Jammin’ for Jesus: Theology club spreads the love

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When sophomore Theology major Hannah Vestal came back from Cape Town, South Africa after a semester abroad last spring, she knew that she wanted to bring some of her experiences there back to St. Louis in some medium. And on Friday, Sept. 12, she will be doing just that: hosting the “Jammin’ for Jesus” event in collaboration with SLU’s Theology Club.

“At least for the first couple of months [in Cape Town], I was very lonely, I guess,” Vestal said. “And so I spent a lot of time praying and thinking about ‘Why am I here?’ It kind of went from me being like ‘What am I doing here’ to ‘OK, maybe I can make something out of this situation and help people.’”

While studying in Cape Town, Vestal attended mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, whose parish activity of making and distributing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the poor inspired her to bring a similar activity—“Jammin’ for Jesus”—to SLU.

“While I was there [Cape Town], I would also make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches [with St. Michael’s parishioners] and pass them out to people on the street because people would ask for money, but it was easier to give them a sandwich because I knew they would eat…It brought a smile to their face and made them know they mattered.”

And it’s this generosity that Vestal hopes to bring to SLU through the Jammin’ for Jesus events. According to Vestal, the plan for the “Jammin’” event is to get food donations (bread, peanut butter, and jelly—the first month’s food has already been donated by Schnuck’s) set up on tables under a tent (the first location of the event is outside the Center for Community Engagement) and then to get students to come by and make the sandwiches. Vestal then plans to bring the sandwiches to St. Patrick’s Center downtown for distribution.

“The city of St. Louis wants you to give donations to a specific place,” Vestal said. She will not be handing the sandwiches out directly on the street. “[Although] that’s what I really like,” she said, “actually giving the sandwiches to people.”

In addition to Sept.12, the Theology Club plans to hold other sandwich-making events on Oct. 31, Nov. 14th, and Dec. 12th—they all are from noon until 3pm.

The event is sponsored by the Theology Club, one of many extracurricular outlets at SLU, but one that has a special advantage in promoting SLU’s Jesuit mission, its leaders say.

“The Theology Club provides SLU students an opportunity to come together to do something theology related,” said club mentor Dr. Geoffrey Miller, a professor of Theological Studies at SLU, “Whether that be an informal discussion about some theological issue or topic…or a service event for students hoping to make a difference in the community.”

And while the Theology Club is non-denominational, Miller sees reflections of SLU’s Catholic mission in the “Jammin’ for Jesus” event.

“’Jammin’ for Jesus’…fulfills SLU’s mission to alleviate poverty and hunger in our community as well as ‘transform society in the spirit of the Gospels.’ Jesus might not have had peanut butter in first century Palestine, but I’m sure he’d be out there on the quad making sandwiches for the homeless,” he said.

As for Vestal, she hopes the ”Jammin’” event will lead to bigger things. “There are so many people here [at SLU] that do amazing things, so you kind of want to get involved too,” she said. “You know, God loves everybody, and everybody deserves to be fed and taken care of.”