When Waynesburg University sophomore Gracious Shavers was a high school student at Zion Christian Academy in Okinawa, Japan, she often recited a Bible verse at night.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”— Matthew 5:14-16
This verse, central to her goals of being a servant to others and bringing glory to the Lord's kingdom, inspired Gracious to act as a light to those in need.
“I will go wherever God calls me,” Gracious said. “I want to love those who aren't loved, care for those who others ignore and bring hope to people who need it the most.”
Gracious, a human services (education) major and international studies minor, dedicated her summer to volunteering with the United Services Organization (USO) in Okinawa, Japan, where she was born and raised.
USO's mission and Gracious' mission were one and the same: to provide a home away from home for U.S. troops and to keep them connected to the families they left behind. The USO's work to support U.S. troops is close to Gracious' heart, as she can recall stopping by the USO's Kadena base with her own family when her father was in the Air Force.
Gracious' personal experience living in Okinawa enabled her to share the island's culture with U.S. troops, having the unique perspective of both a local resident and a past beneficiary of the organization. She worked at the USO's front desk, assisted at social events and put together care packages for deployed soldiers.
As a Bonner Scholar at Waynesburg University, Gracious completes 140 hours of service each semester. She has volunteered with various organizations, including the Eva K. Bowlby Public Library, the Discovery Club, Laughlin Chapel, Produce to People, St. Ann Catholic Church, The Pittsburgh Project, World Vision and Youth in Action.
“The Bonner Program has given me the opportunity to serve in many ways that I would have never had the chance to experience back home in Okinawa,” she said, reflecting on her desire to be a servant to others.
The decision to embark on a new journey at Waynesburg University, separated from her family and everything else she knew, came to Gracious one day before she received her official acceptance into the Bonner Program.
The adjustment to life on another continent has left Gracious stronger in her faith, and her experiences at Waynesburg University have left her more sure of her goals than ever before.
“Out of faith, I picked Waynesburg,” Gracious said. “I had no idea what the school looked like, but somehow I felt as if God wanted me there.”