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Where Are You Going? JMU!

September 25, 2019

In truth, despite growing up right around the Lynchburg area, there was absolutely no desire for me to go to Liberty University growing up. We would occasionally go to the Lahaye Ice Center to skate or to the Vines Center for a basketball game, but nothing really appealed to me until I found out what Convocation was and then looked deeper into all the things Liberty had to offer (becoming a Christian also helped shape my desire to come to Liberty, but that’s a different story). All of this to say that before deciding to come to Liberty I was looking into other places; George Mason University, the University of Virginia, to name a few, but the one I honestly think I would have ended up at had I not gone to Liberty is James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, which I will be travelling to over Fall Break.

Don’t worry, I’m not transferring, I am just heading to the home of the Dukes to see some friends I have met through working at Young Life camps during the summer with. It’s odd how friendships that started years ago in Glen Spey, New York and then some that started last summer in Goshen, Virginia can still be alive and well. The Young Life community at James Madison is extensive, with seemingly entire streets being lined with houses filled with Young Life and Wyld Life leaders.

I will mainly be going to see one of my favorite people in the world: Sophie. Bonding over our mutual love for theatre and the University of Virginia (with UVA’s basketball coach Tony Bennett being a man we would both consider donating kidneys to despite never meeting him), we quickly became friends as we worked together as servers the summer after our Senior year of high school at a place called Lake Champion. Before even meeting her I had plenty of connections to Sophie: my Young Life leader in high school named Steph’s (also called Steggs) brother was one of her Young Life leaders in high school as well as her neighbor. Additionally, my freshman year roommate was best friends with her in high school; with this many small world connections and all the good memories I have with Sophie, it is an absolute must to see her whenever I can. Last time I saw her was in March when she and several other of her friends came to Liberty to see Chris Renzema, who was opening alongside gray (who recently performed a student concert for Student Activities) for the Gray Havens.

The last time I was in Harrisonburg was for last year’s New Year’s Ball Drop Party in the town square. About twelve of the people I worked with during last summer gathered in Harrisonburg to catch up, eat a lot of giant pizza slices from Benny’s, and ring in the New Year. With most of the college students being gone, you could tell the town was at a bit of a slower pace than usual, seeing as how Harrisonburg is most certainly a college town, with JMU merchandise visible all over the city. Known for winning the FCS National Championship in 2016, the football games at JMU are a sight to see – who knows, maybe Liberty and JMU could develop an in-state rivalry under the coaching of Hugh Freeze at Liberty.

During the drive up to Harrisonburg, I think I’ll catch up on some albums I haven’t listened to yet, reminiscence about times with friends that go to JMU, or maybe just sit in silence and reflect on how the core of the relationship that I have with most of the people I know that go to JMU is our mutual love for Christ – our family bond in Jesus. Oftentimes in our Liberty bubble we trick ourselves into thinking that the Christian college students of Virginia are all to be found on and around University Boulevard in Lynchburg, but there are vast and thriving Christian communities all over the state. There is nothing wrong with going to a Christian University but there’s something special about stepping out in faith into the world where they may get a little more resistance to Christianity than at Liberty. My admiration for those who choose to do so is extensive and I can’t wait to be in Harrisonburg with some of those people over Fall Break. Go Dukes!

Written by: Landen Swain

Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.

Hometown Highlight: Atlanta, Georgia

June 26, 2019

Last weekend, I took a trip to The Peach State to take a weekend away from work and relax in my hometown. What I meant to be a relaxing trip turned into a busy, fun-filled weekend that helped me learn a lot about my state’s capital and some of the coolest places Atlanta has to offer. Visiting some of Atlanta’s top tourist spots, such as The Georgia Aquarium, The Hall of Fame Chick-Fil-A, and The World of Coke, was a super fun experience that I would recommend to anyone who takes a trip to Atlanta.

The first stop on the list was The Georgia Aquarium. It had been several years since I had been to the aquarium, but it was just as amazing as I remembered. The Georgia Aquarium is the biggest aquarium in the world, and it is one of only a couple aquariums that house whale sharks. The aquarium was filled with crowds excited to see dolphins, beluga whales, eels, whale sharks, sea turtles, and many more aquatic animals. The most amazing attraction is the glass tunnel. The tunnel is under a tank filled with thousands of sea creatures, which you can walk through. It truly feels like you are walking on the ocean floor with sea creatures surrounding you. My favorite part of the aquarium was when I went to the hands-on exhibit, where I was allowed to pet starfish and sea anemones. Overall, The Georgia Aquarium is an amazing place, but it was only the first stop on my list of places to visit.

The next stop was The Hall of Fame Chick-Fil-A. Since Georgia is home to the first Chick-Fil-A in existence, it was only appropriate that we ate there for lunch (not to mention the Spicy Chicken Sandwich was calling my name as I walked through the aquarium). The Hall of Fame Chick-Fil-A is just a few blocks from the aquarium, and is attached to the College Football Hall of Fame. We were able to see the football field through a 15-foot window while we ate, which was pretty awesome. After lunch, it was time to visit the last spot on the list.

The World of Coke is by far my favorite tourist attraction in Atlanta. The tour starts at the Coca-Cola bar, where we were offered a free Coke to take on our journey through the museum. Next, we were taken into a theater where they showed a short film about the impact a Coke can have on a community. The film depicted several different stories where Coke beautifully brought people together. The World of Coke has so many cool things to do inside, such as a Coke bottle designing station, a 4D theater, a walk-through museum, and best of all—a taste room. Inside the Taste Room, I was able to taste every Coke product in the world. The tour ends at the gift shop where I was able to purchase an old-fashioned Coke ad printed on a metal poster.

I will always recommend visiting The Georgia Aquarium, The Hall of Fame Chick-Fil-A, and The World of Coke. Each of these attractions are unique to Atlanta, and they are must-see spots if you ever take a trip down south. It doesn’t matter how old you get, each of these spots will make you feel young again—The Georgia Aquarium and The World of Coke provide a sense of curiosity and wonderment that is a very refreshing experience for a college student.

Written by: Madelyn Mauck

Madelyn is a Sophomore studying Business Administration: Project Management. She enjoys writing for the blog, not only because it helps her develop as a creative writer, but because it gives her a chance to share her experiences through a platform she would not have without Student Activities.

My Trip to Arkansas

June 6, 2019

Last week, I spent my time in Arkansas catching up with old friends and preparing to celebrate two of my friends’ wedding. Before we got caught up in all the wedding festivities, we spent the first four days exploring some of the state. At first, I thought I would be spending the week sitting in a house on a farm binge-watching Netflix and saying, “Yes, I am still watching” way too many times. But to my surprise, Arkansas has so much to offer if you ever get the chance to go! After spending a week visiting and meeting many people from The Diamond State, I want to share some things you probably wouldn’t think of when thinking of Arkansas.

Each of our days started how every day should – with coffee. The first place we went to get coffee from was a drive-thru called Coffee Container. Similar to Joe Beans, Coffee Container was a small building with a drive-thru window on each side. Unlike Joe Beans, Coffee Container’s “building” is an old shipping container that local couple, Alex and Jolene Wallace, turned into a coffee drive-thru. They don’t want to stay just a single drive-thru shipping container; their goal is to purchase three more shipping containers and transform Coffee Container into a quaint coffee shop. The next day we went to another coffee shop named Onyx. When I walked in, it felt like nothing you would expect to be in Arkansas with such a modern style. Filled with college students studying, business associates talking about work, and friends catching up, Onyx made for a perfect stop for anyone. The latte I got was one of the best I have had. It was made with their house made vanilla syrup and beans from a local coffee roaster.

We also had the chance to go to a local brunch restaurant called Pressroom. Pressroom’s relaxed and casual atmosphere made it a great spot to eat before our flight to leave. They also offer both gluten-free and vegan dishes as well as a wide selection of specialty coffee drinks which can be customized with their house-made syrups. They also serve one of the biggest pieces of avocado toast served with a mountain of eggs on top and some fresh greens on the side.

Tucked away in the forests of Bentonville is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. This art museum is filled with beautiful art inside of the museum and outside on the trails. The inside of the museum is filled with American Art of all styles. “Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the colonial era to the current day.” You can go outside on the eight different nature trails filled with artwork, springs, flowers, and other beautiful sites. The museum also boasts two beautiful pieces of architecture: Fly’s Eye Dome by Buckminster Fuller and the Bachman-Wilson House by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The second half of the week was mostly spent helping prepare for my friends’ wedding. While most of this time was spent helping set up and make sure everything was ready to go, I also got to meet a lot of amazing people. Most of these people I met came from a very different background and upbringing. They grew up in small towns where you knew everyone else that lived there, and you didn’t have much else than those people. After getting to talk to some of them, it reminded me just how important the relationships in our lives are. In college, relationships are constantly recycled. We are balancing so many relationships, and we sometimes miss out on the opportunities to grow those relationships we have. So just as a small town in Arkansas encouraged me, I want to encourage people to spend time investing in the relationships they have. Spend time pouring into those relationships you have because fellowship is one of the many beautiful gifts God has given us to grow as Christians and grow closer to Him.

Written by: Andrew Reynolds

Andrew is a Junior Project Management Major, and enjoys writing for the blog because of the opportunity it gives him to grow as a writer and to challenge himself to see current topics and discussions from a view point he may not have otherwise thought about.

A Day in the District

March 28, 2019

Land of the free, home of the amazing multicultural cuisine – that’s Washington D.C. for you! You see, Washington D.C. isn’t just the home of historical monuments and museums (that are mostly free to enter, by the way). The city is also filled with streets that have up and coming restaurants, shops and experiences. It’s pretty impossible to go on our D.C. trip and hit every area that you probably want to see, so we want to help you out. We’ve made a guide for first-timers and D.C. patrons alike.

When you hop off the bus at Union Station, you’re already going to be amazed at the architectural detail of the building. Whether you’ve been to Union a hundred times or it’s your first, it never seems to lose its wonder. There are a plethora of restaurants and shops in the station, including Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Le Pain Quotidien, so if you need a quick snack before making your way into the city, you’ll be in luck.

If you’re going to D.C. with a group, you can always find that your collective hunger will be satisfied at Busboys & Poets. The restaurant has a great ambience, a full coffee/brunch/dinner menu, and best of all, it has historical roots; its name was created after Langston Hughes, a busboy at a nearby hotel in the 1920s before he became a renowned poet. Other recommended lunch options that are close by Union Station can be found on Pennsylvania Ave., an approximately 18 minute walk from where our bus will drop off. On the Pennsylvania Ave. strip, you’ll find great options like We the Pizza, Good Stuff Eatery (burgers), and District Taco. You really can’t go wrong there, and you’re still close to the Library of Congress, Supreme Court and the Capitol. Everyone wins!

After getting yourself a much-deserved brunch, you probably want to go one of two routes – shopping and snacking or monuments and museums. The best part about D.C. is that the city has it all! Fitting it into the amount of time you have is the tricky part, especially if you’re going on our D.C. Trip and you have roughly eight to nine hours to see everything.

Shopping, coffee/desserts, and Instagram-worthy walls all are located in one of my personal favorite spots: Georgetown! The only slightly difficult part about Georgetown is getting there – both of the nearest metro stops drop you off and you’ll still have about a 20 minute walk to the actual Main Street. If you’re happy to walk, that’s great – make sure to take the orange or blue lines for the metro and hop out at Rosslyn or Foggy Bottom. If you’re not too keen on walking, Uber is a great alternative.

While in Georgetown, make sure to check out Baked & Wired, a coffee and cupcake shop on a quaint side street. IMVHO (in my very honest opinion), Georgetown Cupcake is good, but Baked & Wired is on another level. Shops on Georgetown’s main strip include H&M, T.J. Maxx, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, lululemon, Madewell, and so much more. There are also benches to sit on right in front of Georgetown’s waterfront, giving you a great view of the city of Rosslyn.

If you’re more in the mood for a day of monuments and museums, take the yellow, green, orange or blue line to Archives-Navy Mem’l Penn Quarter. From that metro stop, you’re within five minutes of walking to the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Newseum (which is well worth your time, especially all of you journalists out there). If you’re more interested in seeing The White House and the National Monument, take the metro to Federal Triangle (orange/blue line). You can find a complete list of museums here.

Spending your day touring the monuments and museums is a great way to make use of your time in D.C., especially because food trucks line up on the streets for whenever you need a snack. You could also stop by Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken or Milk Bar (ice cream). There are great dinner spots downtown, and if you need to grab coffee before heading back on the bus (if this trip is with SA), stop by Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse. It’s right next to Union Station, and the money you spend there goes towards National Community Church – win/win!

We hope you enjoy our Student Activities D.C. Trip and appreciate the beauty of the cherry blossoms and spring weather in our nation’s beautiful capital. We hope you like it so much that you plan a longer trip where you can see more!

Where Are You Going? Hawaii!

March 7, 2019

Spring Break: the long awaited and much anticipated event that marks the halfway point of spring semester. When I think of spring break I think of sitting in the warm sun with my toes in the sand, sippin’ on an ice cold La Croix. Funny enough, I have never actually done any of these things during my previous three spring breaks here at Liberty. This spring break, however, will be different. 

It’ll be different because I will be kicking up my feet in a place accurately titled the “Aloha State”, but better known as Hawaii! For the last few months now, I have been scouring the Internet for an affordable flight. Thanks to Sky Scanner, a handy app that notified me about affordable tickets, I will be making the 12-hour journey from Washington D.C. to the beautiful Big Island this Friday.

This is not a typical vacation with a five-star resort, pool and endless buffet. This break I will actually be staying on a YWAM base where my sister has been living for the past few months. Youth With A Mission, or YWAM, is a global missions organization which focuses on serving Jesus throughout the world. My sister, Lauren, is currently enrolled in Discipleship Training School (DTS) at The University of Nations in Kona, HI. DTS is a six-month program where the first three months are spent learning and being discipled in your faith, and the following three months are spent living as a missionary in many different parts of the world. My sister left at the beginning of January for DTS and will be sent out to minister to the people of Germany and Wales at the end of March.

I remember when I first learned about this adventure that my sister was about to embark on. I couldn’t help but be jealous that she would get to learn about Jesus in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. For me, the times I have truly experienced God’s presence the most viscerally has been in beautiful parts of His creation, like looking out at the deep blue waters of Laguna Beach or standing on Sharp Top at sunrise. My sister has learned many things during her short time in Hawaii and I cannot wait to experience a bit of her journey with her this week.

There are a few things I plan on doing during my limited time in Hawaii when we venture out from the YWAM base. My first plan is happily eating myself into a poké and sushi-induced coma. Hawaii is known for their seafood, similarly to how I am known for my love of seafood. The problem is, being from the Midwest, my encounters with good seafood are few and far between. I plan to “strike while the iron is hot” and eat as much of Hawaii’s diverse and delicious cuisine as possible before I fly home on Thursday. Next on my list is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I, like many, have never witnessed the sheer power of a volcano firsthand and I have also never been to any of our nation’s national parks. This would be a lot of firsts for me, but I imagine I will feel a lot like Moana when she encounters the volcano monster Te Ka and defeats it with the power of song. Last on my list is something to satisfy my inner adrenaline junkie, a cliff-jump at a place appropriately named The End Of The World. I have been known to take risks and seek out fun and adventure in many forms, but this will probably be the most wild thing on my list of to-dos. 

The remainder of my week will be spent living the life of a typical YWAM student, from going to class to meeting with my sister’s outreach team to a weekly gathering with the entire school for a time of worship and prayer (much like Liberty’s Convocation). I cannot wait to see the beauty of God’s creation in Hawaii and also get to spend time with my amazing and Jesus-loving sister.

Written by: Kate Dolan

Kate is a senior studying Business Administration: Communications. She has worked for Student Activities since her Junior year and it is honestly the best thing that’s happened to her since coming to Liberty. After graduation, she hopes to move back to her hometown in the suburbs of Chicago and get a big girl job downtown.