John Kent, a member of the Collegedale, Tennessee, Church, knew only a handful of people when he first arrived as a student on the campus of Southern Adventist University. Instead of being intimidated, Kent was excited to explore the many new opportunities around him to connect and build relationships.
He started off by becoming involved in a LifeGroup during his freshman year. Southern’s Office of Ministry and Missions provides support for more than 75 student-led LifeGroups that meet weekly, with hundreds of students participating. The theme of Kent’s first LifeGroup was “A Healthy Heart,” and the weekly studies revolved around different people from the Bible.
“We explored biblical characters such as Moses and Naaman and did case studies to see what it means to have a healthy relationship with God and others,” Kent remembers. “Then we looked for ways to apply what we learned to our own lives.”
In another LifeGroup called “Masterpieces,” Kent explored his creative side. In that art-based LifeGroup, they did activities like painting, drawing with pastels, and making cards for assisted-living homes.
In addition to connecting with friends on campus, Kent wanted to find a way to make an impact on the community. He was thrilled to get a job in Southern’s Office of Ministry and Missions, where he joined the Humanitarian Engagement team. Partnering with The School of Social Work and The Chattanooga Area Food Bank, his team helped coordinate a bi-monthly community food distribution on campus to combat food insecurity.
Kent worked with his office to arrange a weeklong trip to Atlanta, Georgia, during May of 2021. They partnered with Frontline Response, an organization that works to combat sex trafficking and homelessness. Once in Atlanta, the group of Southern students received training and performed three outreach activities every day, including the following:
Street Reach – Making personal contact with the homeless population with water bottles, hotline cards, reflective blankets, Gatorade, snack bags, gloves/hats, sleeping bags, and encouraging words;
Neighborhood Clean-up – Going into lower income neighborhoods and cleaning up trash to make the area look nice;
God Is – Painting different attributes of God on cardboard signs and going out to encourage those driving by on a busy intersection;
Metro Kids – Visiting different neighborhoods to build relationships and play games with children, ending with a spiritual lesson;
Princess Night – Giving roses and handmade cards to those experiencing sexual exploitation; and
Compassion Night – Passing out meals and hotline cards for individuals to be rescued, and praying with them.
“I was struck by how easy it is for society (including us!) to ignore people in need, such as the homeless people and human trafficking victims we encountered,” says Kent, now a junior at Southern. “We forget that they are humans with names and identities as valuable as ours. After all, Matthew 25:40 reminds us that ‘whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’”
Georgia-Cumberland | February 2022