As the daughter of two United Methodist pastors, ViaFaith McCullough has attended her fair share of annual conferences. None of them, however, impacted her as profoundly as her first conference visit as a newly-trained Lina H. McCord intern for the Black College Fund.
In the past, the Philander Smith College junior never truly enjoyed annual conferences because she never saw herself reflected on stage – through either young or black voices.
Philander Smith College is one of the black colleges supported by the Black College Fund which provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities.
"You look for those things," McCullough said.
This year, the twenty-year-old was that beacon of inspiration and representation for other youth at the Kentucky Annual Conference. After her address, she was swarmed by other young adults who said they were inspired by her message.
"Students wanted to know more about the Black College Fund because of the perspective I brought," McCullough said.
She talked candidly about college "midnights," those dark times when students are faced with tough challenges and the hopeful daybreaks that seem far away.
"Students face financial midnight, students face midnights with family and midnights in their relationship with God," she explained.
McCullough used her personal experience to talk about how the Black College Fund helps her discover meaning in those dark moments.
"Because of the Black College Fund's active role in religious life, I've gotten to know that there's victory in those midnights," she said.
McCullough finds hope in knowing the full impact of the Black College Fund. She told the crowd that through the generous support and encouragement of the fund, "a new generation of doctors, lawyers, teachers [and] engineers are armed with the gospel to go out in the midnight and to bring freedom to the captives, sight to the blind and to set the oppressed free."
After delivering her speech, the new intern said she was particularly affected by one young woman whose response confirmed her call to leadership as a Black College Fund intern.
"She told me that God had me exactly where I needed to be," said McCullough. "It stuck out to me because when you give speeches like that you don't know if you said the right thing. Well, if somebody else can see God using me that's great!"
The interaction reminded McCullough of her first encounter with a Lina H. McCord intern ten years ago at another annual conference. That intern inspired her to become one.
"Seeing an African-American college student speak caught my attention because I had never seen that before at an annual conference," she said.
A decade later, McCullough is amazed at how God has shaped her life to walk in those very shoes. The Oklahoma native said the conference was truly an eye opener, because she learned that the Black College Fund was greater than the sum of its parts.
"It's about investing back into the lives of young people," she added.
Jessica Love, writer and editor, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.