March 3, 2023 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
The heart of Liberty University’s student body for serving the nations was on display Friday afternoon in the LaHaye Multipurpose Center as over 1,500 students showed up to pack over 270,000 meals for Ukrainian refugees.
Over 8 million Ukrainians have left their home country and are desperately in need of food assistance due to the ongoing Russian conflict that has been active for more than a year.
The seven-hour event was hosted by Liberty’s LU Serve office and Feed My Starving Children in partnership with Greater Europe Mission (GEM) and World Help. The meals will be shipped by World Help to Romania, where they will be distributed by partners of GEM.
“People are just looking for an opportunity (to serve),” graduate student Bryce Carter said, mentioning that he was impressed by seeing faculty, staff, and members of Liberty leadership serving alongside the students. “Clearly, when an opportunity is presented, people jump on it, and I think that is awesome. I’ve loved this school. It’s been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, being here and having this experience.”
“Liberty University students continuously step up to serve people here in Lynchburg or those in need around the world, said Executive Director for LU Serve Lew Weider. “Their work ethic is inspiring, and it is a joy to serve with them through this meal-packing event for Ukraine.”
Sophomore family and consumer sciences student Gracie Odle said she first heard about the event during one of her classes earlier this semester. She enjoyed working alongside students she had never met.
“I love being able to go to a school that promotes these types of things,” Odle said. “We can be a unified front for Christ. This was just so awesome.”
Students signed up for two-hour slots from 1:30-8:30 p.m. Volunteers heard a brief orientation before breaking into teams of 13-17 with assigned roles: scooper, bagger, boxer, and sealer. Each team worked together at an assembly line station to pack as many meals as possible during their shift.
The meals, called “MannaPacks” are primarily composed of rice, soy, and vegetables, but are complemented by vitamins and dietary supplements carefully formulated by nutritional scientists with the intent to reverse and prevent malnutrition. All of the meals are vegetarian, and Halal certified to be considered acceptable by cultures and religions around the world. Each pack can provide as many as 12 meals for a starving person.
After the packing shifts ended, all volunteers were given an opportunity to pray over the boxes before they were prepared for shipping.
Junior business student Elijah Deanhardt said that supporting the missionaries currently in Ukraine has been a priority for him and his church family.
“It’s very important to support the nations in need, the ones that need help,” he said, adding that being a part of the Liberty family has inspired him to help the Ukraine refugees. “There’s a lot of people just trying to get out of Ukraine, so I think that the meals we pack will help them especially as they’re on the road.”
The LU Serve Office regularly provides service opportunities such as CSER and CSER trips, LU Serve Now domestic and international humanitarian aid and disaster relief trips, and Serve Lynchburg. They also provide campus-wide exposure events such as Global Focus Week and the Serve Expo, inspiring and engaging workshops, and curated training sessions. Through these opportunities, students can learn from key practitioners and partner with approved organizations, faculty, and staff to develop knowledge and skills which will help them prepare for a career and impact the world.
A team recently traveled to Romania to assist GEM in their refugee outreach.
“We are blessed to be able to provide this unique, on-campus experience for the students to serve tangibly the needs of the Ukrainian people,” LU Serve Director Steven Gillum added. “Our partners in Romania will be able to get this critical aid to those most devastated within Ukraine.”