“I am in complete shock of the whole thing to be entirely honest with you.” This is junior student and baseball player Andrew Nussbaum’s response when asked about the Champions of Charity movement that has swept the campus this semester. Champions of Charity is a competitive service initiative started early last semester. It drives students to become more involved in the service opportunities that the Mother Teresa Project has to offer. The more service hours a student works, the more points their dorm will receive, so by the end of the year they can be named the Champion of Charity and have a better chance at winning the renowned Dorm Wars competition. Over the semester, Champions of Charity has developed into a non-profit organization that seeks to reach beyond Ave Maria’s campus to other schools and individuals who desire to give of themselves for the education of impoverished students. It is truly an incredible movement that is being guided by the hand of Saint Mother Teresa. However, behind every incredible movement is a story.
In the spring of 2016, just before baseball season began, Andrew Nussbaum broke his wrist. Despite this blow to his athletic career, Andrew still had many ambitions for himself. Seeking President Towey’s advice, Andrew went to him wondering what the next step in his life would be. He wanted to know where he was going and how to get there. President Towey startled him by looking him straight in the eye and telling him, “My goal is to get you to heaven.” Before all business, career and athletic ambitions, President Towey showed Andrew that faith must be the priority. President Towey urged Andrew to go on a fifteen-day mission trip to Mexico City and work with the Missionary of Charity brothers. Andrew was reluctant to go at first, and described his first four days there as a “miserable and distraught” experience. He simply couldn’t understand why the brothers were so illuminated with joy when they had nothing. They were “tying shoes like it was the World Series and playing go fish like it was some sort of party.” Andrew couldn’t see why. It was all so bizarre.
Then the breakthrough came. Andrew came to see the brothers in a different light. He realized that in every single thing they did, the brothers were “willing the good of another” and constantly forgetting themselves. It was through this dying-to-self that the brothers were becoming more fully human. This realization was eye-opening for Andrew and caused him to apply this idea to every aspect of his life. Service became a gateway for his faith to reach new heights and spread beyond himself. By seeking to will the good for another, Andrew was given the opportunity to help more people than he could have ever imagined.
Champions of Charity was inspired by the missionaries’ Christ-like service combined with Andrew’s competitive business mind. When Andrew was 18 he got his insurance license without really knowing why. He took the test five times, finally passing on the fifth try. He was only one point away from another failure. At the time, Andrew didn’t foresee how God would use his talents. Yet his business experience was definitely a part of the inspiration for Champions of Charity. He saw a competition as a perfect way to create something that would inspire students to get more involved with service opportunities and fall in love with the undeniable beauty of helping others.
This bold project has been a continuation of that incredible experience working with the brothers in Mexico. Andrew’s passion to serve, combined with the desires and ambitions of many other students has now become an unstoppable force on Ave’s campus. With the help of students and professors completely inspired by this mission of service, Champions of Charity has grown beyond the simple RA project that was envisioned. “No one is trying to be the head of it” so everyone is able to collaborate for the good of the whole operation.
Champions of Charity has caused a remarkable number of students, who otherwise may have never received an opportunity to serve, the chance to give outside of themselves. They discover a world where a gift of self is more beneficial than getting. Willing the good of another is the reason behind every action. Andrew says that it has been incredibly impactful for him to watch his fellow athletes take such a dynamic role in service. Service is what “kick-started his faith” and now he can see the same effect taking place in the lives of his friends and teammates. So many students are becoming more inspired, ambitious, selfless people through the opportunities that Champions of Charity and the Mother Teresa Project provide. Stepping beyond themselves, they are creating service initiatives through clothing and diaper drives and so many other projects all begun this semester. To summarize his project, Andrew says that “God has it.” God take charge of the whole operation and every person involved is just an instrument in His hands.
* Edit: Andrew has since stopped playing for the baseball team.
Originally published in the Gyrene Gazette January 24, 2017 Print Issue
Cover photo by Nichole Kendall