Faith based learning office completes first semester

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2006

Special to The Times-Journal

Mark Wilson never thought he’d return to Marion after the summer of 2001 when he interned for the “Sowing Seeds of Hope” initiative, but now he’s director of faith-based service and learning at Judson College. The program is funded by a grant from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation (CIOS).

Paul Piper Sr., founder of CIOS, visited the Judson campus in 1995. His son, Paul Piper Jr. and his wife, Shirley, visited in 2004.

These visits were instrumental in Judson’s being awarded a $250,000 CIOS grant to inaugurate the new program.Wilson began his new duties as director on July 18.

“My job is to find ways to connect the Judson College resources to community needs,” he said.

“I want to encourage students and faculty to look beyond our campus and find ways to help others. That way, the community becomes an extension of the classroom.”

Wilson helped with literacy projects while a summer intern four years ago and said his “defining moment” was the conversion of the old bank building in Uniontown to a community library. “I’m proud of what we were able to do,” he said, “and we had a lot of help to accomplish this.”

Wilson, a native of Saraland, graduated from the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in 2000, and moved to Auburn after his first sojourn in Marion to begin work on his Ph.D. in history, which he completed in December.

Wilson teaches world history at the college this year and calls his job the best of both worlds.

“I love to teach and I love to minister,” he said.

Wilson’s first campus project on Aug. 26 involved every member of the new freshman class, along with some upperclassmen and faculty.

“Marion Matters” took groups of students and leaders to some 15 different sites for ministry during the first week of the new academic year.

Sites included the CrossTies clothing bank, Marion Depot, both local nursing homes, the Marion Cemetery, Perry County Lakes and local schools.

“We went to a lot of different places with love and determination to help people,” Wilson said. “This was a chance to do something beautiful and useful.”

Students returned to the Marion Depot after their work for a report session and to hear words of appreciation from Judson President Dr. David Potts.

“Our college motto is ‘lux et veritas’ which is Latin for ‘light and truth,'” Potts said.

“We mustn’t contain our light and truth on the campus, but express it in the lives of people around us.”

Potts noted that Perry County is a place of wealth and poverty. “More than 55 percent of the children in this county live in poverty,” he said.

“We must use our resources to reach out to those in need and make a difference for the cause of Christ. I commend you, women of Judson, for what you’ve done today.”

Wilson sponsored two community events in December.

Judson students partnered with Samford University students and the Sowing Seeds of Hope initiative for a community Christmas event on Dec. 3 on the campus of the Lincoln Normal School in Marion.

Fifty-eight boys and girls joined together to make Christmas crafts, sings carols and to enjoy hot cocoa and cookies.

Every child received a free Christmas book.

Wilson and Judson students took their craft-making skills to Southland Nursing Home on Dec. 7.

“We enjoyed getting to know some of the residents,” Wilson said, “and they came up with some creative craft ideas, too!”

“It’s been a great first semester,” Wilson said.

“In the spring we’re anticipating some programs with the local library and offering vision screening for area preschoolers, and we hope to link up with Samford again through the Sowing Seeds of Hope program. We want to be of help to our community.” he said.

Wilson and his wife, Kellie, are parents of Benjamin, 3, and Elizabeth, 10 months.