Oaks Christian Online Alum “Walks Justly” with his NYC Community

Serving during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hank, you were once a fulltime student at Oaks Christian Online.  When did you graduate? Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since you graduated high school?   

I graduated alongside several other full-time Oaks Christian Online students in May of 2015. After graduating, I decided to attend a small, Christian liberal arts college in New York City called The King’s College. While there, a ton of incredible opportunities have come my way. I’ve worked as a barista, a copyeditor for a charter school, a teaching assistant, and I spent two years planning and operating academic competitions and conferences at my school. 

On the academic side, I’ve had the opportunity to do research in my undergraduate classes on the notion of “blessing” in the Hebrew Bible. This has involved work on metaphor theory, cognitive linguistics, and canonical criticism. I almost had the opportunity to present one of my papers at a regional Society of Biblical Literature conference, but due to both a lack of undergraduate submissions (I was the only undergraduate to submit a paper!) and COVID-19, the conference was canceled. 

Was there anything you picked up at Oaks Christian Online (personally or academically) that was helpful to you during your college years? 

In most traditional undergraduate programs, whether they be at large state schools, or small liberal arts colleges, a lot of what you’re doing is taking big ideas and synthesizing them in various ways to grow in your understanding of a given topic. I’m sure most Oaks Christian Online students would agree that this is what they do every week already! While going from an online learning experience to a classroom learning experience required some adjustment, the real “stuff” of college learning was really intuitive for me at the outset, thanks to my Oaks Christian Online career.  

More recently, you’ve been working on a project to meet needs during the pandemic.  Can you tell us about that? 

Yes! My church, Saint John’s in the Village, has partnered with a volunteer-based grocery pick-up and delivery organization called Invisible Hands to get groceries delivered to seniors and immunocompromised folks in the New York City community.  

Our church has been given a grant by an organization in Scotland, which allows us to take care of all grocery costs. Our clients have the option of accepting the groceries as a gift or paying us back after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This is really important work because most of the clients we’re targeting with this program do not have internet access and cannot go outside. Getting these groceries makes an unspeakable difference for these people’s lives 

What was the process for creating and funding this emergency relief program and how have you been involved? 

I was not personally involved with getting the funding, but our rector has amazing connections with aid organizations in Scotland; they have graciously given us the money to be able to do this work. I was, however, involved in getting the volunteer program and general operations going, which is a huge task when you’re building something like this from scratch. There is a group of about four of us who were able to put our heads together to design an efficient system for acquiring volunteers, working with our partner organization, Invisible Hands, and getting the service out to the people who need it most. 

What inspired you to work on this community service? 

Scripture and the Christian tradition asks us over and over again to care for the vulnerable, the poor, and the elderly. This kind of care is laid out and modeled in the Torah, in the ministry of Jesus, in the wisdom of the Psalms, etc. I think being a Christian causes us to see the world through a particular lens, a lens that informs our ideas about justice and care for the world.  

COVID-19 has shed a lot of light on the needs of our neighbors. We ought to take this moment in which those needs are particularly clear and act in service as best we can. As the prophet Micah put it, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” 

Finally, how can people who, perhaps, do not live in New York help out? 

If you are interested in volunteering with us, contact me at paulhenri.jeannel@tkc.edu, and we will get you onboarded! 

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