While many college students packed their bags for a spring break with beaches and warm weather, on March 16 a group from Anderson University set off for the Spencer Perkins Center for Reconciliation and Community Development, located in Jackson, Miss.
The Perkins Center promotes growth and leadership training for youth in Jackson. They coordinate activities and work projects in poverty-stricken areas of the town. During its trip, the Tri-S group assisted the center with these projects.
Assistant Dean of Students Michelle Williams and Director of Human Resources Denise Kriebel led the trip. “It was a rewarding and spiritually challenging experience. We had the opportunity to hear about Christian community development and racial reconciliation from one of the very early leaders, John M. Perkins,” said Kriebel.
During the week, the group had the opportunity to see Civil War sites that helped make history. “The 1950s and 1960s helped make what is in history books and what we take for granted real. The commitment and sacrifices of many for the truth of the Gospel, from both African American and whites was moving and profound,” said Kriebel.
The students were challenged with spiritual insights directly from Dr. John M. Perkins, who learned firsthand that the cause of social justice and living the Gospel of Christ are inseparable.
The Tri-S group cleaned and painted houses and participated in prayer walks, working to renew the community’s environment and its spirit. They enjoyed personal encounters with the people they met. “We had several evenings with members of the community when we worshiped together and spent time with the family whose home we were painting,” said Williams.
Williams recalled how accommodating the citizens of Jackson were. “All of our encounters were positive. They showed us true Christian hospitality, always willing to share experiences. They were all hard-working people living their faith,” said Williams.
Williams saw the impact their service had on the community. “The Jackson residents were extremely appreciative. Most times, we were joining them and working alongside them to do the work in the community,” said Williams. “We discussed reconciliation from the lens of the scriptures.”
Both Kriebel and Williams believe the students were the most impacted by their real encounter with poverty. “Most students came away much more aware of systemic issues of poverty and racism in America,” said Williams. “Through the experience, the group learned that there is much to be gained by serving others.”
— Kristen Schaap is a 2013 graduate of Anderson University, majoring in communication arts. Schaap is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.