By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
On a dark and chilly Halloween night, seven Patrick Henry College students clustered behind a table set up on a neighborhood lawn in Leesburg, Virginia. Kids in costumes and their parents wandered up to the table throughout the evening—about fifty people in all, according to junior Derek Archer. Along with sophomore Jeffrey Weinmeister, Archer had organized a Halloween outreach, handing out candy to the kids and hot chocolate or coffee to the adults, as well as Christian tracts from the Living Waters organization. The students found people surprisingly receptive.
“The majority of the reaction was, ‘Oh, what a great idea! Coffee and hot chocolate! And sure, we’ll take a tract!” relates Archer.
Archer and Weinmeister are only two of a number of students who give of their time, most often out of the limelight. These people dedicate serious chunks of their lives, amidst busy class schedules, work, and debate tournaments, to serve and evangelize on the personal level.
Tim Iverson, a junior, tries to give at least twenty hours a week to service. Right now he serves on the Planning Commission for Purcellville, Virginia, to which he was appointed in 2006. For him, volunteerism has become the main focus of his life.
“When I came to PHC, like every freshman Policy major, I wanted to be a Congressman and then someday… the President,” he says with a grimace.
During his freshman year, however, God gently redirected his path. He began to spend more and more time working on with the Purcellville Rescue Squad and encouraging his fellow students to give more of themselves.
“We need to be Christians first, everything else second,” he says. “A lot of what we’re called to do is to go out into the world. We can’t just live comfortably in our own community.”
Many other PHC students serve off-campus as well, at the Purcellville Rescue Squad, The Vibe (Purcellville Teen Center), AWANA, a local debate club, and an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, among others. Sophomore Rachel Reiley, for example, started giving twelve hours a week to the Rescue Squad in spring of 2007. This semester, she was also taking 23 class hours and participating on the women’s soccer and basketball teams. She has become qualified as a “First Responder” at the Squad.
Reiley describes a typical shift at the Purcellville Rescue Squad, which runs from 6:00pm to 6:00am: “Sometimes we start watching a movie, but I don’t think I’ve ever finished one, because we’re usually interrupted. Our calls are split pretty much half and half—transporting to a hospital, or treating on location.”
And what keeps her going with her busy schedule? She grins slowly. “Obviously, there’s the satisfaction of helping people.”
On-campus, as the new Barbara Hodel Center slowly climbs toward the sky, one group of PHC young people is searching for ways to reach out to the construction workers. During the first semester of construction on the center, Archer and sophomores Ben Guido and Jeremy Smith met several times with Earl Hall, the VP for Campus Administration, to discuss different possibilities for outreach. A group of students then arranged a monthly luncheon and a daily prayer group at 7:15am outside the fence surrounding the building site, standing by a banner they placed to reflect prayer requests and answered prayers.
“We want to be open to minister to the workers, but this is difficult when they have a job to attend to here, some live more than an hour away, and we have the usual load of school,” explains Smith. “That little construction fence becomes a big barrier sometimes.”
Junior Juli Schuttger, however, says that all the effort is worth it. She has organized gangs of girls to bake cookies and other goodies for the workers. “I like to make people happy,” she says. “I want to be part of the process that shows these workers we are a different school, that we want to love them too.”
In short, Patrick Henry College students are finding multiple outlets within the local community to use their God-given lives to help make the world a better place. Whether on or off campus, speaking English or Spanish, using their money, hands, or time, PHC students are already seeking and inventing ways to impact the world around them for good.