Coby Davis: Educator, Mentor, Team Leader
by Shannon Dennis, Journalist Intern
Lipscomb Missions celebrates Coby Davis and his eight years of service as a team leader for the New York City mission trips. Davis recently moved to Arkansas with his family, but he has left an indelible mark on the university through his dedication to Lipscomb Missions, his hard work in New York City community, and the positive impact he had on his students as well as those with whom he served.
Davis discovered that he wanted to become a teacher while working at an academic summer camp at Ole Miss. He had always enjoyed learning, and while working at this camp, he found that he enjoyed watching and helping others learn even more. He saw the positive impact education had on the camp kids, and Davis decided that he wanted to dedicate his life to education in hopes of providing opportunities to as many pupils as possible.
Davis came to Lipscomb to be the assistant professor in education. He knew about Lipscomb Missions and wanted to get involved, he just did not know when or to what capacity. His answer came in the spring of 2004. While he and his wife were dining at a restaurant in Times Square, Davis heard his name called. To his surprise and delight, three of his students rushed up to him and told him about their mission work with Camp Shiloh. Intrigued, Davis thought that this might be his opportunity to plug in to Lipscomb Missions and his opportunity was confirmed when those three students recruited him as a team leader for the next New York City mission trip.
Since 2005, Davis has led a mission team, in collaboration with Camp Shiloh, to elementary schools in the South Bronx to help teach students as well as teachers. While there, Davis and the mission team built relationships with inner city kids, their parents, and teachers so that they might share Christ through acts of service. Also, while working with the children and their parents and teachers, Davis and the mission team informed them about Camp Shiloh and its purpose to aid the community.
Each mission trip being a bit different, Davis and his mission teams have been able to work with several organizations—local clothing closets, food banks, and soup kitchens to name a few—and many partnerships have been formed as a result. Davis has also worked with other outreach programs such as the Manhattan Church of Christ and Momentum, an organization that benefits those with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. Working with these different programs allowed Davis and his mission teams to form relationships and share Christ with the people of New York City. Several people who have spoken with Davis have shared that they enjoyed coming to these organizations and speaking with those who work there about their faith because they do not feel judged and condemned, but loved.
One of Davis’ fondest memories came from one the darkest moments he experienced during his mission work. A principal from one of the elementary schools where Davis and his team had worked heavily criticized Davis and his team. He felt as though a difference had not been made during the trip. While walking away from the meeting, Davis ran into a teacher named Mrs. Brown. She looked at Davis and said, “You’re sad because it’s your last day, aren’t you? Well, I’m sad, too. No one has ever impacted our kids as much as you and your students have. I knew there was something different about you and your group and you proved me right. I want you to come back year after year.”
When asked how the New York City mission trips influenced him, Davis responded, “These trips have broadened my worldview. I have learned how to look at life through the eyes of another, and this has caused me to release much of my judgment towards others. These trips have been humbling experiences that have taught me to be open-minded so that I might continue to learn from and empathize with others.”
Though Davis learned a great deal in the course of the New York City mission trips, he may not have realized how much others learned from him during his learning process. Exercise Science major, Rachel Smith says, “Coby was the reason I decided to go on a mission trip in the first place. He has this great mentality that life is too short to get frustrated with little inconveniences and that made him an excellent example of leadership. ”
Bradley Rowlett, who majored in History Education, has accompanied Davis to New York City both as a student and an alum from 2007 to 2012, states, “From Coby Davis, I learned how to shop! But being serious, I learned that you have to be flexible. You need to have a plan but you need to be able to roll with changes that may come up in everyday situations. I am the kind of teacher and person I am because of him and his leadership from the multiple trips I took with him. I pray that he is able to affect people’s lives in Arkansas like he changed the ones in Nashville while he was a professor at Lipscomb. I am sure he will be a positive role model and hopefully establish a New York trip from Arkansas.”
Alumnus Maryanne Reider, who majored in Family Relations while at Lipscomb, went on the 2009 and 2010 New York mission trips, reflected on what Davis taught her, “There is no problem, neighborhood, or school that is out of the reach of God’s redemption. He taught me that all kids can be successful; some just might need more help than others. He believes in the students and staff of the schools in the same way that Jesus does, he sees them all for their best potential and wants to help them achieve that in any way possible. He inspired me to believe in people, regardless of how rough or difficult their story or circumstances may be. I would like to thank Coby for allowing me to have the opportunity to go to New York and work with Shiloh, because it has had a huge influence on my life and I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone on those mission trips.”
Camp Shiloh Executive Director Lori Bumpas noted, “Coby’s work ethic enabled him to host effective workshops that would provide practical skills to the teachers. He knew the importance of getting to know people on a personal level. I have received multiple accounts of people thanking Coby for his genuine investment in their lives.”
Assistant Director of Missions, Mark Jent says, “Coby has been one of our most solid team leaders now for almost a decade. He poured himself into his teams year in and year out. Because of his passion for this trip, it was evident that God was working through him to impact the lives of our students who in turn were positively impacting the students and teachers in New York City. Coby has left a lasting impression on not only this trip and those whom he served, but on our campus and our missions program. He’s left a legacy of sorts for his NYC trips and although they will continue, his leadership will be missed greatly.”