Students "Shine" in Service

It wasn't a typical Saturday morning for about 50 Wayland Baptist University students who gathered at a vacant lot in Seth Ward, a low socio-economic community on the northeast edge of Plainview. Their goal for the day was to clean.

As part of the regular curriculum at Wayland, new students in BASC orientation classes must also undertake a service project. Dr. Robert Moore, professor of chemistry, presented his BASC class with a local newspaper article about the situation in Seth Ward. His students quickly adopted the clean up as their service project. As word got out, other student groups wanted to help.

Led by Donnie Brown and the Office of Spiritual Development, Wayland has adopted Matthew 5:16, "Let you light shine before men so that they see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven," as it's spiritual emphasis for the year. "Shine" has been a theme for chapel services that have been modified to meet COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing. As opposed to participating in a large group gathering, the student body has been divided into approximately 50 small chapel groups this semester. Each group was encouraged to identify a service project to address hunger, poverty or human trafficking. Assisting residents in a poverty stricken area of the community appealed to several of the chapel groups that joined Moore's BASC class in the project.

Brown said the chapel groups were eager to join in on the project, and it has been indicative of the response from students all across campus.

"We can say all day that there's an issue, but if we don't do anything about it, what good does it do," Brown said. "This is very much what Wayland is all about."

Moore contacted County Commissioner Harold King who agreed to help by placing large dumpsters at a vacant lot to hold trash and debris. Seth Ward resident Diane Martinez, who is working to clean up her community, helped identify several people who needed help cleaning up around their residences. John Browning donated the use of a large truck and trailer to haul off refuse and the plan came together.

"It just came together really fast," Moore said. "I had students who would hear me talking about it with other people in the classes walk up and say, 'Hey, I heard about that. I'm gonna be there too.' It's been really awesome."

Brown said the student-led initiatives are benefitting several groups and organization in the community. Chapel groups are assisting with food drives to benefit the Faith in Sharing House, others are working with organizations like the Rainbow Room, Salvation Army and Crisis Center, and still others are coming up with initiatives to raise awareness of human trafficking. A number of other service projects are also being planned and will take place throughout the remainder of the semester.

Brown said the response of students to the initiative has been inspiring.

"They don't have to be involved in this. It's not a requirement for them to do this shine project," he said. "But what we're seeing is that they're involved. They want to be involved and they're coming up with some incredible ideas and that's what's so cool about it."