When I began as a student in the School of Business at the University of Mobile, I knew I wanted to use my degree to impact the lives of others. As I was earning a bachelor’s in Business Administration, I also was gaining the knowledge and skills that would help me make Christ a reality in the lives of children who otherwise may never have heard about Christ and His love for them. Here’s how it happened.
During my time at the University of Mobile, I built lasting relationships with faculty and staff who continue to encourage and support me even now. I encountered numerous students who inspired me in my walk with the Lord, not just in their words, but in their actions: their intentional time with the Lord, care and concern for others, and the way they served. And it was during my time at the university that I was introduced to Light of the Village (LOV), a local, Christ-centered ministry, started in Prichard, that serves at-risk individuals in high-crime, low-income communities in Mobile. Once a few of my fellow students brought me out and introduced me to John and Dolores Eads and the ministry, I was hooked. At the time, LOV had one Summer Bible Camp location and one after school program location.
I now work at LOV as the volunteer and special events coordinator, director of new after school and summer Bible camp sites, and middle school programming coordinator.
The University of Mobile and Light of the Village have one major commonality, and it’s that we are both Christ-centered.
LOV now has five summer sites that operate simultaneously for six weeks providing day programming for kids free of charge. Mid-way through the summer, a college intern was teaching Bible study and asked her group of 8-14 year-old boys, “At what holiday do we celebrate that Jesus died and came back to life?” The first guess was Christmas. The second was Memorial Day.
At the beginning of the school year, I was teaching a Bible study inside a local middle school when a student interrupted with, “Why are we talking about God? Who is God?” This wasn’t the only question asked that week. Students’ hands continued to go up one after another with questions about the Bible. Finally, I paused to ask, “Are you guys having these conversations with anyone else? Family? Parents? Pastors?” Heads shook all over the room.
The issues facing the communities we serve are not simple nor are they the same for each family. And the poverty they face isn’t simply financial; it is also deeply spiritual. As a Christ-centered organization, we believe these issues cannot be solved apart from Christ. Thus, the programs that we offer at Light of the Village are all Christ-centered and allow us to meet tangible and urgent needs. We have in-school tutoring at three local schools where we have the opportunity to discuss our faith openly. We have after-school tutoring in four locations that are accompanied by a Bible study and a hot meal or snack. We direct-teach soft job skills inside a local middle school and relate each principle back to God’s Word. We have a team of teen candle makers who are learning job skills while being discipled. We do not believe that our programs are the solution to the various resources our communities lack; we believe that Christ is.
The University of Mobile does a phenomenal job of instilling this principle in students: Christ is at the center of it all. In fact, many of our co-laborers in Christ through the years have been University of Mobile students.
- Elisabeth Davis (2013) has been with us since her graduation from UM and is currently leading after school programming and summer camp at our main campus. She also coordinates our efforts inside Whitley Elementary School and is helping us launch a new after school site at Moffett Road Baptist Church.
- Julisa Theodore (2011) is currently co-directing our after-school programming and summer camp at our Maysville site at the Harmon Thomas Community Center. She is also leading a dance class inside Chickasaw Elementary School’s after-school program.
- Carissa (Pletcher) Davis (2010) worked summer camp and the after-school program, helped coordinate special events, and developed a core group of volunteers from the University of Mobile.
- Wesley Allred (2013) worked summer camps with us and coached our basketball team for many seasons.
- Anastasia (Rhodes) Wunderlich (2014) worked with us directing camp and after-school programming in Chickasaw, tutoring in our GED class, and leading a girls’ book club inside Strickland Youth Center.
- Rebecca King (2016) co-led a high school girls’ Bible study, served as an after-school program room leader.
- Stevi McGee (2017) co-directed our after-school program and summer camp at our Chickasaw site for a year.
- Sydnee (Eckberg) Andrews (2018) co-directed our summer camp at our Chickasaw site for two summers.
- Daniel and Anna Lea (Duke) Wrenn (2017 & 2018) helped lead summer camps and were room leaders for the after-school program.
- Peyton and Hilary (Schultz) Hammack (2019 & 2018) helped lead summer camps and were room leaders for the after-school program. Hilary also served as the university’s LOV Ministry Team Coordinator.
- Amber Jones (2018) co-directed our summer camp at our Chickasaw site.
- Reagan (Bell) Jones (2018) helped launch our summer camps in Plateau and in Maysville. She also co-led after-school programs and led high school and middle school Bible studies.\
- Laiken Gendregske (2019) co-directed our summer camp at our Chickasaw site last summer.
There are also countless, wonderful University of Mobile students who have interned and volunteered with us and who are currently volunteering with us! Though the work is challenging and complex and every victory feels hard-won, “the harvest is plentiful.” And we are so thankful for each laborer who has come forth from the University of Mobile throughout the years.