A beautiful sunny Saturday welcomed a large group of students outside of the Four Winds dining hall. Many of them wore deep blue T-shirts displaying the title Serve Pensacola. This event is the most significant service-related opportunity students have to meet the community right where it is. Over 300 students showed up throughout the day to give of their time and energy.
Matt Smith, the student ministry coordinator who organized Serve Pensacola, shared the purpose and goal of the outreach. “Serve Pensacola shows the love of Christ to our community by reaching out to meet their needs while asking for nothing in return,” said Mr. Smith. “Our prayer is that it opens further doors for evangelism.”
For Maddie Alcorn, Student Body secretary, being able to work with her fellow Student Body officers one last time was very special, especially since this was the first Serve Pensacola she attended. “Everyone that came out had a willing heart,” said Maddie. “It was such an encouragement to see all the students come out and serve in the community.”
The Serve Pensacola team chose a variety of locations like parks, churches, and non-profit organizations to clean up or renovate. Rayna Fletcher (Fr., KS) hauled limbs, planted flowers, and cleaned out flower beds for a local widow. “One of the most memorable moments during the project was seeing Miss Pat [Hensley’s] expression when she saw that we completed everything that she needed worked on in her yard,” said Rayna. “Just being able to see her smile and radiate happiness truly made my day! Through this project, I learned that even small acts can make a lasting difference in a person’s life. I am so glad that God put it on my heart to participate in Serve Pensacola!”
Kyle Chan (Sr., CA) cleaned with friends at Community Maritime Park and learned to focus on serving others, even when life is busy. “Many times, we get so caught up with our own lives that we forget about others,” Kyle explained. “It was nice to step back from my own life and focus on what’s actually important: showing others God’s love through our service.”
Each worksite had different jobs to do, depending on the type of project site it was. At parks and outside of houses, leaves crinkled under rakes, and debris rustled as students filled trash bags to the brim. Laughter and chatter filled the area as students spoke with friends and bystanders. “I had a wonderful time working hard and getting messy,” said William Whitley (Jr., SC) “It was only a couple of hours but it quickly became a highlight of the semester for me and something that I will remember this year for.”
Students also painted brick walls for the Pensacola Humane Society and showed local widows Christ’s love by doing jobs that would be difficult for one person to accomplish. These locations were all efficiently and enthusiastically completed as students hung out with their friends and ministered to local people.
Sean Londrigan (Fr., IL) helped with Adopt-a-Highway and was inspired to lead a project in the future. “Opportunities to serve our community are endless,” Sean said. “I was not the project leader this year, but I did get to talk to our leader and learn about what is involved. Because of this, I plan to sign up as a project leader next year.”
Hope York (Sr., OH) spent her time helping at the Ronald McDonald house. “I think our project showed our community that we are willing to serve in any capacity,” said Hope. “For some, they cleaned up creeks or parks. For us, we organized a food pantry. What matters is that each person that volunteered took of their time and willingly sacrificed it, expecting nothing in return. Those kinds of actions powerfully reflect the biblical definition of love.”
Carly Cox (Fr., TX) cleaned at Martin Luther King Jr. Park while a crowded market was taking place. “The people of Pensacola aren’t very much different from the people in my hometown!” said Carly Cox. “Both customers and booth owners at the market expressed their gratitude for what we were doing, many of them offering us water and some even offering us snow cones and cookies!”
“One lady who stopped us seemed especially thankful for what we were doing,” Carly continued. “She was stumbling over her words as she said, ‘I don’t know who or what you’re doing it for but thank you so much.’ We got to have the pleasure of telling her that we were doing it for the Lord.”
Serve Pensacola physically met many needs that the community had, and inspired students to give, even if it seemed small. “God doesn’t always call us to do big things,” said Hope. “Often, He calls us to do little things faithfully—and that’s really what serving the city of Pensacola is all about.”