by Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For the second year in a row, Bethel College kicked off its school year with a group service project.
The Aug. 18 food packaging, done through Outreach, a nonprofit based in Union, Iowa, was intended to give freshmen and transfer students a bonding experience while also reinforcing Bethel values. It was part of Bethel Bridge, a two-day orientation program for new students.
Peter Goerzen, Bethel campus pastor, gave a presentation just before the packaging event, in which he related it to several Bethel core values – discipleship, service and peace and social justice.
“Packaging food for people in our community is doing justice for those who struggle to make ends meet,” Goerzen said, “and when we do justice, then peace may prevail in our community. This is all part of how we understand discipleship – doing the will of God by serving others, making peace and doing justice.”
Goerzen went on to describe the kingdom, or the reign, of God as seen through the life and work of Jesus.
“Regardless of your creed, confession or religious conviction or utter lack thereof, I hope that’s a vision of the good life that can capture your heart,” he said. “This is the vision behind the service project we’re doing shortly. God’s reign … is a future reality, but it is already among us, and we are to live now, already, for God’s coming reign.
“Today, we are about to practice serving the least of these, doing justice, as we package food for those in need right here in our community. This is what we value. This is our vision of the good life. This is how we train our hands, feet, hearts and minds to put serving others into action instinctively. This is what we’re doing today.”
Isaac McNary, regional manager for Outreach in Kansas, organized about 250 people – all new students, members of the Student Government Association and some faculty and staff – to package 20,000 meals that the Salvation Army will use to feed the hungry in Harvey County.
The packaging took place in Bethel’s Memorial Hall – and the students had all but the clean-up done in an hour.
Returning students Julia Campfield, Wray, Colorado, Heather Eddy, Park City, and Kiley Varney, Hesston, who served as table leaders, reported that “things went smoother this year.”
“Everybody really pulled together,” said Varney.
“It helped doing one meal [macaroni and cheese] instead of two,” Eddy said. “And maintenance will be a lot happier with no rice on the floor to clean up.”
“I think students were having fun,” Campfield added. “I didn’t hear any complaints and at some tables, I heard singing and joking.”
Charity Griffin, freshman from Oklahoma City, agreed. “Working with everybody was fun,” she said. “I liked working with friends.”
“Giving back to the community feels good,” said Ty Harris, freshman from Manor, Texas, while Chloe Bequillard, freshman from Valley Center, noted that it was “a good experience to help the community with something hands-on.”
“It felt amazing that something so small, putting macaroni into a bag, could help a family,” said Logan Dahl, junior transfer from Newton.
“At my high school, we never had a community service project. This felt great, the first thing out of the gate – I’m really impressed with Bethel for doing this.”
Funding for the project came from grants made by the North Newton Community Foundation and the Women’s Community Foundation and donations by Bethel alumni and friends.
Outreach has a mission to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to children and those in need at home and abroad. See more at www.outreachprogram.org.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015-16 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.
Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.