Students serve at Rawlings Foundation camps in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean
This summer, 17 Liberty University students went global to focus on reaching nations for Christ thanks to a partnership with Impact Youth Worldwide and the Rawlings Foundation.
Impact Youth Worldwide is a ministry aimed at sharing the hope and love of Christ through day camps for youth ages 13-18 around the world, including Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, and Tanzania. The camps are funded by the Rawlings Foundation, which has donated $15 million to Liberty in recent years. (The foundation made the new Rawlings School of Divinity and Freedom Tower at Liberty possible.)
Students from a variety of degree programs completed summer service internships at Impact Youth Worldwide camps in the Dominican Republic, Belgium, and Tanzania. The camps have been working closely with LU Send and LU Serve for the past three years to create opportunities for students.
“Students return each summer from various locations and are blown away by the people they get to serve and the difference they are able to create in just a short amount of time,” said Steven Gillum, LU Serve’s director of international engagement. “Each student returns with a sharper focus on how they want to see their academics become a career platform to impact the world for Jesus.”
Rising junior Sydney Lawson spent more than a month at a camp in Brussels, Belgium, working with children from military families at the local NATO base.
“People don’t think about going to Europe for missions, but they need (the Gospel),” she said. “It was eye-opening for me. These kids, if they wanted to go to church or a youth group, they can’t because there’s nothing there. There are no resources there for them to do that.”
Lawson, who is studying psychology, aspires to be a military counselor. During the camp, she was able to see firsthand that many of these children struggled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, even at a young age. She met a student who shared about his struggles with depression after experiencing a traumatic childhood and said the student had a breakthrough and sought after the Lord while at camp.
“The life change that he had over the three weeks was incredible,” she said. “It was an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.”
Rising sophomore Ashley Dawson traveled to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, to serve for three weeks. In Boca Chica, the staff used games to connect with children one-on-one. Many of the children come from low-income communities and have never experienced a church service of any kind. The camp also runs a mobile community clinic that provides free healthcare and medicine to those in need.
“I sat with another counselor who was bilingual and she would translate back to me in English as she shared the Gospel,” Dawson said. “We were able to pray for the child. If it had been just me, that child wouldn’t have understood what I was saying, but God used all three of us in different ways.”
Dawson said being in the Caribbean nation changed her perspective about how different cultures have similar experiences when it comes to faith.
“I was able to meet other college students who had very different life experiences than me and grew up in another country,” she said. “But our faith connected us. It helped me realize that though we had a lot of differences and can celebrate those differences, there is so much that brings us together.”
The Rawlings family has a close connection to Liberty. Dr. John Rawlings, a pastor for over 70 years, was an advisor to Liberty’s founder, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and served on Liberty’s Board of Trustees. His sons Harold, Herb, George, and Carrol are strong supporters of Liberty. Harold, also a former pastor, currently serves on the board. The foundation was funded in large by donations from George Rawlings, one of the most successful businessmen in the Midwest. Herb Rawlings is a trust officer with the foundation and is directly connected with the operation of the camps. He said the ministry’s annual goal is to reach 220,000 youth each year.
“Close to 30 percent of kids that go to camp are making some kind of decision to surrender to full-time service or salvation or to rededicate their lives,” Herb Rawlings said. “It’s making a big impact. We’ve had more results than even I dreamed of when we started this — we never fathomed the numbers we would be able to reach.”
The ministry has also opened up camps for police officers in Colombia and for teachers and school officials in Manila.
Herb Rawlings said the Rawlings Foundation plans to strengthen its partnership with Liberty and use the university’s global ministry resources to help fulfill the Great Commission.
Liberty students interested in learning more about opportunities with Impact Youth Worldwide can email email@example.com.