Team Leader Spotlight - Coby Davis, New York City
In this team leader spotlight section, we introduce you to Coby Davis, assistant professor of education. Coby has been leading the spring break mission trip to New York City since 2005. He recently completed his Doctorate of Education at Trevecca Nazarene University here in Nashville. Coby and his wife Sheerah have one child, Shelby, who is 5 years old. They attend the Concord Road church of Christ in Brentwood.
How did you get involved with this mission trip?
It’s a funny story actually. I was in NYC with my wife for a leisure trip during my spring break of 2004. We were eating at a restaurant in Times Square and I hear, “Dr. Davis! Dr. Davis!” I looked around and it was three of my Lipscomb students coming from the other side of the street. They explained that they were there on a Lipscomb mission trip. I asked a few questions about what they were doing and the purpose of their trip and thought it was intriguing. Once back on campus, those students stopped by my office and their passion for the work was evident and THEY recruited ME as their team leader! I inquired more with the missions program, they confirmed me as team leader for the next year and six years later I am still going back!
Why do you voluntarily take on this leadership role?
As an undergraduate, I was able to be involved in several short-term mission trips. Each of the trips was led by faculty members that had dedicated their time to our teams’ preparation and overall missions experience. I really looked up to those faculty members. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know them and see their love for God outside of the college classroom. I feel as if each of those trips helped shape who I have become and have made me a better, more compassionate, more caring person. I really wanted the opportunity to give back. Although I may not be as impactful as my faculty leaders, I wanted to be part of this experience of growth for our students.
What is the goal of your trip?
Our goal is to show Christ to the children (and their teachers and parents) of New York City. By showing that they are loved and someone cares about who they are, we are recruiting for Camp Shiloh. Camp Shiloh is a Christian camp about 1.5 hours from NYC that provides a safe, free and spiritual environment for the inner-city teens of the Bronx. We work with Shiloh to get the message out about the camp.
What kind of work does the team do during the week?
Each trip is a little different, but we always spend the week working in an elementary school of the South Bronx. While in the schools, our team members are put in individual classrooms. In their respective rooms, team members build relationships with kids. They work to get to know the kids and allow opportunities for conversations about camp. We also help with afterschool programs, we volunteer for Wednesday night Teen Night, help with the Manhattan Church of Christ’s homeless ministry and help prepare meals for individuals living with chronic illnesses like HIV, AIDS and cancer.
How do you see God working on and through your trip?
From experiences during the Teen Night where you see kids that could be classified as “street kids” or “thugs” quoting scripture to the homeless men and women we meet. They share such inspiring and touching stories of survival and hardship with the kids of the Bronx that have seen and experienced more than I can imagine, but still find reason to smile and laugh. God is really at work in NYC. We only get to witness all of what God is doing. There are so many people that are truly the hands and feet of Jesus that are working everyday in that city to provide opportunities and hope to so many others. We get to play a part with those saints as they work to show Christ through service without judgment. It has been amazing to see how easy it is to love others when you release fears and hesitations and just allow God to be at work around you.
Do you ever find yourself daydreaming about the trip before/after? If so, what comes to mind?
I love NYC. I always have. Since at least junior high I have dreamed of taking the subway home to my condo above a corner bodega where I buy my groceries. But my Spring Break experiences have changed my view totally. Now when I think of NYC, I can’t help but see the kids of the South Bronx. I think about the really cool people I’ve met who work for nonprofits all year in a city that has so many demands. I imagine myself as a teacher in one of those schools in some of the poorest parts of our country. And then I realize, I get the chance to do so much here. I get to share this with our Lipscomb students. We have 6 alumni of our trip living in NYC and still volunteering with Shiloh. I get to share this with my church family and friends, and then I don’t dream of being there but look forward to going back to see my friends and people I love that are working for Shiloh every day.
Has this experience changed your approach in the classroom and if so, how?
Since I teach education courses, I know that I have a better perspective of working with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. I have learned that we cannot judge families because their values are different. I really have tried to share, in my teaching, the importance of loving the child, bad behavior and all. We just cannot fully know all of what that child has experienced, and our love may be the thing that impacts their life for change.