Mary Adamski View from
the Pew

Mary Adamski

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Campus ministries
providing rides

Drivers of six denominations are
providing shuttle service for
arriving UH students

Campus ministries from six denominations are sharing a practical mission this week, shuttling arriving University of Hawaii students from Honolulu Airport to their Manoa dorms or Waikiki housing.

Groups proving services

Church groups offering services for university students include:

» Baptist Collegiate Ministries, 2042 Vancouver Drive, 946-9581.

» Buddhist Study Center, 1436 University Ave., 973-6555.

» Catholic Campus Ministry, 1941 East-West Road, 988-6222.

» Institute of Religion, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2014 University Ave., 946-9922.

» Lutheran Campus Ministry, 1918 University Ave., 941-4040.

» Wesley Foundation (Methodist), 1918 University Ave., 949-1210.

By the time the last flight is met tomorrow, about 500 students will have benefited from the ecumenical effort of groups that offer spiritual and personal havens for students around the rim of the Manoa campus. The Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Catholic and Buddhist groups are the UH Manoa Religious Council, a loose-knit association which meets monthly to share information and projects with each other and the university.

The university provided seven vans, and the churches put 40 volunteers on the road from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily since Tuesday.

"Hospitality is very central to my faith," said the Rev. Charlene Zuill, of the Wesley (Methodist) Foundation, who did shuttle duty Wednesday. "We really look forward to this, to be the people literally greeting the students. In the short van ride, students will confess they are scared, it's their first time away from home. We get a lot of e-mail from parents who are relieved to know their child will be met."

"Ministry is about relationships," said the Rev. Chris Cartwright, pastor of the Catholic Campus Ministry, who drove a van yesterday. "We help however we can, as a community."

The campus ministries "are making this place a little more of a community," said Doris Ching, vice president for student affairs of the statewide university system. "If they are helping our students, we need to help them help our students."

Each student is welcomed with a shell lei and a chilled bottle of water, and with help carrying dozens of bags and boxes.

Denise Pierson of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Religious Council is in constant cell phone contact with the fleet of vans shuttling students from the airport to the Manoa campus. Six denominations participate.

The project was launched six years ago by Denise Pierson and others at the Methodist center, who responded to long-distance telephone requests by driving their own cars for airport pickups.

By the third year, word got around about a free shuttle, the demand was increasing and "the religious council was willing to take it on," said Pierson. Ching offered the use of a van four years ago, and the university's commitment continues.

"We care about the students, and we want to be sure they are safe," said Pierson, an employee in the UH Student Service Learning Office. Using her experience as a taxi dispatcher with her family's cab company, Pierson organizes the annual effort. She confirms e-mail shuttle reservations and sets up the daily airline arrival schedule for each pair of volunteers. "A lot of people come in without reservations and ask for a ride when they see us," Pierson said. "We don't turn anyone away."

Along with the welcome, the religious council members give new students a warning. They produced a leaflet, "Responding to High Pressure Groups at UH Manoa," with a particular aggressive and secretive cult in mind, Zuill said. It advises that "at any given point in time on the campus at UH Manoa, there are some organized and informal religious, political or social groups that use high pressure recruiting tactics who will approach you.

"If the group encourages you to put the group before all other commandments, including studying ... speaks in a derogatory way about your past religious, social or political affiliations ... if your parents and friends are defined as being unable to really help you," that's a time to be skeptical and seek advice, the brochure says. "Be ready to say no."

Joe Aikala, left, and Denise Pierson unload luggage after shuttling students from Honolulu Airport to the UH-Manoa campus.

The big fall project will be pau tomorrow; the tradition of collaboration that started 17 years ago will continue.

Soon after Ching took her previous assignment as vice president for student affairs at Manoa, she invited campus ministries to meet with university officials.

"We shared information, we invited them to events. The rewards were great.

"It was not to talk about religion, but to help students succeed," said Ching.

"The campus ministers are sensitive about the separation of church and state, and we are, too," she said. "Because of their sensitivity, it was difficult for them to access our services." Other than an initial question from the UH Faculty Senate about the separation issue, there has been no problem about boundaries between academic and spiritual life, Ching said.

Jewish, Muslim and other Christian denominations have been invited to participate in the networking, she said.

"They are really part of the community that our students go to. They play an important role in giving direct service to our students," Ching said. She recalled a housing crisis some years ago in which religious council volunteers staffed an office coordinating residents with offers of off-campus housing with students searching for a home.

The next joint project for the UH Manoa Religious Council is just for fun.

"We do a progressive dinner in early September," said Cartwright. "We'll start at Wesley center for a first course, walk to the next location and on again. It's our turn to do the main course here at the Newman Center.

"It's a way to get together, get acquainted, more to focus on what brings us together than what separates us," Cartwright said.

Then there's the "Keiki Boxes" Christmas project, with each group filling gift packages for the children of needy parents in an education program to get off welfare.

At the end of the school year, the council undertakes a major recycling effort. All the clothing, household goods and other possessions that dormitory residents discard when they are packing to leave are gathered in the "Lokahi Project." Volunteers sort through the stuff and distribute it to charitable organizations around town.

Denise Pierson, Joe Aikala and the Rev. Charlene Zuill, right, unload luggage after shuttling students from the airport to the UH-Manoa campus.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Religion Calendar

Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at madamski@starbulletin.com.



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