By Kara Witherow, Editor
Listen to God. Do what he says.
That’s what Georgia Southern University senior Konner Smith did two years ago when she and her roommate bought a few bags of food and drove around Statesboro until they ended up at Butler Homes.
They saw a friendly looking apartment – one with frog stickers on the door – and knocked.
Since then, a beautiful friendship has blossomed and a ministry has been born. Smith and the woman who opened the door, Grace, have become great friends. And twice a week for more than two years Smith and several others from the GSU Wesley Foundation have been visiting the children who live at Butler Homes to tutor, play, and pray with them.
“(Grace) made it very clear that their primary need was nothing monetary, but rather someone to consistently love these kids through their hardships and to help break the cycle that comes with poverty and violence and abuse,” Smith said. “I thought, I can do that, I can love anyone!”
She went back the next day, cooked hotdogs, and invited everyone in the apartment complex to a cookout. More than 30 kids showed up to eat and play. She’s been going back ever since.
“I just loved these kids from the first day and knew this place would be super important to me.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, Smith and a team of about 20 volunteers arrive at Butler Homes apartments ready to help with homework, hang out, and play with the kids. They also spend time with the parents, building relationships and getting to know them.
“Money can’t fix or heal people. Money isn’t the answer. Jesus is. Relationships are,” said Smith, a GSU senior who has been invited to countless Butler Homes birthday parties, cookouts, and family gatherings. “I never wanted to put a Band-Aid on things. I wanted to invest my time in people. I wanted to break the cycle.”
The ministry has no overhead and no programming, says GSU Wesley Foundation director Dr. Jonathan Smith. Students and volunteers are merely loving people and sharing resources, and that’s exciting to him.
“God put a vision in her heart to make a difference in this neighborhood,” he said. “And it’s opened students’ eyes to see that there are people in our backyard who need to experience the love of Christ. If we as the Church can begin to be present in those places, the whole world begins to look different.”
The Wesley Foundation’s desire is to see Statesboro different because the students are there and are making an impact in the city for Christ, Dr. Smith said.
“We believe that college students shouldn’t just pass through Georgia Southern or Statesboro and never have experienced the city or seen its needs,” he said. “Statesboro should be better because Wesley’s here and because local churches are here.”
One day, Konner Smith hopes to travel overseas to spread the gospel to unreached people groups. But until then, she’s living out the gospel across town, spreading the love of Christ by reading and playing with children.
“I can’t go across the world right now, but I can go down the road to where people aren’t getting reached by the gospel,” she said. “If everyone just did something, the world would be a lot different. This is a way to live out the gospel. I experience God through scripture and prayer, but I also experience Him through service and obedience and doing what He says to do. By serving, I’ve become more the person Jesus wants me to be.”