Article to be published for the LU Commuter Newsletter:
On Saturday mornings, as thirty or more kids come out to play with the Liberty students who knock on their doors, Greenfield is a pleasant neighborhood. A football game is started, small children play on the swings, and elementary school kids kick a soccer ball around. But by evening, once all the Liberty students leave, and the kids are alone in their neighborhood, it’s a different place.
Greenfield is a community of a few hundred people, most of which are under the poverty level. Chris Neill has been a site leader for CampusSERVE at Greenfield for two years. One of the first children he met there was Brandon, who at the age of 5 watched his best friend’s father get shot and killed, right in the neighborhood.
“That’s when I realized that, especially for that particular community, everything wasn’t the norm that it was for us,” said Neill.
Greenfield has become Neill’s mission, and he even lives in the area, in a house rented only to Liberty students for the purpose of ministry. He admits that it’s a dangerous area: “The second night I was out there, I woke up to gunshots at three in the morning.”
Last semester during CampusSERVE an eight year old boy pulled out a BB gun, and the police came.
But Neill said, “When everything goes to chaos, that’s when the Lord shows up the most. He’s just like, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I got this.’”
Neill decided to live in the neighborhood when he realized that the families at Greenfield needed to be reached beyond Saturday morning football games and Bible discussion.
“What’s really cool about living out there is that on a regular basis kids come to the house. There’s consistent contact with everyone and relationship-building. The Lord gives so many opportunities to impact the community.”
If it wasn’t for CampusSERVE, many of the families at Greenfield would never see the love of Christ. Many times, children in neighborhoods like Greenfield are neglected or abused. Neill said, “For a lot of these kids, the love that we give them is the most love they get throughout the week.”
As Liberty students are reaching the families at Greenfield for Christ, the kids of the neighborhood are teaching them some things too. “What these kids really go through on a personal level is going to change your perspective,” said Neill.
The children of Greenfield have their own take on many topics. A few weeks ago, the story for Saturday morning was the well-known tale of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
One of the kids told the story back to Neill: “The king wanted them to bow down to the statue, but they wouldn’t so the king said ‘Burn them.’ But they didn’t die because God was all up in there with them!”
Many times the children’s questions challenge the students who come to teach them. India, 6, came up to Neill after a lesson one day, and pointed a finger in his face. “Explain to me how God is three people. How can God be three people?”
“I don’t know if she fully understood what she was asking,” Neill said. “But I tried to explain it to her on her level.”
Neill wants to go into full-time missions in the Dominican Republic, and he sees the ministry at Greenfield as a way to prepare him for his future goals, while fulfilling the Great Commission.
“The Lord sets a desire in your heart, to reach someone who hasn’t heard. My heart is elsewhere, but I’ll do what I can here. Paul says first to go to your Jerusalem, then your Judea, then your Samaria. Everyone waits for this special calling, but we are to work inwards and then outwards.”
The relationships Neill and other dedicated students have built with the families of Greenfield are working. A few weeks ago, two of the children who come regularly on Saturdays—Calvin, 10, and TJ, 7—received Christ.
“The way we accomplish everything is through relationship-building,” said Neill. “You can’t just walk up and be like, ‘I’m so-and-so, let me tell you about Jesus.’ We have to build a relationship so we can talk to them about Jesus and they’ll listen.”
CampusSERVE is always in search of committed students from Liberty to consistently go to the sites every Saturday to share Christ’s love with the people who need it most.
“What I really hate is when a kid says, ‘Where’s so-and-so, that one Liberty student?’ and you have to tell them they’re not there. It breaks the heart of the kids. What they do on Saturdays means everything to them. The Great Commission’s worth a lot more than a couple hours of sleep. It’s draining, but it’s worth it.”
CampusSERVE meets every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in Demoss 1114. For more information, email CampusSERVE@liberty.edu or visit the blog at campusserve.wordpress.com.