From one perspective it looked like a campsite, with colorful tents springing up across the lawn. From another perspective, the cardboard-box huts looked like ones in a million poor neighborhoods, scattered across hillsides in third-world countries.
From one perspective, it was a night of unusually cold and uncomfortable sleeping conditions. From another perspective, it was a world of luxury, with sleeping bags, warm soup and cardboard protection from the cold.
During last night’s “shanty town experience,” at Southeastern, students were encouraged to change their perspective for even one night; to move away from feelings of guilt over creature comforts, and move toward understanding and thankfulness for the bounty of the Lord in their lives.
Throughout the night, students camped out in various accommodations on Southeastern’s campus – utilizing tents, cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, sleeping bags and more to simulate the experience of living in poverty-stricken communities. Dana, an M.Div. student who organized the Shanty Town during Southeastern’s Global Missions Week, said the purpose was for students to gain a better understanding of what life is like for the billions of lost people who live overseas and to use the night of little sleep to pray for those who live without.
The evening began with a few students gathering around some guitars in front of Binkley Chapel. Later, more students began to drift in and pitch their tents or build their box structures. At seven, a simple soup dinner was offered, reminding the students of people who live on such basic meals year round. As the sun dipped below the horizon and the temperatures dropped down to the low 40s, students, faculty and staff gathered together for a time of praise and worship at nearby Richland Creek Community Church.
Returning to the dark campus, approximately 30 students, some families with their children, crawled into their tents or shacks to spend a cold night thinking on the blessings of the Lord and the needs of the world – shelter, health care, clean water, food…the message of salvation through faith in Christ alone.
“When I went home the next morning and took a hot shower, that’s when it really hit me. I could leave, go home and take a nice hot shower – most of the world can’t do that. More than not having hot water though, I realize their need is truly the gospel,” Dana said.
“It was only one night for me. For the rest of the world, it’s their life.”