When disaster strikes a community, most volunteers send clothing, cash and building supplies. But when a huge twister destroyed much of Union University on February 5, a group of college students from Ohio decided to help in a very different way.
"We decided to go down and throw them a party," said Brian Burns. He's the associate dean of student life programs at Cedarville University. So they loaded up a bus with one thousand half pints of ice cream, 150 dozen homemade cookies, a team of 23 students, faculty and staff, and a house band.
"We asked ourselves, 'What would Jesus have us do?'" Brian said. "What would we want people to do if this had happened to us? Cedarville was hit by a tornado almost 25 years ago. It wasn't the devastation that Union had -- but the idea was this is a way that we can support another Christian college that has gone through a crisis --- loving them the way Jesus would love them."
Cedarville enlisted the help of Youngs Jersey Dairy. They make the best ice cream in Ohio, trust me. And their website is totally cool. You will enjoy the cows. The dairy loaded up the Cedarville crowd with 13 different flavors ranging from chocolate peanut butter to cookie dough. Brian said they considered going down with 32 flavors --- but that's an ice cream store of another flavor.
The pilgrimage from Cedarville, Ohio to Jackson, Tenn. is one heck of a roadtrip. An eight hour drive down, a four hour party, and then another eight hour drive back up in the interstate. The return trip involved a major snowstorm.
When Katie Foster found out about the trip, she was determined to earn a spot on the bus. She's originally from Memphis and had a friend at Union who was injured when the dorms were destroyed. "I did my best to be a part of it," she said. "If anyone goes, I should go because I'm from the area."
Well, Katie got her wish. "It's being the body of Christ," she said. "That's really what we were doing. Being the hands and feet of Jesus and ministering in a very practical way."
By all accounts, the party was a rip-roaring event. The ice cream was devoured in about an hour as total strangers from two schools fellowshiped together over desserts made with love.
"Our main thing was not to draw attention to Cedarville University," said Brian. "When we went there we purposely decided not to wear anything Cedarville. We wanted to be part of the Union family that night and serve them."
Their kindness earned kudos from David Dockery, the president of Union.
"The generosity of Cedarville University displayed toward Union University is a magnficent picture of the love of Christ in action," he said. "Their students exemplified the kind of mercy and compassion that has been demonstrated by so many others across the world of higher education. Over 100 institutions have given or sent volunteers and numerous others have offered to help when and if needed. It has been an amazing thing to behold."
It certainly has.