School isn’t just a place where you learn something, school is primarily a place where you become something. You get new tools, new perspectives, new information, new goals, new priorities. This past autumn, Andrews University, a Christian school in southwest Michigan celebrated its fourth annual Change Day. (In the interest of full disclosure I must reveal that I am an alum of Andrews, and a former professor there. I spent a decade of my life there and loved it – even the Michigan winters.)
But let me tell you about Change Day. Sensing the strong support the university receives from the community in which it sits, the faculty and students decided they wanted to let their neighbors know how much they were respected and appreciated. So they began to snoop around and pray for wisdom to see what blessing they might be to their hosts. How could they meaningfully say thank you to the friends, the businesses up and down their streets, even the needy.
I have to tell you I have never before seen a stack of 175 purses – the size of shopping bags – in one place. And they were full. Full of basic need items that might be appreciated by homeless and needy women and girls living in Berrien County. They were purchased and filled and delivered by students and staff.
But that was just one of many projects. Seventy student volunteers showed up to staff a blood drive for the local Red Cross held in the huge Johnson gym on campus. Local farmers donated hundreds of ears of corn and more than 400 watermelon that became part of a food drive-through at the local Lutheran Church. That part of the project was especially helpful to families financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
One group was dispatched to a struggling church in a near-by community to help clean up the exterior of their building, including improving the landscaping. Another group of students wrote hundreds of day-brightening cards to residents of rehab and senior nursing centers.
The purpose of Change Day is to express appreciation, but it is also to develop a spirit of service in the hearts of everyone on campus. To be a follower of Jesus does not just mean to stop doing enough bad things, it means to learn to love as He loved, to help as He helped, to care as He cared. Even if it involves something as simple as purses and watermelon.
I remember first reading this sentence a long time ago: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how quickly the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to all the earth.” I believe that.
By Don Jacobsen