Students from Wayne State College’s campus ministry recently experienced a unique opportunity to help out people in need.
The college’s Christian Student Fellowship group paired up with a similar organization on the South Dakota State campus to help the hungry in Sioux Falls for an evening by serving a meal at The Banquet, a non-profit that helps low-income and homeless people in the city by serving them a hot meal.
Justin Raulston, director of ministry development for Christian Student Fellowship, said the two college groups came together to help out people in the Sioux Falls area, paying for a meal and serving it and talking with people for an evening.
“The ministry in Brookings has been doing it a couple of times a year the last 10 year or so, and this was the first time we’ve brought students from Wayne State College up and it’s something they’ll start doing on an annual basis,” he said.
Wayne State’s Christian Student Fellowship group includes about 100 students, and it’s not uncommon for more than half of them to gather every Sunday evening at Journey Christian Church, where church groups will serve the college kids a meal as they get together in small groups to share God’s word.
“Journey actually had a campus ministry before I came to Wayne nine years ago,” Raulston said. “Bob and Stephanie Liska saw a need to minister to college students years ago, and they were really into campus ministry before it was really a thing and have supported Christian Student Fellowship for years.”
The Wayne State and South Dakota State groups spent about $700 putting together a hot meal of ham, pineapple, roasted potatoes and carrots and served about 200 people at The Banquet’s newer location in Sioux Falls. The original location, which has been in place for more than 30 years, serves more than 500 people a day, five days a week.
Raulston said the common perception is that the people who take advantage of these meals are homeless, but in truth, the vast majority of them are hard-working people who can’t make ends meet.
“They call it the impoverished employed,” he said. “They’re people who have a full-time job, but after rent and car payments and all the other monthly payments we have, they can’t afford to feed their families. It’s one of the fastest growing populations in America.”
The student groups served meals to those who came and students had a chance to sit down and talk with some of the people who came.
“The stereotype is that these are homeless people, but in reality only about 3 percent of the people we served are homeless,” Raulston said. “One guy moved to Sioux Falls from Hot Springs, Ark., after the factory he worked at shut down, and he’s got family to support and is just trying to get by. They’re great people who just need a little bit of help.”
Raulston said he talked with one of the Wayne State students who had a chance to sit with a single mother and her three children.
“She said it just broke her heart to hear one of the little girls ask her mother why they never eat like this at home,” he said. “Her mom handled it well, but the idea that they can’t eat like that and she’s a single mom with kids trying to pay the bills, it was a real eye-opening experience for a lot of these kids and it’s incredible to see what the people who run The Banquet do.”
Raulston said the group that runs The Banquet’s west Sioux Falls location operates on a very limited budget and serves more than 150,000 meals a year.
The chance for the Wayne State students to take part in this experience is part of what Christian Student Fellowship offers college students who want to share their faith and engage in fellowship with others. The college calendars at Wayne State College and South Dakota State are similar, which has allowed the two college’s groups to minister together, including a week-long trip to Mexico over Christmas break to help build a house for the Houses For Christ mission.
“It’s great to see these students come together and do some of the things they do,” Raulston said. “We have CSF groups in Lincoln, Omaha, Peru State and Kearney who go out and do these things, and my job is to help train churches in campus ministry.”
Students from the colleges in Nebraska that participate in Christian Student Fellowship are helping out people of all walks of life, which is something Raulston loves to see.
“It’s great to see these students on our college campuses come together and do a lot,” he said. “Our group at Kearney took 40 international students from 5-7 different countries to an Indian reservation in South Dakota to serve. When you have people from all these different cultures coming together and have all these different backgrounds, when you come together to serve, nobody cares where you came from and that’s what’s exciting to see.”