Stories Of Service – Men’s volleyball team helps At Ft. Pickett

Volunteers are typically tasked with unloading trucks or distributing supplies, but Liberty volunteers aiding Afghan refugees at Fort Pickett had a more important job: extending a welcoming hand and a warm smile.

Throughout the fall 2021 semester, LU Serve sent teams to the Virginia Army base in Blackstone, Virginia, that had opened its housing arrangements to the refugees at the end of August.

On Sept. 23, 2021, the first team loaded a bus at 7 a.m. filled with 26 students eager to serve. When the students arrived, they were greeted by the orientation team, who briefed the group on cultural differences. 

“(The students) learn some do’s and don’ts, gestures we think would be perfectly fine are not appropriate,” LU Serve Executive Director Lew Weider said. 

Even before departure, LU Serve Now leaders stressed the importance of recognizing the societal and cultural differences and making sure Liberty’s team was as welcoming as possible. 

“(The refugees) have already been displaced; they’ve left everything they know with just the clothes on their back,” Weider said. “We have to give good cultural intelligence training to everyone who goes because this is a window of opportunity that could get shut down.” 

According to LU Serve volunteer Devin Carter, after the briefing, the team was directed towards two large tents which served as multipurpose centers for the refugees. The team was split into males and females and asked to interact with the people there. 

One of the biggest opportunities for service came through playing with the children at the base. For hours, the students played basketball, volleyball and drew in coloring books with the Afghan children. The crew stayed in the tents for about five hours, working through a language barrier to show hospitality and build relationships.

“They’re telling us to leave, so we’re getting up, and I have a little boy who grabs my hand,” Carter said. “I’m walking out the door and he looks up at me and said, ‘So you are my friend?’ You can’t really prepare for how that makes you feel.” 

Under Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell’s leadership, Liberty partnered with Thomas Road Baptist Church to send both supplies and people to the refugees at Fort Pickett.

“If I had a theme verse for what we’re going to do it would be 1 Peter 3.15 — ‘But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,’” Weider said.

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