While many people might react to winning awards with pride and self-congratulation, juniors Erin Allen and Andrew Stricklin, winners of this year’s Barnabas Leadership Award, do quite the opposite.
Each year, Union presents the Barnabas Leadership Award to two juniors “who have demonstrated significant leadership skills and a willingness to serve the campus and community,” according to the university’s website.
The committee awards $500 to each student, asking them to donate $100 to a charity of their choice.
Social work major Erin Allen, from East Charlotte, Tenn., designated End Slavery Tennessee as her charity.
In her time at Union, Allen has volunteered with RIFA, Birth Choice, Alexandria Place nursing home, End Slavery Tennessee, End It Movement and Madison Oakes Juvenile Detention Center.
On campus, she has been an active member of the Student Government Association and Social Work Reaches Out, in addition to serving as residence advisor.
“When we have a leadership position we serve those in a position below us, because this is the heart and desire of a servant,” Allen said in a written response to her nomination. “It is fulfilling to serve others, because it pleases you, it is a way to lead that sets a Christ-like precedent and because it pleases God.”
Allen added she has felt blessed by the relationships her service has allowed her to develop.
“When I have served alongside those who are passionate about the same things I have, the relationship becomes instinctive and rich,” she said. “While I thought I was serving them, they served me.”
As a social worker, Allen said she hopes to offer water therapy to victims of human trafficking and counseling for victims of domestic abuse.
She said she would like to “be in a position where I can constantly serve others in a way that points to a just God but also a loving Christ.”
Andrew Stricklin, a chemistry major from Paducah, Ky., with a double minor in mathematics and Christian thought and tradition, chose Area Relief Ministries as his designated charity.
In his response to nomination, Stricklin wrote that he thinks being a servant leader is the only Christ-like form of leadership.
Servant leadership involves modeling one’s life after Christ’s “humility and tirelessness,” Stricklin said.
This approach can require “praying on your knees daily for your group, late nights and early mornings saying ‘yes’ to whatever need your members present to you, constant encouragement and overall intentionality in your relationships,” he added.
Stricklin’s primary outlet for service is his involvement in Young Life, a ministry to high school students that stresses involvement in the students’ daily lives.
He also volunteers with Room at the Inn, a ministry to the homeless, though his church, City Fellowship in Jackson.
Stricklin said he has been a FOCUS leader, an active member of Union’s chapter of Student Members of the American Chemical Society and received the “Outstanding Freshman Chemistry Student” award in 2012.
He also was a founding member of the Union University Ultimate [Frisbee] intercollegiate club team and served on the Student Financial Planning Committee, he said.
Like Allen, Stricklin takes little credit for his hours of service.
“I have had excellent team members who have forgiven me when I’ve failed and gotten behind me as I lead,” he said. “For the first time, I have taken to heart the truth that life is not about me, and I, therefore, do not revolve around myself.”
Stricklin said ministry has involved more confrontation than he expected, whether it be sitting down with Young Life team members who are “not representing Christ well” or coping with “homeless friends” relentlessly calling him and asking for money.
“There have been several nights of my leadership when I just want to throw my hands up and say, “I need a break!” or “You’re not doing this right!” Stricklin said. “But when I just spend time alone with God, I am reminded that it’s not about me, and that ultimately Christ will bear those burdens.”