Southern Seminary to serve Louisville in third annual 1937 Project

Communications Staff — March 25, 2015

Southern Seminary volunteers cut down trees in Louisville's Seneca Park during the first annual 1937 Project.
Southern Seminary volunteers cut down trees in Louisville’s Seneca Park during the first annual 1937 Project.

The entire seminary community will honor the role The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary played in the city’s recovery during the Great Flood by serving Louisville, Kentucky, in the third annual 1937 Project, April 18.

“We are a part of this community not by accident, but by God’s providence, and that means we have some responsibility to this community,” said Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. during a March 17 chapel service.

The 1937 Project is a campus-wide outreach as part of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Give A Day week of service, which Southern Seminary has participated in since 2012. The seminary’s outreach is designed to further its gospel witness and practically meet the needs of Louisville residents. It aims to show continued care and love for neighbors and non-profit organizations in the city and model Christian service for future church leaders.

The past two years of the 1937 Project have included helping to restore homes in the community, painting, cutting down trees in Seneca Park, and praying over various organizations like the Exploited Children’s Help Organization.

Fischer recently wrote to the seminary in gratitude for its continued service to the community.

“I want to thank you and your team at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for your ongoing participation during our Give a Day week of service,” he wrote. “Louisville is continually being recognized for its compassionate work because of people like you who work daily to help those less fortunate.”

The Great Flood of 1937 devastated Louisville, with the Ohio River reaching so far inland that rescue teams saved people from the second story windows of downtown buildings. During the crisis, Southern Seminary buildings were used to house orphans and flood victims and seminary president John R. Sampey invited the mayor to use his office for an extended time.

In 2011, Fischer established three pillars for Louisville: to be a city of healthy living, lifelong learning, and compassion. Since its creation, Fischer has sought to create various projects and campaigns to further the involvement of Louisvillians in caring well for the city they call home. The creation of the 1937 Project is one way in which the seminary community has been involved.

However, sharing in the desire to create a more compassionate Louisville, the seminary community is keeping its eyes open for opportunities to serve and further gospel witness year-round.

Southern Seminary students Evan Sams and Justin Willia, alumnus Cameron Debity, and Boyce college student Chase Grubb took part in the #LouSnowHelp Twitter campaign March 5-6.
Southern Seminary students Evan Sams and Justin Williamson, alumnus Cameron Debity, and Boyce college student Chase Grubb took part in the #LouSnowHelp Twitter campaign March 5-6.

On March 5-6, due to record amounts of snow, Fischer created the #LouSnowHelp Twitter campaign as a way of crowdsourcing non-emergency help. It was a mechanism by which citizens could connect, serve one another, and cultivate furthered compassion throughout the city. Beverly Bartlett, social media manager for the mayor’s office, described the campaign as a natural outgrowth of Fischer’s three pillars. Shortly after its creation, the hashtag was trending.

After shoveling a foot of snow from his own driveway, Cameron Debity, lead pastor of Hurstbourne Baptist Church and a Southern Seminary alumnus, checked his Twitter feed, saw the #LouSnowHelp campaign, and offered to help. He recruited his three roommates, seminary students Justin Williamson and Chase Grubb and Boyce College student Evan Sams, to serve alongside him. Boyce College is the undergraduate school of the seminary. They were joined by additional members of Hurstbourne: Brittney Greer, Kip and Nate Eatherly, and Lamont Breland.

“In Louisville, many people are skeptical and even hostile toward conservative Christianity, but with our city’s desire to be known as ‘The Compassionate City,’ a major connection point is service,” Debity said. “So I found our efforts to be a remarkable bridge to our city’s residents. We garnered lots of good will and opened up channels of gospel dialogue.”

The requests took Debity and his team all over the city, including the Hurstbourne community, the St. Matthews area, Bardstown Road, and a mobile home park near the Outer Loop. Throughout March 5-6, they were able to serve more than eight homes and one stranded motorist. Any families they were unable to help, they connected to someone else in their area who could.  The snowstorm was an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to the city of Louisville, he said.

As Debity’s team responded to many of the requests that came in, many others in the community were encouraged to serve also. They made such an impact that WDRB News caught wind of their efforts and featured Debity and his team on the news. Fischer and his staff said dozens of residents were helped through the #LouSnowHelp campaign.

“I’ve always believed our compassion efforts in Louisville could spark a brushfire of compassion that will spread around the world,” Fischer said in response to the success of #LouSnowHelp.

In his letter to Southern, Fischer expressed his gratitude for the 1937 Project, saying he looks “forward to continuing our partnership with the seminary as we strive to keep Louisville the most livable and compassionate city in the world.”

If a church or organization would like to submit a potential project, visit www.sbts.edu/1937. Students and families can visit the same link to register for service projects by April 15.

The April 18 event will begin at 8 a.m. with sign-in, breakfast, and a send-off rally. Most projects should end between noon and 1 p.m.

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