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FSU student follows God’s call

A Wesley Foundation member at FSU is feeding the hungry and living her life for God. 

PAUL REISSMANN
Michigan Area Communications

Olivia Johnson of the Ferris State Wesley Foundation has made local news with her food pantry ministry that aims to feed hungry students on college campuses.

Olivia Johnson
Olivia Johnson

A senior at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI, Johnson has been with the Ferris Wesley Foundation since 2013. She has found a call into ministry through her time with Wesley. Olivia is

attaining a criminal justice degree at FSU and then hopes to enter into law school, as well as seminary.

In the meantime, however, Johnson has set her sights on developing the Wesley Foundation Emergency Food Pantry. The pantry seeks to bridge the gap between hunger and higher education. The pantry is open Monday through Thursday. On Tuesdays, during lunch time (11:00am – 1:00pm) and dinner time (5:00pm – 8:00pm), all FSU students are invited for free tacos, also given to students who stop by the pantry.

“The norm for a student is to go full-time and work two jobs,” says Johnson, “unless you take out a loan.” With tuition going up, along with the cost of books and other fees, food in the form of a meal plan or visits to a grocery store becomes increasingly difficult to afford. For Johnson, “food isn’t a priority that should be dropped. Meals are needed for better learning and test taking.”

“Maybe our job is to feed and love people.”

Rev. Devon Herrell, Director of the Wesley Foundation at Ferris State University, says that the pantry is making headway on a campus that does not have an office dedicated specifically to spiritual life. “[The food pantry] is about sharing God’s love without any strings attached,” Herrell said. “Maybe it’s not our job to lead [students] here, but they will see the atmosphere and know. Maybe our job is to feed and love people.”

“I empower students to do ministry,” Herrell said. “Liv had the connections and I just equipped her along the way. She has a passion for ministry and I trust her gift to do ministry. It’s affirming for her.”

Johnson first felt the need to create a food pantry on campus when she embarked on a longer-term mission experience in the Big Rapids area and saw people her age grappling with hunger. Other food pantries on campus in Big Rapids are referral based and supply food for 40 days at a time, making them less accessible to students. Johnson said that the experiences she had on that trip helped her to feel God tugging on her heart to do something larger. “After research, I knew this was something I needed to do,” Johnson said. “I wanted to know the numbers of people who were going to come. But that’s the problem; it’s not about numbers. Even one person getting food is enough. When you come to places like this, you do more than just exist.”

fsu-scriptureAlthough hunger is mentioned several times in the scriptures, for Johnson, Ephesians 2:10 is a motivating verse: Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. – CEB

“I come here after work and open up the pantry,” said Johnson. “I ask God ‘what am I supposed to see through this? What’s next?’” One of Johnson’s realizations is that she does not have to be “Super Girl.” “I can relate to people in their struggle and I realize that my struggle is not greater than anyone else’s.”

“We’re really looking for contributions,” said Herrell, “so that way we have half of the food pantry stocked by Wesley and half stocked by donations.”

With an Emergency Food Pantry, Johnson and the FSU Wesley Foundation continue to strive to be the dutiful hands and feet of Christ to God’s people on Ferris State’s campus.

 

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