an impact not only today, but lasting into the future.”
Liberty University appointed Melody Harper as its new department chair for the undergraduate Global Studies program in January.
Harper has been to 36 countries, and when she steps foot on Antarctica in November, she will have been to every continent.
As the new chair, she is teaching Global Studies classes and coordinating the course development of the Global Studies degree program. She is working closely with Liberty’s Center for Global Engagement, which brings together the Global Studies program offered through the School of Religion and the extra-curricular mission opportunities Liberty offers, including trips, retreats, internships, and Global Focus Weeks.
“My background includes professional global studies experience combined with a recognition that God’s heart is for all nations, all people groups. I want to equip students with the interpersonal and intercultural skills to make an impact in the global context in which we now live,” Harper said.
Harper graduated from Samford University with a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies and a B.A. in History. She also has an M.S.W. in Social Work from the University of Alabama and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Union University.
Many Liberty University students sacrificed their spring break to serve others in the U.S. and abroad, either through trips offered by the university or on their own through churches, ministries, and other organizations.
Light Ministries, part of Liberty’s Center for Global Engagement, organized international mission trips to Rwanda, Spain, Thailand, Bosnia, the Pacific Rim, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and an undisclosed location in the Arab world. More than 100 students and nearly 20 leaders participated in these trips.
While overseas, teams shared Christ’s love in many ways. They aided orphans, widows, and sex-trade victims; hosted English camps, sports camps, and school events; participated in food distribution, discipleship, and evangelism; and were able to share the Gospel with many who had never heard the good news before.
Students were also active in ministry on the familiar shores of the United States. Nine groups from Liberty’s Department of Ministry Teams went on tour during spring break, using their talents in music, sports, and the arts to minister in churches, schools, conferences, and other events.
The footprint of Liberty University expands well beyond the peaks of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. As a pioneer in distance education, Liberty has expanded its online program, formed international ties, and in 42 years has grown to become the world’s largest Christian university and America’s largest private, nonprofit four-year college — and the media has taken notice.
In a front-page article in The Washington Post, Liberty was heralded as “an evangelical mega-university with global reach” as the reporter described the university’s “turbocharged” growth, primarily through strides in its online program. Bloomberg News also touted this, describing Liberty as a leader in online education that is “also helping chart a course for other schools to expand online.”
Media outlets all across the country picked up these stories and echoed reports of Liberty’s growth and achievements to their respective audiences.
Liberty’s athletics programs also made headlines. Last fall, The New York Times praised the growth of Liberty’s football program, and recently the Flames Basketball team made national headlines in several outlets with its surprising run in the Big South Conference Championship tournament, winning four-straight games to win the conference title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Liberty, which lost its first eight games of the season, was just the second team in tournament history to earn a berth with 20 losses. The story reached every major sports media outlet from ESPN to CBS and was featured in the New York Times and The Washington Post.
Liberty is regularly featured by Christian media outlets such as the Christian Post and Christianity Today. Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently appeared on TBN’s “Praise the Lord,” with actor/producer Kirk Cameron (read more).
Falwell has also appeared on national news outlets, including Fox News Radio and “The Glenn Beck Program,” and has been interviewed by online news services such as Newsmax.
As Liberty seeks to fulfill its mission of Training Champions for Christ in every sphere of society, its growth is a testament to the dedication of its founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., and his son, Falwell, Jr., who continues to guide Liberty into the future.
Liberty University senior Kristin Lock received this year’s Christian/Community Service Volunteer of the Year Award for her outstanding contribution and commitment to Autism Speaks U (ASU). She was presented the award during Convocation on April 24.
Lock, a special education major, started Liberty’s chapter of ASU. She has contributed more than 160 hours in Christian service this year, helping the organization raise more than $13,000 through various fundraising events.
“In addition to Kristin’s many accomplishments, I believe it is the essence of who Kristin is as a person that makes her such a phenomenal individual and so deserving of this honor. Kristin possesses such character and leadership that she will be an amazing representative of Liberty University,” said Dr. Deanna Keith, the faculty sponsor for ASU.
The Volunteer of the Year Award is presented annually to a student who demonstrates excellence in Christian service and ministry. Students are nominated by their supervisors at the organizations where they volunteer.
Liberty requires students to complete a minimum of 20 hours of Christian service each semester to fulfill graduation requirements and support the mission of the university by serving others.
Rising senior Zach Floto, a School of Aeronautics student, recently completed an internship at the Delta Air Lines headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. He was one of only three college students chosen from a pool of more than 700 applicants nationwide and the first intern to represent Liberty.
During the internship, he worked with the Next Gen GPS Working Group, whose primary purpose is to assist the FAA in developing RNAV procedures (a navigation method) for new airports that Delta flies into, as well as revising and updating current procedures. The job required him to keep track of developing procedures and test them in simulators. He was instructed on how to use the aircraft simulators in the Delta training center, giving him opportunities to practice takeoffs, landings, low visibility operations, engine failures, and more.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, dean of the School of Aeronautics, said Floto’s selection for the internship is “a testament to the quality of the students in the School of Aeronautics.”
He said it provides “a grand opportunity” when a major airline like Delta acknowledges Liberty’s aviation program: “Zach’s representation of Liberty University and the School of Aeronautics will open doors for our graduates. We’re very proud of him.”
After Cole Withrow, a North Carolina high school senior, was arrested April 29 for accidently leaving a shotgun in his pickup truck in the school parking lot, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. quickly expressed his support for him, promising Withrow a scholarship to attend Liberty University.
Withrow, an honors student and Eagle Scout, tried to do the right thing as soon as he realized the gun (which he had taken skeet shooting over the weekend) was still in his truck, immediately calling his mother from the school’s office. A school official overheard the conversation and notified police.
Falwell, who was in North Carolina at the time, saw the story on the local news and noticed Withrow was wearing a Liberty T-shirt. He immediately reached out to Withrow and learned he was interested in attending Liberty but could not afford it.
Withrow’s sister, alumna Hannah Walker (’12), currently works for Liberty University Online.
She said Withrow feared he would lose his scholarships and be unable to attend college because of the arrest, but Falwell’s gesture was an answer to prayer for her family.
Falwell appeared on the “Glenn Beck Program” expressing his support for Withrow and Second Amendment rights.
After several national media outlets ran the story, messages flooded in to members of Liberty’s administration from people pleased to see Liberty standing up for Withrow, some even creating or supporting scholarships for him.
In late-breaking developments, the felony charges against Withrow were dropped in exchange for Withrow pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and accepting the prosecutor’s position that he knew the shotguns were in his truck when he went to school. Falwell said this came as no surprise to Liberty.
“In a radio interview a couple of weeks ago, I was asked if Liberty would still assist Cole if he was convicted of the felony. I said yes. We knew that Cole might be convicted of a felony. We also knew that he might have to publicly take the blame, whether he was at fault or not, in order to have the charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. That’s how the criminal justice system works, especially in high-profile cases like this one, and I believe that is exactly what happened here,” Falwell said. “I personally believe that Cole was forced to admit to more than he really knew.
“In any event, Liberty University is pleased that the charges against Cole Withrow were reduced to a misdemeanor, but we still believe this is more punishment than he deserved.”