Few freshmen arrive on a college campus knowing what the next four years hold in store: who their friends are going to be, what major they will graduate with; it’s all up in the air. But one thing that many students know without a doubt when they arrive is that they simply want to serve. Two seniors who will be walking across the stage this week and shaking President Lowry’s hand while receiving their much awaited diploma take a moment to reflect on their involvement with Lipscomb Missions.
Charli Shelby, an English major from Memphis, has participated in spring break mission trips all four years, working in mission areas in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, Patterson, California, and Honduras.
“These trips have been so beneficial to my time at Lipscomb because I was able to serve by specifically using talents I've been given,“ said Shelby. “When I went to Dallas I was able to design classrooms for an under-served community, down to the colors and furniture, which was something I loved doing. When I went to Honduras, I used language in a way that I had never done before by learning how to communicate without words but rather with water and a smile. Each trip provided me with invaluable experiences and relationships. I got close to faculty and staff members and students whom I would have never known otherwise.”
Another significant lesson Shelby learned while participating in these trips is that God provides and that He is faithful. Her perspective changed significantly while serving both domestically and abroad. “I learned I am a very small piece of the puzzle that is God's kingdom, yet He still loves and pursues me. I also learned that the body of Christ is a beautifully diverse community worshipping in their own ways, living in vastly different communities, and speaking hundreds of languages yet we are all trying to write the same love story with our Jesus.”
Although she is uncertain about her post-graduation plans, she hopes to continue to serve and lead trips if given the opportunity. Shelby’s involvement with Lipscomb Missions has certainly left a lasting impression on her character. “Because of Lipscomb and the foundation I've been able to develop during my four years here, missions is a lifestyle not just a weekly event. I pray that I am missional in everything I do, from loving on people in California, building homes in Honduras, or having an intentional conversation at a gas station in Nashville.”
Tom McIntyre, a nursing major from Norton, Ohio, has also been heavily involved with Lipscomb Missions during his time at the University. Unlike Shelby, McIntyre has been part of the same trip to India the past two years and his upcoming trip this summer will be his third.
“It has been a huge honor getting to know and work with the staff of Lipscomb Missions who work so hard so that the University can send students around the world to work to spread the message of Christ. Being involved in the India trip has majorly broadened my worldview, “said McIntyre. “One extremely important thing that Lipscomb Missions has taught me is that we are missionaries all the time. I realized that it is hypocritical for me to act like a missionary on the other side of the world, only to return and live a mediocre life here. The experience has inspired me to live a service based, Christ-like life day to day.”
McIntyre has seen God working in incredible ways, both in the lives of the Indians they are serving as well as the Lipscomb teams. “Our team isn't taking Him there and introducing Him. He is working in the hearts of people there already. This attitude helps to humble me as I enter into a new world where I don't understand the language or customs. It also reassures me that God is the one who brings people to Him. He doesn't rely on my abilities.”
After the Lipscomb team returns home from India in August, McIntyre has a unique opportunity to pursue additional ministry opportunities in India with two fellow students until December. This extended time will allow him to serve as an intern with Ashraya Mission, a home for girls rescued out of sex trafficking. “Making connections with them will be a major goal. I feel very called to work in opposition to the caste system, which is still alive and well in parts of India, so I hope that God will prepare me and use me in that way in my time there,” said McIntyre.
For these two seniors and many others like them, it’s obvious that the diploma they earn is only one part of the way that their experience at Lipscomb University will change their lives. They leave campus with a passion to use their skills to change the lives of others.