Faith & Service

Ready to Go

September 28, 2015

Disaster can strike at a moment’s notice. In the wake, Liberty University students and staff intend to show up and serve by lending a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or boots on the ground — whatever can be done to assist those in need.

“We know in this world we will have trouble, and when something happens, we will mobilize students immediately,” said David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development. “We want to run in when everyone else is running out.”

This fall, Nasser announced a new disaster relief effort — LU Send Now — that is designed specifically to mobilize students quickly and empower them as relief workers when catastrophes arise.

Liberty has a longstanding tradition of meeting needs in communities, both locally and abroad, and Nasser said the university has decided to invest more heavily in those efforts.

“This is our statement of belief in our students,” Nasser said. “Every student who leaves this campus is an ambassador for Christ, and they are an ambassador for Liberty. We want to continue to do things on a greater level at Liberty University. We have put aside the money and everything our students will need to be part of LU Send Now, so they can go to places and be salt and light in the name of Jesus.”

The response has been overwhelming — more than 8,000 students have indicated interest.

Student volunteers must undergo disaster relief training on campus and maintain a certain GPA to participate. LU Send Now can mobilize teams within 24 hours, and all expenses will be covered by the university.

This disaster aid goes beyond mere goodwill. Teams will be formed based on students’ skill sets. Nasser explained that on a given trip, engineering students may be sent to inspect structures after an earthquake, and nursing students may assist with medical care. Occasionally, cinematic arts students will be sent to shoot documentary footage.

Erin Matthews, a senior in the School of Aeronautics, is thankful to have the opportunity to participate in LU Send Now during her final year of school.

“I am always looking for ways to integrate my faith into my chosen vocation,” she said. “This new program will give me the chance to make a difference in people’s lives when they need it most.”

LU Send Now is a practical way for students to meet real needs, demonstrating the value of service Liberty seeks to instill in them. But this is just one way the university is seeking to be more intentional about providing students with enriching opportunities to grow beyond the campus borders.

In the past, Liberty’s faculty had to plan their own academic trips, and students had to navigate various campus offices for study or mission trips. Now, the university has a centralized student group travel office, LU Send.

The vision of LU Send is to integrate cultural experiences with education, all the while emphasizing service, thus increasing the ability of students and faculty to make an impact as they travel.

Opportunities for student trips span the globe and are as diverse in experience as the cultures to which they embark. From providing medical aid and serving refugees to distributing food and water in impoverished areas, running children’s camps, and helping to construct schools or farm structures, Liberty students will gain more than international experience. They will learn a lifestyle of relationship-building that goes beyond merely meeting physical needs.

“Jesus met hungry people where they were and immediately served them,” Nasser said, referring to the biblical account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. “Then, the very next day in John 6:35, Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life.’ This is how we should be as Christians. First we meet someone’s physical need, and then we can share the truth of the Gospel with them. This is what we want LU Send and LU Send Now to accomplish.”

In addition to relief trips, students also have the opportunity to travel internationally on academic trips to locations such as Tokyo, Rome, and Israel. Some trips include multiple destinations like the trip to Paris and London. While service is still emphasized, these tours are focused on education and on providing opportunities to hone specific career skills in a new environment as students interact with a new culture.

For example, students traveling to Rome may visit the Coliseum and the Sistine Chapel, and those going to London and Paris can visit Big Ben and the Louvre.

Students from different academic programs will travel together to the same destinations but have separate experiences there.

“We might send 250 students to London, some of whom are nursing majors and others English majors,” Nasser explained. “We could send the nursing students to hospitals and the English students to Cambridge University to study for two days, which would give them something to add to their résumés.”

These trips are not only open to residential students, but to those studying online as well.

Josh Rutledge, executive director of spiritual development, said that the formation of LU Send allows the university to not only maintain its partnerships with nonprofits and local churches, but it also allows Liberty to begin to nurture relationships with other colleges and aid organizations.

“We want to train our students while they are in school how to have relationships with people who do not think exactly the way they think,” Rutledge said. “We want them to be well rounded because we know they will be getting jobs all over the world alongside nonbelievers.”

Nasser said that as Liberty’s students embrace their role as Champions for Christ, seeing their careers as opportunities to not simply succeed but to better the world around them, Liberty’s global influence will expand exponentially.

“When people think about LU Send, we want them to imagine the day when thousands of people are traveling with Liberty — thousands of online and residential students going all around the world experiencing, educating, and teaching the world about Jesus,” he said.

“This is not something for just a few people,” Rutledge added. “We want the entire university to come together to do bigger and greater things like never before.”

For more information about how to become involved with LU Send, contact (434) 592-6455 or LUSend@liberty.edu or visit www.Liberty.edu/LUSend.

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