Class of 1992 inspired by its Spring Break Campaign days to reunite, volunteer in Haiti

Published in Summer-Fall 2016 edition of ACU Today magazine

Pressed between pages of the Bible Ty Maddox (’92) has had since college is an artifact from those days: A ticket stub for a tour of the Empire State Building.

He’d visited the iconic site on an excursion to New York City during a 1990 Spring Break Campaign in Philadelphia, tucking away the ticket in his Bible as a souvenir. There it has stayed, through graduation, medical school, marriage, starting a family, building a practice. And there it came to his attention one night in January 2015, sparking an idea that would change many lives.

Ty was in Thomazeau, Haiti, working for a week with LiveBeyond, a faith-based humanitarian organization started and operated by Dr. David (’82) and Laurie (Stallings ’81) Vanderpool that brings medical and maternal health care, clean water, education, orphan care, community development and the Gospel to the oppressed. His college friend – and fellow Philadelphia Spring Break Campaigner – Holly (McLeod ’92) Brown had invited him to join her on a medical mission trip to the site once she learned her husband, Alan (’92), wasn’t able to attend.

Looking at his Empire State Building ticket that night, he and Holly began to reminisce about the trip, marveling at how 25 years had passed. But soon, the talk changed from examining the past to looking toward the future.

“As Ty and I sat there, talking about what a great week it was, we realized how special it would be to share this experience with our ACU friends,” Holly says. “You share something so unique in your time together at ACU, and then when you’re put in a setting to serve others, the bonds become even stronger.”

Returning to the U.S., Ty and Holly set about recruiting college friends, especially those from their Philadelphia campaign, to join a medical mission to LiveBeyond in January 2016. They ended up with a team of 15 adults, seven of whom are Philadelphia veterans, and three children, joining the ranks of around 170 ACU graduates who have volunteered at LiveBeyond. They came with backgrounds in the medical field as well as education, ministry and business.

“Your college friends are some of your closest friends, even if you don’t see each other very often,” Ty says. “We all have different skills and gifts, and there’s some greater good that we can can achieve by coming together and utilizing them to serve others.”

Craig Fisher (’92), ACU director of alumni relations and university relations, was part of the original Philadelphia crew and made the Haiti trip with his wife, Beth Ann (Souder ’93). A highlight for him was seeing his longtime friends in action as professionals.

“That week, I got to watch my friends who are doctors and nurses be at their offices and see how gentle and caring they were with their patients, and how they went the extra mile for someone,” he says. “To go and see ACU alumni – my community – serving and using the gifts God has given them, was powerful.”

The Vanderpools and LiveBeyond welcome two mission trips a month, and volunteers’ days are highly structured. Mornings begin with a Bible study, followed by breakfast and a time of worship with the Haitians. Everyone then divides up into their appointed roles in the site’s clinic and school; for example, Craig helped register patients for the clinic (they saw almost 900 that week) while Ty helped with intake, determining each patient’s medical needs and how much food could be allotted to them based on their level of malnutrition. Some are starving to death.

From where Craig was stationed, he could see Beth Ann praying with patients before they left the clinic, tears streaming down her face as she was overwhelmed with the task. Patients couldn’t understand her words, but they understood her intent.

After the clinic closes, volunteers travel to meet with those unable to make it to the LiveBeyond site, often because of physical limitations. They live in what Americans would, at best, describe as shacks.

“What David and Laurie are doing down there is powerful,” Craig says. “It’s the poorest of the poor. Every day, they are bringing Jesus to the people and doing it in a hard, barren land with not much support from that country.”

Ty doesn’t mince words when he talks with friends, family and his own patients about his LiveBeyond experiences.

“You’re going to a place where it’s very dark,” he says. “There is very little government infrastructure to help people there. And these people are actually starving and they need help. I don’t really candy coat it.

“I think it puts everything in perspective,” Ty says. “The terminology we throw around so loosely in our culture – the phrase ‘I’m starving’ is not allowed in our household anymore. I tell people it’s terrible, but good things are happening there. This group is doing good work, and you can help.”

At night, everyone gathers for a time of fellowship, discussing what they did and saw that day and praying for the patients and countless others who’ll never be treated. Ty, Holly, Craig, Beth Ann and the rest talked about each other’s families and careers and how they all want to return to Haiti and LiveBeyond. (Holly and Beth Ann will be there in June.)

And of course, they talked about their time as students at ACU, a place that provided a foundation to become servant leaders throughout the world. Craig says he hopes more graduates will gather groups of friends for mission trips, not just to places like Haiti but in their own communities.

“We share a common bond from our time together at school,” Ty says. “One of the things we were taught at ACU is to go out into the world and be light, and this was a way we could help fulfill that great need – to try to be light in the darkness.”

– SARAH CARLSON