Joan Foster – Liberty University Convocation

>>DAVID NASSER: I think at first glance,
you might make a mistake today in thinking that this is a political day. I want to tell you that neither one of the
guests today, both of our honored guests, are looking for you to vote for them in any
way. One is already your mayor, and she loves you
and cares about you. And the other is not running for office. And so, I want to say this to you; this is
a whole lot more about partnership and a whole lot more about passion for Christ than it
is about anything else. And you and I are going to get a great opportunity
today to hear from a local level from our mayor, and then, honestly, a more state and
even a national level from a former governor on what it looks like for us to roll up our
sleeves and do together what we could never do alone in partnership. Our very first guest is our very own mayor,
Mayor Joan Foster. Come on; let’s welcome her to the house. It’s such an honor to have you here. Hey, Joan, thank you for taking time. I know you’re one of the busiest, hardest
working mayors on the planet. Thanks for being here this morning.>>JOAN FOSTER: Well, it’s my pleasure. I hope, yeah—this is on, yes. It’s my pleasure, and what better place to
be? It’s wonderful to see all of you all this
morning. I bring greetings from our city, and from
Lynchburg City Council. You know, you all are an intricate, important
piece of our community, and I want you to remember that from me. And from all of us as citizens, we appreciate
who you are, and we try to court you and love you the four years you’re here. So, thank you. Thank you for being here.>>NASSER: Absolutely. Hey, our first female mayor, and man, just,
honestly, just a fighter for justice and a fighter for what is right. And, by the way, let’s just stop right here
and make sure we don’t miss the moment here. The idea of partnership is right front and
center in that. You know, you’re a democrat. Bob is a Republican, but man, service is something
that brings everybody together from both sides of the aisle. Take us back to the beginning. How did you get involved in politics? How did you—? I know you have a real passion and love for
this particular city. Tell us a little bit about your story. >>FOSTER: Well, actually, I moved here 17
years ago, but I lived in Amherst County for 23. I was an educator, and so many of the problems
I would see in education were social problems. So, I quit teaching and went into human service
work—worked in community services, and I worked for the department. So much substance abuse was going on during
that time, as it still is, so, I worked for the Partnership for the Prevention of Substance
Abuse and then went into the Family Alliance, because so many families were hurting in our
community, and I wanted to make a difference. And one day I walked into my office and listened
to my voicemail, and on that voicemail, I heard this message: “Hello, this is Pete—”
who was a former professor of mine at Lynchburg College. He said, “We have selected you, and we want
you to come to breakfast.” And then he just hung up and said, next city
councilwoman. And I played it a number of times, and I was
not a political person. I was just a person who wanted to do good. So, I did go to that breakfast, and I have
to tell you all; I had prayed the prayer of Jabez for two weeks prior to that phone call,
so if you pray that prayer, beware. You might get called. And I literally got a call, and that has led
to my 15 years of service on Lynchburg City Council, which will be some of the most memorable—besides
my family and my children and grandchildren—memorable years of my life. And there are so many wonderful things that
have happened in our city. When I got on city council 15 years ago, we
were losing population. We had 64,000 people and were going to 63. We are now almost 80,000 people strong, thanks
to a lot of you all, because you’re counted in that census, too. So, we’re a growing community with a great
standard of living here. >>NASSER: We really are. One of my favorite things about you in particular,
Joan, is on occasion, just as the campus pastor, I’ll get a call from you. And you never are asking for something personal. You’re always pushing and fighting for a student. And one of those organizations that you’re
always looking to connect Liberty with is Beacon of Hope. Can you tell us a little bit about what we’re
doing there?>>FOSTER: Lynchburg Beacon of Hope grew out
of an initiative that I started over 10 years ago. It was a dialogue on race and racism. Because we had had an incident in our community
much like what happened across America in recent years. However, I made the decision that we needed
to sit down and talk about the things in this community that separated us—whether that
be race, whether that be social justice, whatever it was. And we had talks on race and racism for almost
two years. Almost 2,000 people were involved, and out
of that grew this initiative that in our community, nothing—not your zip code, not your socioeconomic
background—would separate you from being the best you could in life through education. So, the whole goal of Lynchburg Beacon of
Hope is to successfully see our students who are in the public school get to graduation
with a post-secondary plan. That could be a plumber. That could be a welder, that could be a 2-year,
4-year, Ph.D., army, whatever. But we support that whole mission in the school
system. And we’re a private, non-profit. I helped to raise the money, and we have some
wonderful, wonderful work studies, because we only have four folks who work with us in
that program, and we do great things. I have to brag. But we could not do that without our college
work-studies and interns. And we have—our biggest number comes from
Liberty University, and I have three people who I love behind me: Conner Richardson, and
Garrett Hadrick, and Beth Joseph. And they’re—I’ll just go to them, and I’ll
say, oh, I need you to pray for this. Oh, I need you to do this. And they’re there. They’re there every day loving our students,
sharing being with them. They are building the relationships. We call them Near Peers in our public-school
system, and they have been just miracle workers for many of our kids there. >>NASSER: Your heart is so attached to service,
and as our city, you know, leader, you continue to push that. I know your education background and everything
else plays into that. One of the things I learned when I came into
this city, through you, is that our homeless population is much bigger on average than
any other city in this state, and so is our poverty stats—mainly because we are such
a friendly city to the homeless. And so, word has gotten out. This is a city that loves people. This a city that serves people. This is a city that helps bridge the gap from
poverty to a life where someone’s just able to self-sustain. Tell us a little about what you’re doing there. And then, I know a lot of us will be gone,
but when we get back in, from May the 4th, you’re launching something out, and then,
how can we get involved in that?>>FOSTER: Okay, I actually took a little
hiatus from the mayorship for four years. I still served on council, but it was placed
on me heavily that I needed to have a call to action against poverty in our community. Our poverty rate is 24%. Now, figure that out. 80,000 people, a quarter of our population
are living below a certain standard. Say, a family of four is trying to make it
on 24,000 a year. And 30% of that number are children, and that
really weighs heavy on my heart. So, at the state of the city, this year, the
vice mayor and myself issued a call to action, that we, collectively—government cannot
do this alone—we working together can move some individuals out of poverty. We’ve just set a goal of 50 families this
year, the city. So, we need all of your wonderful minds and
energy. All our citizens are coming out on May the
4th. And some of you will probably be gone or in
exams, but it will be at E.C Glass, in the auditorium at 6:30. A call to action that we’re going to move
from poverty to progress. We will pave a path out for many of the individuals
who have lived generational—it’s generational poverty is that 25%, not situational. You know, sometimes people lose their job,
but that’s situational. Generation is generation, and we’re going
to break that cycle. We can do that collectively, together, working
together—no matter where we come from, what we look like. We can do this together. So, that’s what’s going to happen 6:30, May
4th; be there! >>NASSER: You know, obviously, Mayor Foster,
for us, at Liberty, this is not just about social justice or social work. This is about Gospel work, and we love the
idea as we see the story in the good Samaritan that we help someone. We feed someone. We meet them in a moment of need, so we can
connect them to eternal truth. And we love that you’ve allowed us to be that
kind of a partner. I know that President Falwell matches, okay,
we match a lot of the scholarship funds. Can you tell our students some of the things
we do that maybe they’re not aware of?>>FOSTER: Absolutely, we encourage our students
in our public schools to go to our local colleges. We call it “stay close and go far,” because
we need to build our workforce. And jobs, and job training, and skills will
pull a person out of poverty. So, we give a small amount, at this point,
$8,000 scholarships. And when I came over to let president Falwell
know this, as well as the other college presidents, he said for every kid, up to 10 kids, that
he would match that dollar for dollar. So, I think that’s a beautiful thing. They’re coming out of the public schools. Kids have come here, and he has matched the
scholarships that we, Lynchburg Beacon of Hope have provided. Those scholarships come from private individuals
and foundations in this community. They have stepped up and helped us over the
years. We have over 40-some young people that we
have scholarshipped, and we want to expand that number in the next few years, that anyone
who graduates could receive some financial help. It goes back to the mission, that no matter
where they’re from, what socioeconomic background, that nothing will keep them from getting a
good post-secondary education. So, that’s the mission.>>NASSER: That’s amazing. So, tomorrow, you’re going to put on a serve
Lynchburg T-shirt and join 1,600 of us, by the way, as we go and love this city in the
name of Jesus and serve alongside 16 partner organizations. It’s going to be our largest one-day effort
in our history as a school. It’s not just our students, but it is our
faculty, and our staff. You know, I can’t wait to see family members
out there. We’re going to be—our football team is serving,
for example, doing gardening and landscaping with Lynchburg grows. We’ve got the Human Society. We’ve got clean-up on the James River. Lynchburg City schools are getting help. Historic sites all around the city are getting
cleaned up, and they’re getting pained, landscaping. It’s going to be an amazing thing. >>FOSTER: It will be! I’m going to build a habitat house on Fillmore
Street. There’s a woman, all these women are pulling
together, and we’re going to have a women-build through Habitat for Humanity on Fillmore Street. So, I’m going to don some tool belts and get
busy with building a home for some very worthy family. >>NASSER: Amen, amen. Hey, we want to pray for that and just ask
the Lord for an opportunity. Obviously, most of the people that we’re serving
tomorrow, we’re not recruiting them to come to Liberty. We want them to see that just as Jesus values
them, just as they matter to God, they matter to God’s people, amen? So, let’s just pray. And thank you so much for being a part of
that, letting us be a part of that with you as our mayor, also as our sister in Christ,
Joan. >>FOSTER: Thank you. Thank you for reaching out on our byways,
and our highways, and our neighborhoods, and reaching out and building a relationship with
that individual and that child. It will make an entire difference, just unbelievable
difference in that individual’s life. So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. >>NASSER: Amen. Amen. I know Kaytee’s going to come in just a second
and introduce the governor, but let’s pray right now for tomorrow. Father, we thank You for the opportunity we
have. We don’t have to serve; we get to serve. We get to, Father, just tell someone who is
hungry, someone who maybe thinks no one cares about the circumstances of their life that
we care. And we care not because God has forced us
to, but because God has given us the great gift to. Thank you that compassion is a way to bring
light, to bring hope, to usher in the fruit of the Spirit in the life of someone. Would you, Lord, help us not just serve the
city, but serve non-profit organizations, and churches, and city leaders who constantly,
every day, wake up and serve this city. Help us help them. We love you, Lord, for this great thing that
we’re going to get to be a part of tomorrow. We pray this in Your name, amen. Can we thank Joan one more time? Come on; put your hands together for her.

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