A Thousand Acts of Kindess
Sometimes it is the small gestures. Today's guest blogger talks about the importance of kindness and Campus Ministry.
A Thousand Acts of Kindness
By Augusta R. Mennell
“Our church does not have a program to reach out to college students. We need a program like the church down the street has.”
Maybe we have all said something like this. Campus Ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center, Slippery Rock, PA, has found that reaching out to college students is not so much a church program but simply a thousand acts of kindness done by members for the students who come in the building. These acts help to plant seeds of faith. These acts can be done by any of us Christians.
Food is one way to students’ hearts. All Saints serves free, homemade Korean meals to Slippery Rock University students once a month. When we first started doing this, students said desserts were not important. They changed their minds when bakers from the congregation sent in homemade chocolate chip cookies and fancy cakes made with real butter!
We found out how important good food is for students when we held a movie night and served just snacks; no real food. The students did not respond. Common sense, not a church program, tells us that in the future we ought to serve real food, like pizza. Another way we could include food for students is after Sunday morning worship. What student could resist a friendly welcome to All Saints and a box of freshly baked cookies to take back to the dorm room?
In the old days, many Slippery Rock University (SRU) students needed warm coats and food, so we always had Ramen noodle packages on our kitchen shelves so that they were available to students. That way they didn’t have to ask embarrassing questions; we encouraged them to just take them. This is seldom true today, because most students have enough money. Yet, occasionally there is a need. Last semester we realized that a shy, hard-working student from Japan was hungry. She had run short of money for her meals and was not eating much. When she came to talk, we coaxed her to accept our help, which we gave by putting meals for her into our church freezer for her to take as she needed them. She does not need any help this year, but she is more comfortable when she stops studying long enough to come visit us. We didn’t feed her because of a church program, but because we stumbled onto the fact that she was hungry.
Just recently, an SRU student in her late 20s – who lives in Pittsburgh – came to All Saints to find out where she could get help for necessities like groceries and warm winter clothing. She is a smart international student who has been awarded an academic scholarship. She is determined to help special needs children. She did not want to ask for help, but we could see that she needed assistance because a person she thought she could trust had taken all her money.
Campus ministry did what any of us would do. We offered her money, but she refused to take it, saying she had enough. We then offered transportation, located food banks, and gave her the number for the Salvation Army in Pittsburgh, an organization that would help her. We also contacted Rev. Eric Andrae, campus pastor at First Trinity, Oakland. We gave her our telephone number so we can continue to befriend her. She cried because of the stress, but smiled realizing we cared. Acts of kindness go a long way.
Going to see our children and grandchildren perform in school musicals and Christmas programs comes naturally for parents and grandparents. We just want to be there to show our love. The international students at SRU have a whole week of festivities for everyone to attend. Since we know that our children are delighted when we’re in the audience for them, we know that college students feel the same way when we come to their dance performances, their fashion shows, and the international dinner. They are proud to share their home-cooked meals, using recipes from home, as well as sharing with us their culture. It’s a proud moment to applaud them as they march into the hall with their countries’ flags.
Jo, who cooks the homemade Korean meals for All Saints, is an inspiration. She has a passion for using her gift of cooking to bring international students and American students into get-togethers where there is Christian fellowship. She has done this for All Saints Fellowship and recently did this for students at Grove City College (GCC). GCC was so pleased with this gathering, which All Saints attended, that another Korean meal will be held at GCC, once again prepared by Jo. Again, All Saints will participate because developing a friendship with GCC is important. Jo’s passion has opened the door to even greater friendship with GCC.
We may be too shy or reserved to talk to a college student, but maybe we could bake a few cookies to share. If we do, one day we will hear an excited student call to say, “Thank you for helping me.” And just maybe we could pray specifically for one or two students. In whatever way we decide to reach out, our TLC matters.
An All Saints member works in an SRU dining hall with three international workers from Nepal. They have become friends. Since Thanksgiving is coming, this All Saints member is going to invite them to her home for dinner with her family. This is not a program; this is a person sharing love. This is campus ministry in action.
Augusta R. Mennell is the Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA. If you would like to highlight your work in the ministry, send a submission for consideration to Lynne, Communications Coordinator for the English District LCMS, firstname.lastname@example.org.