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Impact Teams nurture university’s passion

GREENVILLE, S.C. (BP)–Since the 1980s the Baptist Student Union at North Greenville University has been sending out students in “Impact Teams” to make an impact for Christ in their community, their state and beyond.

When Mayson Easterling, NGU’s vice president of denominational relations, began directing the BSU in 1984 he became convinced that “many of our students were talented and called of God to develop their gifts in ministry. And there were many churches that could benefit from that.

“We put the Impact Teams together to give back to the churches that support us through the Cooperative Program.”

Cayman Lucy, a former student who served a year in Alaska for the North American Mission Board, returned to NGU last year to be the assistant BSU director. She organized 29 Impact Teams that served the community during NGU’s 2006-07 school year.

“We have 13 weekend teams that go out to local churches in South Carolina to conduct things like 5th Quarter Lock-ins, Disciple Now weekends or to preach or lead music or Bible studies,” Lucy said. “Then 16 community teams go into the Greenville community to minister to the homeless, to senior citizens, to the Hispanic community or to the deaf. And we have one team that ministers to a girl with cerebral palsy.”

Of about 2,000 students at NGU, more than 10 percent are involved in ongoing ministry through the BSU. Besides the 180 students on Impact Teams, the BSU also fields a singing ensemble of 46 students called Joyful Sound and a drama team of 10 students called Act 2.

To participate on an Impact Team, students must complete applications on which they rank their ministry preferences from one to five. “We also ask for their testimonies and make sure it lines up,” Lucy said. Students interested in being leaders go through an interview process and then everyone gets trained in November before going out to serve.

The ministry to the deaf was started several years ago by an NGU student whose family is deaf. The team began attending a Wednesday night program at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, where deaf and blind students from a nearby school for the deaf came to participate.

Amy Jewett chose to be part of the deaf ministry team because she had taken a course in sign language at a junior college and had an interest in learning more. “You really have to put down your guard and step out of your comfort zone and just try to sign and talk with the students,” said Jewett, who has been on the team three years. Their job, she said, is mainly to build relationships. They might lead in worship, play volleyball or basketball with the students, or just hang out.

Jewett admitted that the past year has been challenging because they are now going on Monday nights to an all-deaf service, and her team members are about the only ones who can hear. But, she said, “I love being on the team. I have learned so much sign language. I use sign language when I go out and teach on my children’s Impact Team. I also want to use sign language in my classroom someday.”

Easterling, who has been on staff at North Greenville University 29 years, noted that these kinds of teams organized through a Baptist campus ministry are not unusual. But he also noted NGU has been recognized for years by the North American Mission Board as a leader in sending a high number of students on mission.

“They go between semesters and in the summer,” Easterling said. “The last chapel of the year we recognize all of the students that are going to serve in summer ministries, and its hundreds — easily 400.”

Easterling is proud of the ongoing missions legacy of North Greenville University. The school does not require students to be Christians, but through its evangelistic atmosphere he noted that more than 100 students make professions of faith each year.

“We have a global missions conference, and I’ve seen so many make a commitment to missions that they can’t all get down to the front,” he added. “We can truly say that the sun never sets on any part of the world where an NGU student isn’t serving.”

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  • Kay Adkins