CIU students engaging the community through food drive
By Naomi Balk
CIU Student Writer
“Thank you, Jesus!” exclaimed a resident of Heyward Brockington Road as she heard CIU students were handing out groceries at the Temple Zion Baptist Church parking lot, just a mile from campus.
As she rolled up in her blue minivan, the resident received one of the 89 bags that CIU’s Student Mission Connection (SMC) had prepared for needy residents of CIU’s neighborhood. But more than just a bag of free groceries, the students also offered to pray with the residents and give them a New Testament Bible.
“Thank you! I need prayer! We have prayer warriors in the house today,” the resident added enthusiastically after receiving prayer for a difficult relational situation and her job.
“I hope people received not only free groceries but also the knowledge that there are people who care about them and pray for them,” said SMC President Jennifer Plymale, “Hopefully, if they don’t know Jesus, it got them curious.”
Andre Melvin, senior pastor of Temple Zion Baptist Church sees this as an opportunity to build bridges with the community, show the tangible love of Christ and have a gospel impact.
“Jesus had an incarnational ministry. We must follow the same model,” said Melvin who also leads the CIU Prison Initiative and serves as liaison to the neighborhoods along Monticello Road leading to the CIU campus. “This community needs unity and needs the gospel to be shared through tangible acts of love,” he added.
Freshman Drew Olson, SMC treasurer, said he had been looking for opportunities to invest in the community.
“One reason we are out here is because it is a good way to meet a large part of the community, offer prayer and start gospel conversations,” Olson said.
Pastor Melvin would like to see more CIU engagement with the Monticello Road area saying it’s going to take “consistency, time and intentionality” to build impactful relationships and break the “holy huddle.”
“We are doing well but we can do better,” Melvin added.
Meanwhile, CIU’s commitment to improving the Monticello Road corridor continues as a new Richland County Sheriff’s Department substation is expected to be officially occupied soon.
“We’re funding the construction of (the substation) to make the community safer,” said CIU President Dr. Mark Smith. “It’s a gift to the community.”
Also, the details for the building of a new convenience store/Dairy Queen are being finalized on Monticello Road property purchased by CIU.
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