Faith & Service

Service with a Purpose

February 17, 2016

Feeding the Hungry

Every week, students in the new Center for Chaplaincy take turns serving meals at the Lighthouse Community Center in downtown Lynchburg. The soup kitchen is open every day from noon-2 p.m. and feeds up to 70 people per day. Guests can also attend a Bible study, often led by Liberty students.

“This is preparing me for my future career as a chaplain because I am learning the ministry of presence,” said graduate student Caleb Walker. “There is a lot of administrative work involved with being a chaplain, but it is mostly about ministering and getting to know people. It’s good to get into the practice of closing my laptop and learning to serve the community.”

Martha Brown, director of the Lighthouse Community Center, said that having Liberty chaplains volunteer is an “extraordinary blessing.”

“We have students with a real desire to be the hands and feet of Christ,” she said.  “They come in, and they are not afraid to sit with a stranger, share a meal, and open up fellowship with them.”

In a Moment’s Notice

Liberty University student Matt Norman worked to gut houses damaged by flooding in South Carolina.

Liberty University student Matt Norman worked to gut houses damaged by flooding in South Carolina.

In the wake of last fall’s Hurricane Joaquin and the historic flooding in South Carolina that killed at least a dozen people and left many towns in ruins, Liberty’s LU Send Now program dispatched one of the first disaster relief teams to arrive on the scene.

Even though the program was still in its beginning stages, the staff quickly arranged to send 50 students to the region. After the first team of 25 returned, a second group traveled down the following week.

Before leaving campus, students were trained in basic disaster relief, evangelism, safety, and leadership. Liberty partnered with Samaritan’s Purse and worked in conjunction with a local church in Columbia, S.C., to clean out flooded homes and churches. The university covered all of the students’ expenses.

A local Fox affiliate station, WFXR, traveled with the team and documented the students’ work. (Watch their videos at www.VirginiaFirst.com).

Liberty students also responded to the aftermath of tornadoes in Mississippi during their Christmas break.  Liberty partnered with Samaritan’s Purse again to help those in need.

Liberty announced the LU Send Now initiative last fall as part of LU Send, the university’s new central office for all Liberty student group travel, including local, domestic, and international trips.

A Heart to Serve

Liberty’s Community Care Initiative (CCI) mobilizes teams to meet short-term, immediate needs in the local community. Volunteers are assigned to “care projects,” which can range from construction to housekeeping and yard work for the elderly and disabled. On most weekends, CCI sends out five to eight care teams of 10 students each — all led by the students themselves.

In October, students volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg, tearing up carpeting and painting walls in preparation for the upcoming remodeling of the Madison Street location.

“This place gives kids in the local community hope and a safe place to come after school,” said senior Christian Curtis. “Being able to help with the remodel is meaningful because this is mission work on a local level — where we, as students, get to love our neighbors.”

CCI responds to requests from residents seeking help either for themselves or for family or friends. It also partners with other local charitable organizations to help meet needs in the community. CCI is an extension of the university’s Center for Christian/Community Service.

Building Hope

Alumnus Quinton Gross (’15), and students Abi Stafford, Kyle Atkins, and Stephanie Philippe work to build a house for a local family.

Alumnus Quinton Gross (’15), and students Abi Stafford, Kyle Atkins, and Stephanie Philippe work to build a house for a local family.

In October, 50 students from Liberty’s Habitat for Humanity club voluntarily gave up their Fall Break to begin building a house for a local family.

Students have raised $35,000 of the $60,000 needed to buy construction supplies and will continue working on the weekends until the entire house is complete, sometime in March 2016.

Habitat for Humanity has selected an area family to occupy the house. The family was chosen from a pool of applicants and will purchase the house directly from Habitat for Humanity. They must make a down payment on the home, take financial education classes, and contribute “sweat equity” hours by working on their own house as well as on another Habitat for Humanity home.

Kelly Clark, a senior studying advertising and public relations, is helping to build the house.

“I love being able to give back to the community, especially with this project because we have been working to raise funds for a while,” she said. “I have become really invested in it, so being able to start the build was awesome to see and be a part of.”

Helping Local Youth

Joel Ledbetter (’14), an alumnus of Liberty University’s Department of Theatre Arts, performed with local elementary schoolchildren at the Academy of Fine Arts in downtown Lynchburg.

Joel Ledbetter (’14), an alumnus of Liberty University’s Department of Theatre Arts, performed with local elementary schoolchildren at the Academy of Fine Arts in downtown Lynchburg.

In an effort to serve the community, six Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts students and alumni helped lead KIDS Create, a new after-school initiative that teaches local elementary students using music and drama.

The program — a collaborative effort between Liberty University Theatre Camps (LUTC), the Academy of Fine Arts, and Lynchburg City Schools — hosted 50 participants over three weeks at R.S. Payne Elementary School.

Students learned about famous historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Harriet Tubman, with an emphasis on the attributes they embodied, like honesty, courage, and service.

“This was important to the department because we want our students to have an active faith that reaches out into the community,” said Chris Nelson, Liberty’s summer arts coordinator and an associate professor of theatre arts. “This opportunity simply afforded our students and alumni a chance to speak life into young people, not only teaching and instructing them, but also simply talking and listening to them.”

LUTC offers summer camps for elementary, middle, and high school students. These are among the many summer camps offered on Liberty’s campus, ranging from arts and sports to debate and aviation.

KIDS Create provides positive opportunities for underserved segments of the elementary population and may expand to other schools.

Loving Your Neighbor

Dr. Richard Lane, director of Liberty’s Master of Public Health program, helped  provide medical care to the Mixteco population in Richmond.

Dr. Richard Lane, director of Liberty’s Master of Public Health program, helped provide medical care to the Mixteco population in Richmond.

In December, 40 Master of Public Health students aided more than 3,000 Mixtecos at the Church of New Hope in Richmond, Va.

The Mixtecos are a unique cultural group of non-Spanish speaking individuals who have emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. Liberty students held a health fair for them, checking blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, and bone density. Additionally, students offered food and hospitality, playing games with the Mixteco children and sharing the Gospel with their parents. Daniela Ortega, a Master of Public Health student and doctor of optometry from South America, spearheaded the initiative. Ortega heard about the needs of the Mixteco population in Richmond from her local pastor, who works with the Church of New Hope.

Ortega went to Richmond in September 2015 to talk about the upcoming event. During her initial visit with the Mixteco population, she realized that most of them had never received medical care.

“This service day helped me use what the Lord gave me to help others know Him, and I consider this the Lord’s purpose of why He gave us the opportunity to study,” she said.

Dr. Richard Lane, director of Liberty University’s Master of Public Health program, said that the health fair was a great opportunity for students to minister locally.

“Having one of our senior students actually launch into public health on their own is what our program is all about,” he said. “This was a chance for students to work with an unreached people group, and it showed them what they will be able to do in the future.”

Driving generosity

Liberty University students, faculty, and staff stepped up in a big way to battle local hunger, donating over 6,800 pounds of food to the annual campus-wide food drive, hosted by the Center for Christian/Community Service (CSER), Nov. 2-18.

Sodexo, Liberty’s dining services provider, matched this donation (as it does every year), bringing the total food collection to over 13,500 pounds — nearly twice what was collected last year.

“We are so amazed at the generosity of the students, faculty, and staff who donated food this year and made the LU food drive such a success,” said Dr. Darren Wu, CSER coordinator. “Their generosity resulted in the largest collection we have had since the inception of this food drive.”

Wu thanked Sodexo for “its generous corporate match” and also expressed his appreciation for Dr. David Wheeler, professor of evangelism, whose classes contributed the bulk of early donations. Wheeler encourages his students to take the lead in food drive participation every year, helping the drive gain traction.

“There is something in the DNA of Liberty University that makes this happen,” said Dr. Wheeler. “We are a giving place. It is just a part of who we are. Our students really seem to get behind that.”

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