WAU Students Bring Church, Food to the Streets
Story by Taashi Rowe; Photos by Estefany Rivas
One of Bithja Racine’s favorite Bible texts comes from 1 Corinthians 10:31, and it says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). So instead of rolling over to catch a few more winks of sleep, this text drove her to a kitchen at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., at 3 a.m. on a Thursday morning. She was not alone. The junior counseling psychology major was joined by several of her fellow students. And throughout the day, in between classes, more students would help prepare a veritable feast that included rice and beans, macaroni and cheese, a special Haitian dish, lasagna, salad, steamed vegetables, patties and cakes.
After the students finished preparing the meal, they then packed it all up in vans and cars and took it down to Franklin Park, located at 14th and I streets in northwest Washington, D.C. They were met by scores of homeless people who often don’t have the luxury of a hot, home-cooked meal, a fact that becomes acutely obvious during the holiday season. Students met them with smiles and plates of hot food, but didn’t stop there. They also shared in an outdoor worship service featuring the university’s choir and drama teams and an uplifting word from guest speaker Kevin Sears from Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts.
Why did the students do all this? It would have been more cost-effective and less time-consuming for the students to just distribute sandwiches. They had classes, some have jobs and around 90 percent of them rely on Pell Grants to help with their tuition. We wanted to “help those who have no place to sleep, no food to eat and to help those who need clothing especially when it is cold,” Racine explained.
Carl Bienvenu, senior theology major, added, “It’s simple! I believe that bringing ‘the church’ to people is something we as people of God need to do more. Just as Christ practiced an incarnate ministry and brought the message to the streets, we have the opportunity and blessing of doing the same.”
Kaneil Williams, a campus chaplain, observed, “Our students have big hearts. They even raised an additional $300 to supplement the cost of the food.”
Cheryl Kisunzu, provost, saw the event as “a portrait of integration of faith and learning. Students’ love for Christ and commitment to the highest standards of professionalism were demonstrated in acts of worship and esteem, which fed both body and soul.”
The students received support from staff members at the university, nearby Sligo church and Community Bridges, a volunteer community organization. The students already reach out to the homeless in the community on a monthly basis, but this—which they call “Praise N the Park,” was definitely on a larger scale—one they plan to replicate at least once a semester.
Aaliyah Payton, a freshman education major, who was one of the 110 students who participated, said after this experience her life will never be the same. “My favorite moment was when the homeless lady went up front and joined the praise team,” she recalled. “Students encouraged her and gave her a microphone. How students made her feel will probably be something she will never forget. It showed me that my selection in Washington Adventist University was truly God-driven. Where else would you see something like this?”
WAU students worship with locals who have no homes of their own.
Folks wait in line for a home-cooked meal prepared by WAU students.