Yellers vs chillers
Stories featuring different ministries on and off campus
Religious groups try different methods to reach students
By Gabe Thomas
Two groups, with different beliefs and two different tactics set up in the free speech zone beside the Williams Center each week with one similar goal; to reach and help the students on Georgia Southern’s campus.
On Tuesday, Pastor Bobby Vangiller of the Lakeview Baptist Church preaches a sermon with a speaker projecting his voice while members of the church sit back with literature for anyone that comes by. There are also signs with scripture written on them for students to read as they walk by.
On Wednesday volunteers from Kingdom Hall-Jehovah Witness setup under a white tent with a sign that says “Free Christian Literature.” The volunteers sit under the tent quietly choosing to let students approach them instead of approaching the students.
While both Lakeview, an independent Baptist congregation, and the Jehovah Witness group classify themselves as Christians, they believe different things about Jesus.
Vangiller and his church believe that while Jesus was God’s son he was also fully God and part of what is known as the trinity. They also believe that Jesus died on a cross to help those that believe in him avoid hell.
According to JW.org, Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus was God’s son but that he is not God and not part of a trinity. They believe that Jesus died on a cross, but that God would not send people to hell.
Benney Janvier, one of the volunteers for the Jehovah Witness group, said the group has been setting up on campus for about two years now. He said going to campus is part of the goal of engaging the entire community of Statesboro.
“Our goal is to try and have positive interactions with everyone in our community,” said Vangiller. “There are different ways to go about it, door to door, visit nursing homes. Part of going to the community is going to campus and making ourselves available to [students].”
Janvier’s said Kingdom Hall is very focused on being able to help students anyway it can. There is no charge for the literature and they do not offer any condemnation to the students. Janvier said the group just wants to be available to encourage students.
Vangiller, who has been the pastor at Lakewood for 26 years, said the church had setup occasionally for a while but did not start coming consistently until April of 2015 when God laid it on his heart he needed reach out to the campus.
“The Lord just began to deal with my heart,” said Vangiller. “The campus is a city in itself. God began to work on my heart. I have a responsibility to these students coming in. God gripped my heart that for the 26 years I have been here I had not tried to reach these students.”
When Vangiller first began setting up he used a megaphone so that students could hear him preaching. He said he felt like the megaphone gave off a bad image so as soon as the church could afford it he bought a small speaker to amplify his voice.
His goal is not to offend the students of Georgia Southern, but to preach what the bible says. Vangiller is a father of 11 children and understands the trials college students are facing. For that reason he wants to reach the students, but not try and be offensive.
“We’re not the enemy,” said Vangiller. “Some guys bring it on themselves in ministries like this. They make it hard on people like us.”
“When a pastor is out there to be offensive, he needs to stay home.”
While what students find in the free speech zone may differ in the approach, it is not different in the intent. On Tuesday and Wednesday students will find two groups of people that just want to help.