Dark clouds brooded in the sky over eastern North Carolina Saturday, April 16 as Campbell University students, faculty and staff gathered at the Pope Convocation Center for the 2011 Operation Inasmuch. Even the early Spring morning carried an air of caution, with sparse raindrops and wind serving thinly-veiled threats to the volunteers.
But weather concerns weren't enough to keep the participants down, and although some events had to be moved or canceled for safety reasons, more than 400 warriors for Christ still helped the greater Harnett community- wearing Operation Inasmuch t-shirts and wielding gloves for labor and kind words for the needy.
2011 marks Campbell's fourth year participating in the service project, which is run by the parent organization, Operation Inasmuch Inc, whose mission statement says it “empowers congregations worldwide to catalyze community ministry with the Operation Inasmuch model and create a culture of compassion ministry.”
Trust/pre-law major Grayson Oakley has participated in the service projects before, and this year the Campbell junior chose to help with the “Fun Run,” an event in which local elementary students were able to run Campbell's track with the help of college runners.
“I've done it the past two years. I've really enjoyed it, and I love service projects and helping people out,” he said, adding, “[Operation Inasmuch] encourages the community to get together, build relationships, and informs people on ways to continue helping on their own.”
The crowd of students, some youngsters and others college-age, crowded around the starting line as an adult shouted instructions for the children to check their shoelaces. Almost immediately, a small voice responded over the crowd, “I don't have any shoelaces!”
Amanda Coker, a first year student at Campbell's School of Pharmacy, expects to help out every year until she graduates. Coker was also present for the Fun Run.
“I think it sets an example for everyone else. It's about serving others, and not just serving yourself,” she said.
A much more serious attitude was embodied in the group who visited the Farmworker's Project in Benson. Sorting clothing and toys rapidly while winds picked up, the helpers were serving an important cause, according to AmeriCorps S.A.F.E. (Serving America's Farmworkers Everywhere) member Ahira Sanchez.
Sanchez works in the Benson branch, and her job is many fold, from coordinating and transporting donated goods to needy families of migrant or seasonal farm workers to planning events and providing education on pesticide safety issues. As an advocate for a community which is often disadvantaged through monetary, educational or linguistic issues, Sanchez believes that many don't know where their food comes from, or what hardships can affect those who collect it.
“I definitely believe that it shouldn't matter about your culture or color of your skin, if you want to take of yourself, you should take care of others,” she said. “It's something I was taught since I was little- love your neighbor as yourself. I try to do that.
The donations in particular are part of Project Big Closet, in which the Farmworker's Project receives donations from faith-based organizations. According to Sanchez, so much material has been brought in that it can become difficult to organize everything, which is where Campbell's Inasmuch team came in.
Ashley Hogan, a senior pharmaceutical sciences major at Campbell, was helping sort through clothing in the shop behind the Farmworker's Project building.
“Participating in Inasmuch has always been a humbling experience for me. I have enjoyed so much serving with fellow students and faculty to cater to our community, she said, adding, “Inasmuch has served as a reminder to me that I'm not in such a bad spot. I am forever thankful for that.”
Meanwhile, in Angier, another group visited Stagecoach Manor, an assisted living facility. Brittney Jackson, a freshman communication studies major went along to spend time with tenants, some of whom don't often get a chance to do so.
“We were building relationships and sharing love. They really enjoyed the communication with outsiders, many of them rarely get visitors,” she said.
Although many projects didn't pull through this year, event coordinator and Campbell University campus ministry assistant Terry Tucker has pride in the schools past service, and faith in the future.
“It's just an incredible way to build relations through service, and by doing this, we follow Christ's example,” she said. “[Inasmuch] has gotten better. The first year, we did 50-plus projects. We've cut it back to about 35 projects, in order to sustain them.”
Tucker put emphasis on the idea of finding activities for students to participate in lend themselves to future service, as well as human service. She also spoke to the reactions people have when Campbell contacts them about help.
“They're very grateful when they get the call in December or January to see if we can help,” she said. “This is an important legacy for Campbell University.”
Campus minister Faithe Beam spoke to the Christian element of Operation Inasmuch, which takes its name from a verse in the book of Matthew, in the Bible.
“For me, it's such a wonderful culmination of what we want our students to learn when they come to Campbell,” Beam said. “Christ's greatest teaching to us was the love God with all of our being and then to love God's people. Operation Inasmuch allows us to server God's people and love God's people with our actions.”
Courtesy of Trevor Normile, student writer