'Doing Our Neighbor Good:' New program offers more community service opportunities
|Students help create a mosaic wall in downtown Lynchburg.|
A new program is allowing Liberty University students, faculty, and staff to meet the immediate needs of their neighbors.
The Community Care Initiative launched at the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester, and already more than 35 projects have been completed throughout the Lynchburg area. These include housekeeping and yard work for the elderly and disabled, painting at the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center, a building blitz with Habitat for Humanity, a mosaic wall for the children’s museum, cleaning up local parks, and visiting nursing homes. More than 1,200 “hours of care” have been recorded since September.
The initiative’s motto is based on James 2:18: “Demonstrating Our Faith by Doing Our Neighbor Good.”
“Our focus is to find tangible and lasting ways to demonstrate the love of Christ by serving people through short-term projects,” said Will Honeycutt, CCI faculty coordinator. “It has always been part of Liberty’s mission to be salt and light in our world, and with such a large base of service-minded people, Liberty is positioned to meet the needs of our community.”
|A Liberty student ministers to the elderly.|
The program is an optional supplement to the 20 hours per semester that is required of all Liberty students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years through the Christian/Community Service Office. In the 2011-2012 academic year, students contributed 305,384 hours in service to the community. While those required hours are earned mainly at places in need of long-term volunteers, CCI is not required. It was designed as an extra opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to respond to various needs as they arise, simply because they desire to do more to demonstrate their love to their local neighbors.
The CCI office fields the requests from the community and then assigns the “care projects” to project managers, largely coming from Liberty’s Office of Student Leadership, who then recruit their teams and go meet the need.
“As Christians, we are called to step outside of the ‘Liberty bubble’ and to reach out to the many different people that God has placed around us,” said Brittannie Hedrick, a project manager. “Lynchburg is an awesome community filled with people who need to be loved and need to see the Gospel lived out in us.”
Students say they have enjoyed getting to know the people they serve and they receive a reward for their work — the blessing of witnessing a burden lifted and a life changed.
|Students stain an elderly man's wheelchair ramp.|
Project manager Kari Wagner helped stain an elderly man's wheelchair ramp.
"(He) came outside while we were working, and talked to us for a long time. He shared about his difficult journey with his numerous health problems and how grateful he was that we were able to come and stain this wheelchair ramp,” she said. “At the end, we prayed as a group for him and it was awesome. I was so honored to be able to be God's hands and feet today as we served this man and his wife while completing such a simple task."
Gracie Erwin has been leading a team that has been visiting a terminally ill woman in need of companionship and help cleaning her home.
On one recent visit, Erwin said she recognized that the woman’s condition had worsened since their last visit.
“She was feeling ill and having a difficult time breathing so we spent the afternoon giving her a foot bath, and a manicure and pedicure. She absolutely loved being pampered. It was so good to do something so simple for this woman and get to spend time building our relationship with her. After that we cooked her dinner and had a lovely meal together. (She) always tells us how much we mean to her and what a difference we have made in her life. We haven't done much, but we have been so blessed in what we have done.”
Gary DuPriest, an elderly and disabled Lynchburg resident, and his wife, who is also disabled, have had several CCI Care Teams to their home.
“Thanks for having such good Christian kids in the CCI program,” he said. “Our city should be proud to have such a fine group of young people helping out the elderly and those others who can't do for themselves."