BCM students Bri Pafford, left, and Joseph Park package goodie bags for international students who were unable to leave Georgia Southwestern when the campus shut down in March for COVID-19. BRIAN PUCKETT/Special
Students at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Georgia Southwestern State University, like most at various BCM campuses across the state, were looking forward to a spring break mission trip. And, like most students at BCM campuses across the state, they had their trip to Clarkston cancelled in the wake of COVID-19.
“I thought the trip could be cancelled since February, so it didn’t hit me that strongly,” said Joseph Park, one of the two Georgia Southwestern students helping coordinate a special on-campus ministry. “I missed the spring break trip last year. But, this time of being alone is one of the chances God is giving me to be refreshed and more intimate with Him.”
Their trip to Clarkston temporarily shuttered, the students found another way to minister through gift bags for international students still in the dorms, said campus minister Brian Puckett.
The recent months have been especially difficult for those students remaining in this country. Unable to go to classes or return home, they are stranded in their dorms with nowhere else to go.
For these students, the BCM at GSW made an effort to be the Gospel.
“Each care bag included a water, some treats, an encouraging note, and a devotion on Psalm 23,” Puckett explained. “College students will always find a way to keep reaching out, no matter the circumstances!”
Park and Brianna Pafford, an Albany native who attends Plains Baptist Church, headed the effort to serve their fellow students. That meant pulling together whatever resources they could musterto provide for fellow students during the pandemic.
“This was more of a response instead of a replacement [for the planned spring break trip],” Pafford, a senior majoring in special education, said. “We just wanted to remind the students left at the dorms that they were still loved and cared for.”
Park, a pre-nursing major from Seoul, South Korea, knows exactly what it was like to be in a new country with nobody to turn to. Leaving his home country also meant leaving his home church. Before attending Ellaville Baptist, he was searching for a place to belong. When he needed a friendly face, BCM and the church were there for him.
“When I first came to America, some friends introduced me to BCM and the church where I go now,” Park said. “I was so glad that they were giving me a ride to go to the church and reaching out to me and other internationals to tell the Gospel and be a friend. So, I wanted to reach out to other internationals as one of them to tell the Gospel and reach out to them with the love of God.”
After the initial gift of goodie bags and care packages, the BCM added to their efforts by organizing weekly to-go dinners for the international students at Georgia Southwestern.
Puckett spoke with administrators at GSW and brainstormed ways to keep serving the campus and remaining students. After some thought, they came up with this idea for Saturday suppers delivered door-to-door.
“Joseph is the delivery man,” Puckett explained. “He has gotten to know almost all of the people remaining in the dorm. Joseph has such a gift of service and hospitality and uses that so well to share the Gospel.”
Pafford said there was no question they needed to find a way to help out.
“The Lord has used this time to show and teach us in new ways that there are people to reach inside and outside our own community,” she concluded. “The Lord has definitely used BCM to teach us to live on mission every day of our lives.”
Adam Wynn spent three years as the sports editor for the Barrow County News. Before that, he served for seven years in children’s ministry and three years in collegiate ministry at the University of Georgia. A 2010 UGA graduate, he lives in Athens with his wife, Ivey, and teaches Sunday School at Beech Haven Baptist Church.