College Spotlight: Ferrum College
Members of Mu Sigma Chi, a Christian fraternity at Ferrum College, paint houses on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian reservation.
Serving, listening, learning
Since 2010, a group of Ferrum College students have annually entered into a covenant relationship with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Philadelphia, Miss.
"Today is a critical time in the history of the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians," said Steve Claris, a United Methodist church and community worker at the 180-year-old United Methodist mission. "The culture is at a tipping point between thriving ... (and) sliding back into old, dependent ways. Leadership at all levels is (crucial) to gaining momentum."
Mu Sigma Chi, a Christian fraternity from the college in Ferrum, Va., first visited the Philadelphia mission during spring break in 2010.
"Each year, the students travel to Mississippi, where they spend time becoming acquainted with the traditions of their Choctaw brothers and sisters," said the Rev. Wes Astin, dean of the chapel and religious life at Ferrum.
They listen to lectures from the Choctaws, repair homes, visit Native people in their homes and in the hospital, lead game nights for the children and coordinate worship services.
Billy Byrd of the Ferrum College Mission Team assists one of the Choctaw youngsters during activity time.
The fraternity sets a goal of raising at least $1,000 annually for the mission and for materials that the team will need upon arrival.
"The students always look forward with anticipation to their trip to Mississippi and always come away feeling they have been ministered to so much more than anything they gave to the reservation," Astin added. "A highlight each year is when the Ferrum College students prepare a meal for the people and enjoy an evening of food, fellowship and games."
The Rev. J. Richard Peck