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Soldiers draw encouragement from collegians’ meal money

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The typical lack of disposable income didn’t stop a crowd of college students from helping feed a contingent of servicemen and women passing through LifeWay’s Glorieta Conference Center during National Collegiate Week.

About 800 soldiers from a brigade combat team stopped at Glorieta during Collegiate Week for a meal on their way from Fort Carson, Colo., to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. In September or October, the soldiers likely will deploy to Iraq.

When the 1,200 students at Collegiate Week heard of the soldiers’ plans to stop at the conference center near Santa Fe, N.M., several organized an effort to raise money for their meals, create banners for display and place a prayer table in the Glorieta dining hall.

The project began with students setting up a table in the foyer of Holcomb Auditorium before Friday evening worship. There, they collected money and meal tickets for the soldiers and allowed conference attendees the opportunity to write an encouraging message or prayer on banners later displayed in the dining hall.

Students collected money or meal tickets for the equivalent of 400 meals.

Hill said the money itself didn’t have an impact on the military guests because the government pays for their meals, but the attitude of those willing to give and then buy their own dinner elsewhere touched even the non-Christians.

“The soldiers knew people were saying, ‘Here, take my meal,’” Hill said.

The collegians saw “an opportunity to serve,” said Bill Wade, LifeWay’s collegiate ministry specialist.

LifeWay’s Aug. 3-9 Collegiate Week focused on the theme “Worship with Your Life,” with featured speakers Jon Randles and Landon Dowden underscoring what it means to live passionately for Christ.

Conference organizers, however, didn’t know students would have such a practical opportunity to practice worshipful living.

“When the buses stopped at Glorieta, [the Army] expected the soldiers to be fed physically, but they did not expect them to be fed spiritually,” said Chaplain Cpt. Daniel Middlebrooks, a chaplain with the U.S. Army’s 1st Recruiting Brigade. Middlebrooks attended Collegiate Week as a North American Mission Board chaplaincy representative but had no idea the soldiers would be stopping by.

“The soldiers left absolutely different,” the chaplain said.

Middlebrooks explained that the donated meals meant much more than full stomachs to the military men and women who received them. When a soldier asked him why students and staff would give food and support to a stranger, Middlebrooks replied, “We may not know you, but we know the One who does.”

He said the involvement of the students helped create a “bridge of relationship” between college students and the military because the students realized the servicemen and women were “kids just like them.”

“The military is not just an organization that goes out,” Middlebrooks said. “It is a generation that stands up.”
Earlier stories about this summer’s National Collegiate Week appeared in Baptist Press on Aug. 16.

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  • Brooklyn Noel