In Matthew 25, Jesus commands His followers to care for the “least of these,” described there as the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned. Liberty University is answering this call through LU Send Now, the school's quick response team for urgent disaster relief and humanitarian needs.
LU Send Now has helped thousands of victims of floods, fires, school shootings, and other disasters, both domestically and internationally. The team has partnered with internationally-known organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, the American Red Cross, and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team to provide hope and healing to those in need.
“It’s important that we run to people who are hurting and broken, especially in crises that could happen at any moment,” said Holly Griswold, associate director of LU Send Now. “It could be us tomorrow, and as human beings, we should be there for one another...the role of the Church in a crisis situation or natural disaster is to go and love and help people, to share hope in a hopeless situation, and to come together as community and family to help people in times of need.”
LU Send Now enables students, faculty, and alumni at Liberty to see the world while sharing the love of Christ with those in hopeless situations. From providing shelter to those in flood-ravaged areas to bringing food and water to hurricane victims, LU Send enables believers to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus.
“There are so many types of devastation, and each of them reveal this is such a broken world,” Griswold said. “Being exposed to these types of hurt and brokenness is sobering, and it changes the way that you live. It’s humbling to realize what you have — and to be grateful for it. It’s a privilege to be intentional and respond by becoming part of the aid and relief.”
LU Send Now is a ministry that’s entirely donor based, allowing students to respond to crises at a moment’s notice without having to worry about raising the necessary funds. By stepping out of their comfort zones and assisting victims of trauma, students are given a greater perspective on what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“The natural reaction to a crisis is to stay away from it or think it’s uncomfortable,” said Griswold. “When you run toward it, there’s an inexplicable joy in helping someone in time of need that’s more fulfilling than getting back to what is safe. The fulfilment and the joy that comes from running toward the crisis is life-changing because it shifts your entire perspective in a different direction.”
Sometimes, ministry is simply offering a hug or a shoulder to cry on, Griswold said.
“It’s very important to enter every situation prayerfully, because it takes leaning on the Holy Spirit's guidance to know how to respond to someone and what to say. He knows what’s going on in their mind and heart and what they need,” she said. “Each and every response is fulfilling because you get to be part of meeting a desperate but immediate need.”
LU Send gives students the opportunity to use their God-given skills — whether it’s nursing or counseling — to better their communities in a tangible way.
“We want to equip the local fellowships to be able to respond to disasters in their community,” said David Welch, executive director of LU Send. “When they graduate, students will have seen what Liberty has done, and they will have also seen the synergy we’ve been able to develop with local churches and organizations that know what they’re doing. Our students will leave prepared to be beacons of hope in their communities.”
But sometimes, helping can hurt — meaning that going into a disaster zone without the correct knowledge and skills can cause more harm than good.
“If you’re not mindful of what you’re doing or how it’s being done, you can actually damage a community worse by going in and providing a bunch of aid and going out,” he said. “Or, you may provide the wrong kind of aid. Let’s say a community doesn’t need pallets of diapers but you send them in and it creates a problem for the convenience store down the street selling diapers.”
“The Christian's job is to be informed,” he emphasized. “So learn from organizations that have done this before — don’t try to recreate the wheel. Partner with those who are wiser than yourself.”
Isaiah 6:8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Through LU Send, those who are ready, willing, and waiting to answer Jesus’ command to serve others are able to see their calling fulfilled.
“Don’t think that it’s going to get done if you don’t do it,” said Welch. “We all have to roll up our sleeves, we all have to be contributing. If not you, then who?”
He continued, “We have to remember that sometimes you're going to be called to do something that’s not convenient or you don’t feel equipped for. But, if you’re supposed to do it, God will give you the strength and give you a peace about stepping into that calling.”