ST. LOUIS – While the fall of 2020 has been a semester of upheaval, closed doors, and uncertainty on college campuses across Missouri, it has also been something else for our MBCollegiate students and their Campus Missionaries: a semester of serving.
Since COVID limits or inhibits many normal avenues of serving, some ministries have gotten creative with how to serve in safe ways. Kale Uzzle, Collegiate Strategist and Campus Missionary in the St. Louis area, partnered with Mission St. Louis to run community service outreaches this fall, both virtually and distanced and outdoors.
Uzzle saw these projects as opportunities to connect with students, built rapport with campus administrators, and bless Mission St. Louis with volunteers. “Knowing a lot of student value service,” he says, “I figured it may be a good way to connect with students who may not connect with us through Bible studies or other ways.”
Uzzle led a group of Missouri Baptist University students to do landscaping for an African American cemetery in a neighborhood in North St. Louis where Mission St. Louis works. The outdoor setting allowed them to maintain safe distancing.
Roughly 60 students from three campuses – Webster University, Maryville University, and Washington University – participated in the virtual service event Uzzle organized in October. “I’m excited to see what doors for Bible studies and gospel conversations open up as a result,” Uzzle says.
The event blessed the school administrators, too. “They have been scrambling to find meaningful programs for students,” Uzzle says. “We built great rapport with three different administrations.”
Students participated by picking up supplies from a designated drop off/pickup spot on their campus, then met over Zoom to dialogue about poverty, package essentials survival bags, and write encouraging notes. Uzzle encouraged students to give the bags to someone they meet who needs it – at the grocery store, on a street corner, or even on campus. “About a quarter of college students wrestle with food insecurity,” he says. “It’s a prevalent problem. It’s not unlikely that a student who attended or one they know might have needed the items in the bag.”
Other campus missionaries are also addressing the financial duress their students are under as the pandemic rages on. Campus Missionary Heather Murray held a food/toiletries giveaway for international students earlier in the semester. The North Central College BSU (NCMC BSU) started a grocery cabinet that allows students who are struggling to come take food, toiletries, and hygiene products for free. “We’re helping to meet their needs so that they can focus on school and growing closer to God,” says Campus Missionary Christina Boatright. “That’s of utmost importance to us here at the BSU.”
Despite their own financial and emotional duress, students have not forgotten about the underprivileged in their communities. Students from Adolos at Missouri State University partnered with the Have Faith Initiative to serve the homeless community in Springfield. The NCMC BSU collected goods for the Green Hills women’s shelter in Trenton “as a way for students to make an impact on their community,” Boatright says, in partnership with Jamesport Baptist Church. They raised 20 boxes of toys, school supplies, clothing, feminine, and hygiene products for women and children.
Missouri Valley Collegiate Ministry (MVCM) students got up early one morning to clean an elderly woman’s yard that had become overgrown. “They shared the love of Christ not only in words but by meeting physical and relational needs as well,” says Campus Missionary Scott Westfall. “It was a great witness to her and this community.”
MVCM students have also been participating in Second Saturday Serves in partnership with their Association. In October, they painted homes and worked on steps and decks for neighbors. In November, they conducted winter car check-ups. This month, they will be building an accessibility ramp for a Carolton resident. In addition, Westfall’s students collected and packed six boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
College women at Crowder took initiative to create care packages for kids in the area as well as teacher survival kits for teachers at local schools and professors at Crowder. Due to their initiative, “more students are beginning to step up and take charge of different events,” says Campus Missionary Aaron Werner.
The Crowder BSU held their annual Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Box trip to Walmart in November. At the urging of a freshman student, they also raised money to purchase a goat, a pig, and three chickens through the organization’s international Christmas catalog. “It’s fulfilling to see students come up with their own ideas and then follow them through,” says Werner.