What Makes a Faith-Based University’s Response to COVID-19 Unique?

What Makes a Faith-Based University’s Response to COVID-19 Unique?

Like all colleges and universities across America, Liberty University’s response to COVID-19 focused primarily on the health and safety of all the members of our academic community. The differences in our response, however, can be summarized in the two words used to describe the type of university Liberty represents, ‘faith-based.’

Many might ask, “What could ‘faith’ possibly have to do with the academic community’s response to a global pandemic?” That is a legitimate question and one that deserves a response. 

First, as we understand and practice it, faith involves recognition of a personal power higher than man. This means that we can accept the situations of our lives without paralyzing panic or fear. The entire university community was naturally very concerned about COVID-19, but by trusting in a good and loving God, we can avoid fear-based reactions and instead focus on doing what we can and should be doing for the good of the community. Faith calls for a calm response rather than one born out of fear, anxiety, or panic.

Secondly, faith motivates believers to look for the good in situations rather than focusing solely on the negative. This is not to say that believers are blind optimists. However, we understand that dangerous crises like COVID-19 have opportunities hidden in what would otherwise be considered an overwhelmingly negative situation. 

For example, we have seen an increase in the number of inquiries and applications to our graduate and undergraduate degree in public health. This pandemic has the potential of attracting more people to professions that focus on making the world a safer and healthier place. Another benefit, perhaps seen more clearly through the eyes of faith, is the realization of how much we take for granted in our lives. Being able to finish a semester of classes on campus and then return home to work at a summer camp or restaurant, for example, might be thought of as normal for a typical college student under regular circumstances. When those options become closed off, faith reminds us to be grateful for what we did have under pre-COVID conditions as well as what we have now, rather than regret what we may have lost because of the pandemic.

Thirdly, faith motivates believers towards giving and accepting the people in our midst. When the quarantine began, Liberty University immediately recognized the needs of many of the over 700 international students on campus with no place to go in the middle of the semester. These students are from a wide variety of countries, cultures, and faith traditions. While some students chose to return home or leave the campus, other students decided that their well-being would be in greater danger travelling or living elsewhere. Due to this, Liberty University made a strategic decision to remain open to all students, domestic or international, who felt it was in their best interests to remain on campus.

Another way the Liberty community practices our faith is through corporate prayer. While some might deny the effectiveness of praying for personal or global health, believers have practiced conversing with a divine being for millennia. We do this with the understanding that a higher power is present to engage with our prayers and respond accordingly. 

While it could be debated whether prayer has a greater impact on the one praying or the one being prayed to, community prayer does unite people, and unity is one commodity very much needed during crises like this. For this reason, the Liberty University family gathers weekly to pray for the needs of the community, the nation, and the world. When the outbreak began, COVID-19 factored heavily in corporate prayers and remains a focus as we pray for healing of our country and the world.

Finally, faith recognizes and acknowledges the unknown in the world. Even as Liberty University has excellent programs such as biomedical sciences, nursing, microbiology, public health, and even its own college of medicine, we recognize that science will never answer all the questions of the universe and medicine has limits in being able to preserve life. Within our academic community, faith leaves a genuine place for accepting the unknown, even as we work diligently to protect our community and find cures for the diseases that may affect us.

If you would like to learn more about an education at a faith-based institution or what Liberty University could offer you or those around you, feel free to visit www.liberty.edu/international or contact us at intl.recruitment@liberty.edu. We would be happy to help you as you seek a path to a better world and would love to help you become a Champion for Christ.   

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Dr. William E. Wegert, D. Min. has served at Liberty University for the past 36 years in various capacities, most recently as dean of international student programs. As dean, he has been privileged to work with a dedicated staff and to watch thousands of international students from more than 80 countries graduate from Liberty and then go out and make a difference in the world.  

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