WWU Students Make a Difference In Their Backyard

Walla Walla University's School of Theology requires all theology majors to spend one year with a pastor mentor within the Walla Walla Valley.

Joseph Radelfinger, senior theology and mass communications major, was assigned to the Northside Church in October 2007, one month after he and his bride, Sarah, were married. It was a small, 60-member church in what Radelfinger calls "the worst part of town."

"At first I thought it was a mistake," recalls Radelfinger. "But I soon learned God can work anywhere, and with anyone, no matter how big or small."

The Radelfingers discovered there was something unique about the children in the church. All but two of them in Sabbath School were from the local community and were brought to church each Sabbath by church members.

"The kids are, in a sense, inner-city kids," says Sarah, a WWU senior mass communications major. "For them, life means existing in ‘survival of the fittest' mode. We found out some of the kids didn't even have a bed or blankets."

The Radelfingers also learned the church had started as an outreach for the children in the Northside area. Together, with a handful of other church members, they created His Kids in Action.

Like Vacation Bible School, the program offers an hour of Christian camp songs, story time, and an activity/craft period. As the number of children grew to 15 and then 20, the Radelfingers asked fellow WWU students to help. Today, about a dozen WWU students help at the church, attending the kids' basketball games, inviting them for lunch or taking them out for ice cream.

"To me, all the WWU students who help out have become a family," says Sarah. "We know about the kids' lives and are constantly updating each other."

In addition to Sabbath School programs and the His Kids in Action program, the WWU students do other things with the children. This past December, they hosted a Christmas party, even providing gifts and brand-new Bibles chosen specifically for each child.

"One of the neatest miracles I've seen is the number of WWU students who have stepped up to help with this project," says Sarah. "The kids at Northside hold a special place in our hearts, and our lives would not be the same without them."

March 01, 2009 / Walla Walla University
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Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent