Diann Nickerson is the campus pastor at West Liberty University.
I’m fairly new into my career as a campus minister for West Liberty University but when I took the job, I was confident I would be supported in learning new things, finding answers to questions I had, and networking around our conference to find folks willing to assist with projects or problems. Thus, a connection began between this new pastor and laity and clergy around the conference – a truly ‘blessed connection.’
This same connection popped up recently when Bart Thompson, my former pastor at Warwood UMC, reached out and asked if I would like to take our West Liberty students to Washington, DC to see The Holocaust Museum. I jumped at the chance, and we took five students from West Liberty and two students from West Virginia University. Bart received a grant that helped to cover the costs of the trip for the students. Members from several churches also made the pilgrimage so more connections were being made on the trip. It was a fantastic opportunity for intergenerational learning between the folks on the bus. We learned a lot about those sitting around us – again, the blessed connection!
I wanted our students to learn about the atrocities of this event. We must understand it happened before, and it could happen again anywhere. I wanted the students to understand how easily and quickly it happened. Each of us partnered up with a friend and went through the museum at our own pace, stopping to reflect on exhibits that were important to us. This was something you needed to absorb at your own pace, in your own way.
One of the most poignant exhibits was that of the shoes of the Holocaust victims. They were scattered about in a pile, and there were a lot of them. Hearing about the numbers of those slain is already saddening enough, but seeing a visual representation of the number really highlighted the tragedy of the Holocaust.Veronica Huggins, sophomore
On Tuesdays, Campus Ministry has what’s called “Table Talk Tuesday,” which allows us to eat a meal together, discuss contemporary issues, and share our lives with one another. The Tuesday following our trip, we reflected on what we saw and discussed several issues, including how so many people just conformed to the pressure of the Nazi regime, how ordinary people can perpetrate such evil, and how genocide is still happening today. The museum had an exhibit on Myanmar (Burma) that highlights the atrocities going on in that part of the world right now. It gave us pause to consider what we could do to confront and prevent antisemitism today.
One of the most poignant exhibits was that of the shoes of the Holocaust victims. They were scattered about in a pile, and there were a lot of them. Hearing about the numbers of those slain is already saddening enough, but seeing a visual representation of the number really highlighted the tragedy of the Holocaust.
We talked about why what we do today matters and how each of us play a part in being peace makers in the world, even our small part of the world in West Liberty, WV.
I’ve been taught in history class about the Holocaust, but the museum gives more than a history class. To actually see the shoes, the oven, the bunks, and the train carts was an eye-opening experience. It showed me how easy it is to brainwash people. It showed me how cruel people can be. The Holocaust Museum gives us a reason to be kind.Haley Blakeman, Junior
This trip is just a small example of how we are all connected to one another, and the many ways God weaves this interconnectedness into our lives so we can continue to transform the world. The numerous connections we have with one another, the small bridges we build to make our communities stronger, the glue of our faith – this is what the United Methodist Church is all about for me, and what I hope students at West Liberty can take away from our Campus Ministry programs.