November 15, 2023 : By Reaghan Avery - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Reynard Faber (’90, ’95) woke up to shouts outside his dorm room window, soon realizing they were coming from members of Liberty University’s broadcast department alerting him that he overslept for his interview. He hurriedly lathered on hair gel and rushed out the door wearing a pre-ironed suit. When he made his way to the studio and sat in front of the cameras, he began to realize his mistake: he put on too much gel and his hair began to slowly come apart under the heat of the lights. Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell could barely contain his laughter.
But their reason for speaking that day on camera was something they both deeply cared about. They were taping a segment for an infomercial for Liberty, one of the many times that Faber would share his testimony as a Liberty student, helping spread the news of how God had worked in his life and the lives of his fellow students.
Faber, an honorary and traditional chief of the New Mexico Jicarilla Apache tribe, first heard about Liberty University through a missionary friend, and having spent his entire life on the reservation he called home, going to a “bible college” was a completely different direction, but one he was willing to take as a new Christian.
“This is where my life started,” Faber said during an interview on a recent visit to campus, where he spoke at a Native American Heritage Month event hosted by LU ONE. “If it wasn’t for Liberty…if I didn’t get the influences that I had here, if I didn’t get the education that I had here, if they didn’t emphasize Training Champions for Christ, I probably would have just gone home and done nothing.”
Faber attributes most of his educational successes to his close relationship with Falwell, who he met for the first time in the campus library.
“I would ride down to church with him, mostly every Sunday,” Faber said. “We would drive to Thomas Road Baptist Church and we would talk about things and pray about things.”
Along with attending baseball games together and scheduling regular office visits, Faber and Falwell traveled to local churches where Faber shared his testimony of experiencing childhood abuse and alcohol addiction to finding redemption in Christ. Faber appeared on “The Old-Time Gospel Hour,” a television ministry broadcast from Thomas Road Baptist Church, where Falwell was pastor, and was asked by Falwell to film a seven-minute segment for Liberty that was pitched to CBS, NBC, ABC, and other affiliates. Through the segment, Faber’s story was shared across the country.
Part of Faber’s testimony included his lack of education growing up. When he began his studies at Liberty, he was reading at a fourth-grade reading level. Although his GPA was suffering, Faber was determined to graduate and took 24 credit hours at a time, spending over 11 hours a day studying. With the help of Falwell and Liberty professors who met with Faber one-on-one for vocabulary training, Faber earned his bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in journalism.
“(Falwell) made every effort to keep me here,” Faber said. “He assigned a missions professor to work with me … and I was able to get back on track.”
Falwell recognized Faber’s achievements during the university’s weekly chapel, now called Convocation, saying, “I want you to meet this friend of mine.” Faber said he was “humbled to the floor” to be honored in front of his peers by Falwell, who said that if students were struggling in their classes, Faber was proof that they could do anything. When Faber mentioned months later that he would write a book called “Frontrunner,” which was published in 2013, Falwell presented him with a foreword before Faber had even written a single word.
“That’s how much he believed in me and all of the (students),” Faber said.
Faber befriended fellow Liberty student Will Graham (’97), now executive vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and vice chairman of Liberty’s Board of Trustees. Faber’s acquaintance with Graham led to a job offer from his grandfather, Billy Graham, who personally invited Faber to join the BGEA after he finished his seminary studies at Liberty in 1995. Faber worked part time with the crusade team for four years, orchestrating events and occasionally sharing the stage with Billy Graham. Eventually, Faber felt “burnt out” and longed for a new role in his ministerial career path.
“I told God I was tired of doing ministry work and struggling all the time,” Faber said. “Franklin Graham (Will’s father and BGEA president) said to me, ‘You need to get right with God.’ I started praying for forgiveness and renewal. The next week, I started at Samaritan’s Purse.”
Since 2002, Faber has served as a Native American Outreach Coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse and continues to work remotely from his reservation in New Mexico. In his over 20 years with the organization, he has sent out nearly 300,000 Operation Christmas Child boxes to Native American communities in need.
On Nov. 10, Faber was the guest speaker at the LU ONE (Opportunity & Enrichment) event in the School of Business Towns Auditorium, where he was joined on stage by his 14-year-old son, Trevor. Walter Virgil, director of strategic projects and alliances in the Office of Equity & Inclusion, a division of LU ONE, opened the night with a prayer and invited Faber to share with students how Liberty set him on the path he continues today.
Faber began by talking about the history of his tribe, then discussed his challenging upbringing, one filled with abuse and addiction before his salvation experience. He emphasized the idea of “fake happiness,” saying that his life was unsatisfying without Christ.
As a teen, Faber prayed, “I wish there was a real Jesus that could put my life back together.” After asking for forgiveness, Faber dedicated his life to serving God. He felt the Lord call him to attend Liberty University, and the connections he made during his time as a student opened doors to his current position with Samaritan’s Purse.
Trevor also works on the reservation to spread the Gospel throughout their tribe and preserve the Jicarilla native language by recording his voice on a language app.
In closing, Virgil encouraged students to be reminded of “the power of the word of God and its ability to transform the life of an individual.” Faber noted that within his community, there is a lot of spiritual growth that still needs to happen, and he challenged students to pray for the salvation of his tribe, that their hearts would be open to worship, prayer, and the reading of Scripture.
The attendees were then invited to sample authentic Native American food, consisting of fried bread and elderberry tea, and visit the display tables in the School of Business lobby that featured Native American artwork, clothing, maps of geographical locations, photos, and excerpts of tribal history.
Liberty will continue to observe Native American Heritage Month throughout November.
LU ONE reinforces Liberty’s mission of Training Champions for Christ through value-driven recruitment, growth-minded retention, and service-oriented community outreach, focused on building a community based on biblical unity and creating opportunities for all students, regardless of race, nationality, or background. LU ONE encompasses the Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI); the Office of Disability Accommodation Support (ODAS), which coordinates academic support for students with disabilities; and the International Student Center (ISC), which supports international students and promotes cultures through on-campus workshops and events.