AU students aided Hurricane Sandy victims during school break
The popular image of college student activities during a holiday consists of hanging out at the mall, connecting with their friends on social media, and going to the movies.
Not so with 23 Anderson University students over the recent Christmas break. They were ankle deep in mud and covered in grime, providing much-needed disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island, New York.
Along with 170 other students from seven universities across the nation, they pitched in to complete 38 projects – mostly cleaning up flood-damaged private homes – totaling in excess of 2,700 volunteer hours.
The mission trip, which began December 12 and ended December 18, was sponsored by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Associate Campus Minister Becky Walker, who led the group, said this type of trip dovetails nicely with Anderson University's goal to expose students to various kinds of mission activities. "Students did things they never expected to do," she said. "As a result, they grew on both a personal and spiritual level."
The students tackled jobs ranging from delivering meals from the American Red Cross to performing "mud outs," completely gutting ruined homes down to the studs and foundations and then sanitizing them.
"It was hard, physical labor," said Jordan Niemeyer, a junior majoring in kinesiology. "We tore out walls and floors and then hauled away the debris. The toughest job was getting rid of all the mud that accumulated in the houses due to the storm surge."
The response from the homeowners was overwhelmingly positive, she said. "They were deeply moved by what we did on their behalf, but it also benefitted me, as well. It broadened my perspective of how lives can be impacted by a disaster, made me more appreciative of what I have, and allowed me to share the Gospel with people who are hurting."
Alex Richards, a junior majoring in history, had a similar experience. "Helping fellow Americans restore their homes was important," he said, "but the ultimate factor was sharing the Gospel with brothers and sisters in Christ."
Evidently the trip made a lasting impression on Alex and about a dozen other Anderson University students who participated. In January they became certified "mud out" specialists during disaster relief training sponsored by the Greenville Baptist Association. "We're prepared to go anywhere we're needed the next time a disaster strikes," he said.
According to Walker, the mission trip to Staten Island confirmed her belief in the current generation of college students, particularly those at Anderson University. "They're really stepping up and making a difference in the world. They're passionate about helping others and passionate about Christ. It's a beautiful thing to see."
During the Christmas break, Anderson University students also participated in mission trips to Seattle, Washington, and to Guatemala. For the third consecutive year, students traveled to Seattle on a "church planting" mission. Associate Campus Minister David Neace led a group of nine students on the mission that also included a homeless ministry. "We'll return next December to continue our work there," he said.
Anderson University's longest-running mission in the school's recent history centers on annual trips to Guatemala. "Six years ago we partnered with Engadi Ministries International to help rescue boys from drugs and violence," said Greg Allgood, Director of Campus Ministries and the mission leader. "This year our group of 14 students helped to build a boy's ranch that includes housing and an educational center, the purpose of which are to show these young men that there is a way out of poverty and that gangs are not the answers."
More than 100 Anderson University students have participated in this mission in the six years of the partnership with Engadi. "They've helped troubled boys become Godly men," Allgood said, "and they've fulfilled the schools' goal – to provide opportunities throughout the world to present the Gospel and to advance the Kingdom of God."