Champions for Christ

January 11, 2013

Students continue work to Restore Rwanda

Liberty University staff and students on a service trip to Rwanda.A team of 17 Liberty University students and four faculty members, in coordination with the Center for Counseling and Family Studies, returned from Kigali, Rwanda, on Nov. 18. This was the fourth Liberty sponsored trip to minister to victims of the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 lives.

During the most recent trip, students 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.

For the first time, Liberty took a member of the nursing faculty, Kathryn Miller, to assess the medical needs in the village. In one case, a young girl had a fungal infection that, left untreated, could have resulted in permanent damage and future health concerns. Miller recognized the problem and immediately made a trip to a pharmacy. Within four days the infection was clearing up. Liberty plans to involve more nursing students on future trips.

Dr. Kevin Corsini, administrative dean for graduate programs, had been to Kigali twice before this trip.

He said he showed a photograph he had taken last year to a young boy who was in the photo.

“Then I noticed the boy was wearing the very same shirt that day as he did in the photo the year before — because it was the only one he had,” he said.

The new clothes he was given brought a smile to the boy’s face.

Area high school and elementary schools partnered with Liberty to collect the clothes and shoes.

The team brought back 500 bags made by Rwandans in a vocational school. The students from the school were either prostitutes or orphans that were taken off the streets and placed there to learn a trade and receive an income. The Liberty University Bookstore purchased the bags and is selling them, sending proceeds back to the vocational school.

Liberty will send a missions team from Light Ministries to Rwanda in March and will host an academic study tour through LU Abroad in November.

Liberty’s involvement in Rwanda began in March 2011 when students from the counseling and psychology departments trained teachers and pastors to serve as lay counselors. Later that year, Liberty students returned, counseling both victims and perpetrators of the genocide. Mrs. Becki Falwell was moved by what the students were doing in Rwanda and became personally involved in helping launch the Restore Rwanda fundraising campaign. Liberty students contributed most of the $24,000 raised to build a preschool last summer, enabling many children in the area to attend school for the first time.

Exodus leads two-day prison outreach

Liberty University's ministry team ExodusExodus, a Liberty University ministry team, spent the weekend of Sept. 29-30 ministering to prisoners at Rockview State Correctional Institution in Bellefonte, Pa.

On Saturday night and Sunday morning the eight-member band led prisoners in singing several modern worship songs, including “Like a Lion” and “How Great is our God.” The group also led devotions centered on God’s grace and forgiveness. This visit was especially meaningful to the inmates because many watch Liberty Convocation services every Sunday at 6 a.m. on JCTV.

“Watching these inmates sing … with big smiles on their faces … reminded me what an incredible gift God has given us in music, and how, even when everything else is stripped away, a song can bring such joy and sweet fellowship,” said Craig Osterhus, Exodus’ scheduling manager. “There was a fullness of joy like I have only rarely experienced.”

Ullie Klemm, lead chaplain for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, has noted that Rockview is unique in the way that vibrant Christian ministry has taken root in the institution. Under the leadership of Tom Reitz, Rockview chaplain, dozens of inmates participate in Sunday School, discipleship, choir and praise teams, and service through leadership and teaching.

Reitz invited Exodus to close out Rockview’s annual Missions Week, which included several outside speakers.

Exodus travels throughout the U.S. and Canada, ministering and leading worship in churches, high schools, and youth camps to spread Christ’s message.

Liberty’s Department of Ministry Teams has nine groups who travel across the country sharing their faith and talents with diverse audiences.

Liberty celebrates Military Emphasis Week

As a tribute to veterans and those actively serving in the U.S. military, Liberty University hosted its annual Military Emphasis Week Nov. 5-10.

Several events took place throughout the week, including a veteran’s appreciation luncheon, a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness seminar, a candlelight tribute in remembrance of fallen heroes, a military appreciation race, a collection of care package donations by Students Behind Our Soldiers, and a special halftime tribute to our nation’s heroes during the Flames Football game.

The Rev. Tim Lee, a retired Marine and and member of Liberty’s Board of Trustees, was the keynote speaker in a special patriotic Convocation service for more than 10,000 students held in the Vines Center.

Lee was also awarded Liberty’s George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award for his service. He is the third recipient of the award, which was originally given to its namesake George Rogers, a former WWII prisoner of war and longtime Liberty employee.

The sacrifice and dedication of our nation’s military remains a main focus at Liberty. Many students in Liberty’s residential and online programs are actively serving in the armed forces, representing all five branches of the U.S. military; some are even pursuing their education while serving overseas.

The Office of Military Affairs provides resources to help military students and veterans with academic, financial, and spiritual support.

Husband, father, hero

The Taylor familyLiberty University alumna Teresa Taylor (’11) spoke at a ceremony on Sept. 28, 2012, honoring her husband, alumnus Lt. Commander Dale T. Taylor (’10), and three fellow members of Coast Guard 6535 who were killed seven months earlier in a tragic helicopter crash during a night training mission over Mobile Bay, Ala. The ceremony was held at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and included the unveiling of the crew’s names on the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Memorial.

Just months before the crash, Teresa Taylor completed her Master of Arts in Theological Studies with Liberty University Online, the same degree her husband earned one year earlier.

Taylor spoke of the couple’s foundation in Christ, sharing a testimony and using Scripture to encourage family members who had also lost loved ones in the crash.

“By the end of his short life, Dale had come to know the secret of joy and contentment that most all seek but very few find,” she said. “Dale operated out of the personal knowledge that no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down — and that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

Taylor is now sharing her story at every opportunity. Recently, she told the Liberty Journal that studying with Liberty Online was an experience she was glad to have shared with her husband.

“We both encouraged each other to seek out God’s best for our lives through the opportunities at Liberty and found our studies to be both challenging and edifying. We were proud to be LU alumni.”

She said Dale earned his degree “in hopes that it would be a means to prepare him for the work God had planned for him.”

“He was a top-notch pilot who loved flying almost as much as he loved serving the Lord,” she continued. “He often spoke of his desire to perhaps one day join in all that God is doing at Liberty.” She said he dreamed of being involved with the Liberty University School of Aeronautics someday.

“America and the Liberty University family lost a husband, father, and hero.”

The Taylors have two sons, ages 5 and 8.

Online student killed in Afghanistan

Sgt. Robert J. BillingsLiberty University was notified by the U.S. Army that Sgt. Robert J. Billings, 30, of Clarksville, Va., died Oct. 13, 2012, from wounds suffered during an explosion when enemy forces launched an attack on his unit in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.

Billings was a student with Liberty University Online, where he was pursuing a B.S. in Criminal Justice. He began his studies with Liberty in 2010.

“We were saddened to hear of this tragedy. Sgt. Billings is one of our own,” said Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. “We are praying for his family and will be forever grateful for his courage, dedication, and sacrifice for our great country.”

According to news reports, Billings was only one month away from returning home. He had served in Iraq in 2010 and was deployed a second time to Afghanistan in December 2011.

He is survived by his wife, Christy, of eight years and their four children: Isaiah (10), Kayle (8), Elijah (5), and Naomi (3).

Liberty recognized Sgt. Billings, along with other fallen military students, at a Candlelight Tribute Service for Fallen Heroes during its annual Military Emphasis Week in November.

Alumnus named to top post in FBI division

Jeffrey MazanecLiberty University alumnus Jeffrey Mazanec (’85) was recently named Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Richmond Division. As the chief executive officer of an FBI field office, he oversees a staff of 200 who protect America from the threat of fraud, terrorism, espionage, and other national crimes.

Mazanec has had an extensive career with the FBI, working as a field officer and in several leadership positions, including a detail with the CIA for the Counterterrorism Center after the 9/11 attacks.

During his time at Liberty, he pursued a broad degree in liberal arts and history, which he said provided a foundation on which to build a career in law and government. He was involved in many extracurricular activities at Liberty, including leadership in the Student Government Association, the debate team, and the pre-law society. After his sophomore year, Mazanec participated in an internship in Washington, D.C., which he said inspired him to public service.

After he graduated from Liberty, he earned his Juris Doctor from the College of William & Mary.

Mazanec said having a Christian education “helped forge a worldview that prioritized what (I) really value and hold sacred,” and developed in him a “sincere appreciation for civilized society and the rule of law.”

Mazanec encouraged Liberty students: “Pursue learning with passion and enthusiasm, learn to discover the interests, talents, and gifts you have. Learn hard work with integrity.”

Center for Ministry Training reaches out in service

Students on a CMT service trip.The fire of evangelism and ministry continues to burn brightly through the lives of Liberty University students. For over two
decades, the Center for Ministry Training has been committed to the task of living out and protecting Liberty’s unique vision and theme of Training Champions for Christ.

During the Fall 2012 semester, the center coordinated more than 80 evangelistic block parties, community service campaigns, and personal evangelism events, utilizing more than 1,500 students. Over 300 salvation decisions were recorded.

The center also sponsored 18 outreach trips where students were exposed to anti-sex trafficking training, church planting, and servant evangelism, in addition to a number of local community outreaches.

They partnered with Brentwood Church in Lynchburg, Va., to participate in Urban Impact in Pittsburgh, Pa., using sports to minister to urban/underprivileged children. Four other evangelism teams were sent out over Fall Break and assisted in church ministry, outreach, and church planting.

The center also launched the Genesis Project to mobilize freshman and sophomore students to do more hands-on service projects through local churches. Through the center, students donated more than 3,000 units of food and more than $800 to Lighthouse Ministries in downtown Lynchburg.

The Center for Ministry Training is the practical arm of Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. It serves as a hub for recruiting, training, and sending pastors, church planters, and missionaries out to impact the world for Jesus Christ.

Outstanding parents honored during Family Weekend

Lori, Lynn, and Paul ThomasThe Outstanding Parent of the Year Award was presented to Paul and Lori Thomas at a special banquet during Liberty University’s 11th annual Fall Family Weekend, Oct. 19-21. Nearly 3,000 family members visited campus and experienced their children’s “home away from home.”

The Thomases’ daughter, senior Lynn Thomas, submitted the winning essay, chosen from more than 100 entries in the fourth annual contest.

Lynn Thomas was born in Korea. At 2 years old, her birth mother abandoned her. She said she was “abused, overworked, starved, and rejected,” and every day was a struggle to survive. When she was 6, Paul and Lori Thomas of Leesburg, Va., adopted her and lovingly welcomed her into their home.

“In my last three years at Liberty, I have grown to appreciate my story and the life my parents have provided for me,” Lynn Thomas wrote in her winning essay. “They have loved me as their own and have nurtured, educated, and loved me in ways that I never even dreamed of as a little orphan girl. They introduced me to a loving God and have encouraged me to seek His plan for my life.”

A Health Promotions major, she wrote that her parents rescued her from an orphanage “filled with abuse and welcomed me with open arms.”

“I shudder at the thought of my life without them,” she continued. “I believe that my parents deserve the Outstanding Parent Award because they brought a girl out of desperation and breathed light into her future.”

As contest winners, the Thomases received two free nights at Liberty’s Wingate hotel, tickets to Liberty’s football game, items from the Campus Bookstore, and a restaurant gift certificate. Lynn Thomas received 200 meal points and a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore.

Study shows Liberty is making significant impact on the region’s economy

A recent study commissioned by Liberty University shows that the school’s rapid growth in enrollment and its major upgrades to facilities and services is having a positive ripple effect on the regional economy.

The contribution is wide-reaching, from creating jobs and generating local tax revenue to nurturing community involvement by opening its doors to the public for several events and through many community service opportunities.

Liberty students, faculty, and staff volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours at charitable organizations each year. In fiscal year 2011-2012, students provided 648,579 hours of volunteer service to groups such as the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, local churches, humane societies, and the Salvation Army. At the current minimum wage, the value of volunteer labor provided by the Liberty family would be worth an estimated $5.5 million.

Liberty pumped $342 million into Lynchburg and its surrounding counties in 2011-2012. Since 2009, the university’s annual local financial impact has increased by a staggering 66 percent.

Just two years ago, a study by the same company, Mangum Economic Consulting LLC of Richmond, put Liberty’s annual local expenditures for 2009 at $217 million, about $125 million less than the university spent in fiscal year 2011-2012.

Thirty-nine percent of the 2011-2012 expenditures came in the form of wages and salaries for workers employed directly by the university. The study credited Liberty with creating nearly 7,000 full-time jobs in the region, carrying salaries close to a quarter-of-a-billion dollars. It placed Liberty’s overall economic impact in the region at about half-a-billion dollars.

The effects of Liberty’s surging financial clout are also being felt statewide. The study credits Liberty with creating more than 8,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth to support the growth of a skyrocketing student body.

“This study reveals one of the key reasons why the Lynchburg region is prospering while growth is stagnant in other cities across the nation,” said Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. “Liberty is proud to be the driving force behind so many new jobs and economic growth. As Christians, we are admonished to feed the hungry and help those in need. What better way to do that than to create jobs, growth, and prosperity?”

Online evangelism effort reaches 1.3 million worldwide

Liberty University’s Center for Global Engagement reached more than 1.3 million people with the Gospel in a three-day Internet evangelism campaign in September. The online effort directed people from all over the world, through a keyword search, to websites with a Gospel presentation, prayer, and ways to get connected with an online missionary.

A friend of Liberty, who asked to remain anonymous, donated the money to partner with Global Media Outreach for the project. On an interactive website, Liberty students were able to watch who was being reached, how many decisions were made for Christ, and where they came from — all in real-time.

Johnnie Moore, vice president for executive projects, announced that out of the 1,310,650 people who viewed Gospel presentations online, 178,757 indicated decisions. People from countries all over the world made decisions, including India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.

“This is the 21st century; you can sit at your computer screen and influence people all over the world. We can’t easily get into (some countries), but the Internet has connected the entire world,” Moore said.

This initiative was part of Liberty’s biannual Global Focus Week, when students have the chance to meet representatives from mission agencies and attend special missions focused Convocations and seminars.

New program offers more service opportunities

Liberty students take part in a a Community Care Initiative project. A new program is allowing Liberty University students, faculty, and staff to meet the immediate needs of their neighbors.

The Community Care Initiative was 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 fund 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.”

CCI 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 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.

Christmas comes early to Liberty as staff, athletes help fulfill child’s wish

nnorman_20121023_2512GHChristmas 2012 came early on the campus of Liberty University. In late October, a Christmas tree was lit on Liberty Mountain above the monogram, fulfilling the wish of 5-year-old Nathan Norman, a boy who is fighting brain and spinal cord cancer.

Nathan’s parents, both Liberty alumni, Dawn (’08) and Robert (’07), asked him after he came home from the hospital in September what would help make the treatments a little easier. His request was simple — he wanted to celebrate Christmas.

Immediately, the Norman family decked the halls of their home, setting up the Christmas tree, hanging lights, and even spreading the cheer to their neighbors, who decorated too. Their story has been featured on the local news and on ABC World News. Nathan has received Christmas cards from all 50 states and more than 15 countries.

Nathan was given the special honor of starting Christmas at Liberty by flipping a special switch and lighting up the tree that was visible to much of the Lynchburg area.

After the tree lighting, Dale Layer, Flames basketball head coach, prayed and athletes and coaches presented Nathan gifts from Liberty athletics teams and Liberty’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

In December, Liberty accommodated a processional of more than 100 police vehicles that traveled from several northern states to personally hand Nathan Christmas cards and gifts.

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