Alumni

Godparent Home baby grows up to become Liberty alumnus and pastor

March 25, 2021

Ryan Dempsey’s connection to Liberty University started as an infant. He was one of the first babies to be adopted out of the Liberty Godparent Home, established by Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell in 1982 as a place for young pregnant mothers to receive care and counseling for making parenting and adoption plans, offering them an alternative to abortion.

Ryan was roughly 1 month old when his parents, who were Liberty graduates, adopted him. A year later, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where they helped to plant a church. Ryan grew up with a respect for Liberty and, when the time came to decide on where he would attend college, chose to visit his parents’ alma mater.

Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell holds Ryan Dempsey, one of the first babies adopted from the Liberty Godparent Home.

“I remember during Convocation I leaned over to my mom and said, ‘This is where I’m going.’ She said that we could still look at other places, and I said, ‘This is where God wants me, and I’m not going to argue,’” Dempsey said. “I was born in Lynchburg, and thanks to Jerry Falwell and Liberty, I was able to come back to Lynchburg.”

Dempsey graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s in religious studies with a youth ministries concentration and in 2007 with a master’s in Christian leadership. Throughout his time in the programs, Dempsey said he was taught so much more than what is in a textbook.

“I really appreciated them because they had experience in the field and they would tell stories and give examples of the real world,” he explained. “They would teach out of a book but also include examples of what we would see in the future. A lot of the professors added to the teaching role and became more like mentors as well.”

His father, Dr. Rodney Dempsey, a professor at Liberty’s John W. Rawlings School of Divinity, even taught a few of his seminary courses.

Liberty was also where he met his future wife, Alisa. After graduation, Ryan Dempsey served as a youth pastor in New York and Wyoming before becoming the pastor at Mitchell Hollow Mission Church in Greene County, N.Y., where he has served for the last 7 1/2 years.

As it turns out, Mitchell Hollow had its own Liberty connection. The man who planted it, Dave Overton, is a Liberty alumnus. As a high school guidance counselor in the 1970s, Overton heard about the university through a student of his and was so curious about the new school that he watched a televised sermon from Falwell and gave his heart to Christ. Overton then attended Liberty with his student and planted Mitchell Hollow not long after. That same student had a brother who followed in their footsteps shortly after and attended Liberty — Ron Vining, Alisa Dempsey’s father.

“Liberty has always been a big part of our lives with my parents going there, me and my wife going there, and Jerry Falwell’s creation of the Godparent Home, which brought me to my adoptive family,” Dempsey said. “There is definitely a connection with Liberty in my life, and I’m thankful for that.”

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