The Spirit of Servanthood

Thu, 2006-08-31 08:04 -- univcomm
August 31, 2006

Servanthood. It’s an important word on the Anderson University campus, often heard during a chapel convocation or read in one of many campus brochures. It’s part of a heritage that connects today’s thriving university with its Church of God foundation and vision for Christian unity. And it’s at the heart of AU’s mission to prepare students “for a life of faith and service in the church and society.”

However, servanthood is much more than a word to the university’s 500+ faculty and staff, who exemplify the spirit of giving in their professional and personal lives. Administrators, professors, and staff members alike expend the resources and talents God has bestowed upon them to reach out as missionaries, mentors, advocates, board leaders, supporters, and friends to those who need it most. They do it because they love and because they can.

“My impression is that the vast majority of AU employees are active in the community on some level,” says Denise Kriebel BA ’74, director of human resources and director of the Recognition Committee, a small group of staff members created in 2000 to identify and reward employees who strive in professional as well as service activities. “The university is looked to as a resource within the community, and as our faculty and staff become more involved in church and society, they are setting an example of what it means to give back.”

What follows is a mere glimpse into the service opportunities faculty and staff embrace. The individuals highlighted are part of a much bigger community of believers, all demonstrating a commitment to Christian love and servanthood in their daily lives. Many faculty and staff minister through leadership, reaching out to others in their roles as board members, project coordinators, and church leaders.

Dr. Blake Janutolo, dean of the College of Science and Humanities, has taught Sunday school to second- through fourth-graders at Park Place Church of God in Anderson for 27 years. A love for children and the sense that teaching is one of his strengths have inspired Janutolo to continue this ministry, which has been a learning experience for him as well.

“To teach anything to children, you often have to simplify it,” he explains. “To simplify something, you must first understand it. Often, as I prepare a lesson for third-graders, I discover or understand the Bible stories in a new way.

Like Janutolo many professors and staff members share their talents at church. In fact, the majority of professors in the School of Music serve in their respective churches as musicians, vocalists, or music directors. Christian education professor John Aukerman BA ’72, MDiv ’75 has a special passion for youth ministry. Having pastored for several years before coming to the AU seminary to teach, Aukerman’s interest in youth outreach is what inspired him to join the board of directors for the LOGOS ministry more than 10 years ago.

An international, interdenominational program seeking to encourage youth into discipleship, the LOGOS ministry partners with more than 1,500 churches to bring young adults to a saving relationship with Christ.

“LOGOS is a relational ministry, building relationships among kids and across generations,” Aukerman says. “This is exactly the type of ministry I believe in.”

He first participated in LOGOS youth ministry training in 1993 in hopes of revitalizing the youth program in his home church of Maple Grove in Anderson. Two years later, he joined the LOGOS board of directors, which requires monthly teleconferences, participation in two youth conferences each year, and an annual donation of $1,000 or more. However, it’s worth the effort for Aukerman, who has witnessed the LOGOS success at Maple Grove.

“Statistics show that most churches lose 80 percent of their kids,” he explains. “I started keeping records at Maple Grove once we joined LOGOS. In seven years, only 26 percent of youth at our church dropped out. I volunteer for this ministry because I believe that this story is being replicated in church after church across the country.” In addition to church and religious participation, faculty and staff are also involved in community programs.

Kathy Hughel, assistant director of Human Resources, often brings and serves food to the men at the Christian Center Rescue Mission on Sunday evenings, hoping to show a little kindness to the men at the shelter.

Similarly, communication professor Don Boggs serves on the board of trustees for the Christian Center, helping with publicity efforts and financial decisions. He comments that his particular interest lies in making sure the residents are treated with respect. Professor of French Sally Shulmistras started her own community outreach program in 1975 when she began offering Saturday morning French classes to the community. For seven weeks each semester, children and adults at all levels of French can learn about the language and culture.

“It’s a lot of work,” she explains. “You have to have someone to coordinate, teach, and organize all the different levels. One of my graduates usually comes back and teaches the adult classes, and we have AU French students come in and teach the children. It’s so neat to see students volunteer. It’s a ministry for them as well as a way to get more involved in the community.”

It would be hard to estimate how many people Shulmistras has touched through her Saturday morning classes. There have been lots of bright, eager children, missionary groups on their way to Africa or Haiti, and adult students in it simply for the love of learning. The joy for Shulmistras is in connecting with other people.

“We have a lot of students who started taking French classes on Saturdays and then went on to become French majors at AU,” she says. “A lot of times adults will have the entire class over for Christmas parties. It’s a great way to meet a lot of new people, and it’s nice to bring people in and show them what the Church of God and the university are doing in other areas.”

Of course, servanthood doesn’t always mean smiling faces and heart-warming moments. Often, the people in the most need of kindness and support are scared and suffering. But however discouraging these situations are, AU faculty and staff simply give more and try harder, believing firmly in the Lord’s power to forgive and restore.

Julie Ward BS ’04, office manager for the publications office, has also worked since January as an overnight supervisor at Dove Harbor, a women’s shelter in Anderson. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., Ward helps monitor video surveillance and security, handles any emergencies that arise, and maintains a staff presence at the shelter. In her free time, she’s getting to know the residents and being a friend to women who are struggling.

The position, in conjunction with a staff apartment in the shelter, had been open for several months before Ward realized God was prompting her to apply. She explains that her life experiences working as a court reporter and bailiff for the county court system and dealing with custody and divorce issues help her connect with some of Dove Harbor’s wome

“It just makes sense for me to be there,” Ward says. “And I’ve come to realize that there are so many different reasons for women to be there. It could be that they’re homeless or that they’re overcoming troubles with addictions. Some are going through a separation from an abusive spouse, and they don’t have the financial resources or the support system they need to improve their situations. One woman just needed to be in a safe and supportive environment while she works through some personal issues, including the death of her son. It’s a reminder that that could be me, and it just makes me want to help.”

Shelly Short, administrative assistant for the INvision AU program, also has a desire to help. Believing strongly in the healing power of prayer, Short and her husband, Clint, began Hidden Treasures Ministries in 2004 as a commitment to caring for those in need and testifying to God’s grace. A growing part of their ministry are the Healing Rooms, in which the Shorts and 12 other members provide organized prayer sessions for anyone in need of healing.

“We have prayer requests for back pain, cancer, arthritis, bone spurs, depression, marriages, finances, relationships,” Short explains. “The list goes on.” Open once a week in downtown Anderson, the Healing Rooms operate similar to a doctor’s office as the “patients” fill out forms with their names and prayer requests. A trained prayer team invites the person into a Healing Room, where they pray over the person. Often, they will lay hands on the sick and anoint them with oil.

“Clint and I believe that as we get outside of the walls of the church and do what our Father has taught us, we will see more healing and miracles,” Short says. They hope their ministry will encourage people to receive Christ and follow his Word.

The mission to help others that so many faculty and staff espouse extends far beyond Anderson, Ind. Their ministry is one of global proportions, impacting people who have never even heard of Anderson University. Nevertheless, these distant communities have needs — for building construction and repair, for medical attention and supplies, for compassion and biblical teaching. Through God’s perfect timing, word travels to the AU campus, and professors and staff take it from there.

Some, such as religion professor Dr. Fred Shively BA ’61 or Physical Plant systems manager Bob McCormick, lead students on mission trips. Having led 58 Tri-S trips to more than 20 destinations worldwide, Shively not only serves the needs of others but also teaches students the meaning of servanthood. Likewise, McCormick has traveled twice with students to parts of Louisiana, helping with hurricane clean-up efforts. He has also led Tri-S trips to Honduras every year since 1999.

“I love to help people, and I get the greatest blessing from doing that,” McCormick says. Other employees are led to travel with church groups and alternative organizations. Desiree Busby, an administrative assistant in the School of Adult Learning, is preparing for her third mission trip to Haiti in October. She and her husband, Garry, will lead more than 20 people from their church along with medical professionals to deliver treatment and supplies to one of the poorest countries in the world.

“The first time I went to Haiti was six years ago with my daughter,” Busby explains. “I thought I was all prepared for it, but when we got on the bus for the orphanage, I just started looking at the poverty. We went by this river, which was their main water source, and there were pigs and cows in it; some people were doing their laundry in it, and one man was standing there taking a bath. I just thought, ‘I can’t live this way for a week. I can’t do it.’”

However, Busby did make it and enjoyed working with the children so much, she helped organize a medical mission trip two years later. She and her husband were designated as leaders of the group, who visited the same orphanage and dispensed medical supplies to more than 2,000 Haitians. As their third trip to Haiti approaches, the Busbys and their group have long been making preparations, recruiting available doctors and nurses, raising money for medical supplies, and also fundraising to offset part of their travel expenses.

“I just think it’s what God calls us to do,” she says. “This year, especially, I just asked God to show me someone who needs something. Let my heart know what to do for them. I just feel like if you’re open to it, God can use you anywhere.”

Indeed, God uses the able bodies and joyful hearts of Anderson University faculty and staff in countless ways, big and small, every day. It often means that their days are longer, their weekends busier, or their budgets tighter. But ask any AU employee invested in servanthood and they’ll probably agree that the more they give of themselves, the more fulfilled and truly blessed they feel.

— Cara Miller [Signatures, Summer 2006]