Students at Lipscomb are recognized for the numerous hours of service they complete each year. But it’s pretty astonishing what some students completed in just an few hours.
Freshmen Nathan Owens and Zac Riedford, along with the help of countless friends, surprised a fellow student with something that not only brought tears to his eyes, but to almost every eye at last night’s Wednesday Night We Eat.
Take a minute to think about living and going to school more than 7,000 miles away from home.
That is what freshman history major Caesar Tang has to deal with everyday. He’s from Hong Kong, and he moved here his sophomore year of high school. Tang has only been home to China a few times since moving to Texas three years ago.
With that in mind, Owens and Riedford began to wonder if it would be possible to send Caesar home for Christmas.
“It started with about five of us sitting in a room,” said Owens, a biology major. “And we just started thinking it would be really cool to send Caesar home.”
During a Tuesday night devotional, started by a group of freshman in 2008, the idea was born.
“After devo one night we voiced the idea aloud once Caesar had left,” Owens said. “Our RA, Mark Wilkins, told us that it was a good idea and that we should run with it.”
After thinking about it for a few days, Owens, Riedford and few others got together and talked about the options that they had.
“Finally about a week later I decided that we needed to do something right then,” Owens said. “It was then that I wrote up a two page flyer and went around to the freshman floor of High Rise.”
Satan was fighting the group of students, though. Because of the way things worked out, High Rise residents were only given about an hour to donate to the fund that would ultimately send Caesar home.
“Monday night we had $991,” Owens said. “I thought there was no way that we were going to make it, so we came up with three emergency plans.”
The first plan was to talk to the rest of High Rise, the first, seventh and eighth floors. The second back up plan was to get the Elam dorm in on it. Riedford and Owens talked to fellow freshman Rachel Bush about getting Elam residents to donate. Bush, though, took it one step further by asking a Fanning resident, Hannah Lavoie to go around her dorm to collect money.
The final back up plan was to ask the church to donate the rest of the money.
Within two hours Bush and Lavoie had collected $450 from Elam and $210 from Fanning. While the two girls were knocking on doors in the female dorms, Riedford and Owens knocked on the doors of High Rise residents.
After three hours of telling people their cause and the reasoning behind it, the students had raised $1400 to go along with the $991 already collected.
Not knowing if enough money would ever be raised, Nathan kept a spreadsheet of all those who had donated money to the cause, so if they didn’t reach their goal, money could be returned to those who had donated.
“It really is a miracle,” Owens said.
During the entire money-raising process, Caesar had no idea this was going on. His friends were not only collecting money from hundreds of his fellow students, but also keeping it a secret from him the entire time.
“Last week Caesar said that he was going to Abilene for Christmas to stay with his host-family,” said Riedford, a law, justice and society major. “We had to come up with all these lame excuses to convince him to not buy his ticket just yet. For instance, [we told him that] the gap between Halloween and Thanksgiving is the best time to buy holiday plane tickets.”
During times like those, when his friends thought of giving up, God showed Himself again.
“Then, Saturday he came in and told us that he had just bought his ticket to Abilene,” Riedford said. “Shortly after that, though, he came in and said that his family was not going to be home for two weeks during break, and that it would be tough for everything to work out.”
“All these problems kept coming up where Caesar could not buy his ticket,” Owens said. “It really showed us all that God was saying he could not buy his ticket.”
It was after many nights of prayer and random acts where God had shown himself that turned things around.
“Once Caesar told me that it was going to be really hard to get to Abilene because of everything happening I knew that we were going to make it,” Owens said. “I had started to lose a little bit of faith, but God proved true.”
If you were wondering how much a roundtrip flight to Hong Kong is, the best flight right now is $2,136. The campus-wide movement raised $2,367.73 in one week, with over half of that coming in during a time period of just a few hours.
“We’re going to talk to Caesar and see exactly what he wants to do,” Owens said.
”If he really wants to go to Abilene this Christmas he can use the money for summer break,” Riedford said. “It’s a ton of money, but the opportunity to go home is priceless.”
A wide variety of students supported the cause. Freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors and faculty were all in on it. A Malagasy student even gave five dollars to fund the trip. He has not been home in almost four years, but he still managed to give money to support what the students were doing for their friend.
“It really shows how much other students care for Caesar, too,” Owens said. “There’s only so much we can do as a body of students for one person, but if someone wants to do something, I’m all for it.”
Caesar was obviously overwhelmed with excitement after being presented with the money. When he heard the news, he fell to his knees.
“He was so excited,” Riedford said. “After everything died down and we made it up to his room he told me that he had only cried twice because of happiness. The first was at his high school graduation, and this was the only other time.”
“The fact that he puts this up there with graduating high school is so great,” Owens said.
“It’s not only going home for Christmas, it’s going home in general. And the fact that his friends stepped up and did this for him is even better.”
Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”