Photographer and writer: Miranda Bradford
You may find this difference maker sipping on a cup of tea with a student, giving sewing lessons or bringing treats to her students, but what makes her such a difference maker is the servant heart she has for every person she meets.
Meet Cheri Whitley.
She was first introduced to North Greenville through her children being duel enrolled in some classes. After some timed passed and they started attending NGU as full time students, she realized how much time she had on her hands, and at her husband’s suggestion she volunteered to work at NGU. She expressed her love for the opportunity to work with such encouraging people.
Whitley is a “stitcher” by job, but above all she views herself as a follower of Christ, a wife to an honorable man and a person open to helping students in any way she possibly can. Although Whitley can design, her job is not a designer. Rather, she meets with Jessica Snyder, costume designer of the Theatre Department, to see her vision and make the costumes for the upcoming plays or the musical performances.
“It’s exciting to take a flat piece of fabric and to turn it into something that has contours,” said Whitley. “It reminds me of God saying to blackness let there be light, except He’s working with nothing and I’m actually working with lot of props. But to create reminds me of that aspect of God, the Creator.”
At times Whitley’s job can become very busy and exhausting between her sewing lessons, meetings with Snyder, creating costumes and organizing and preparing for the next performance. It’s easy to get discouraged and weary. Whitley expressed that the reason why it’s worth all the long hours and tiring days at times is because of the students. They are the ones that make her come back.
“I got to teach one of our designer students his first costume he made from start to finish. And I’d make him rip stuff out and than it came to where he’d rip it out without me telling him because he knew it was not good enough. That’s when it’s worth it,” said Whitley.
Whitley has seen God moving in her life by building up trust in him when finances are tough or her days are long. She explained that through them God has shown her that he is in control and takes care of those he loves and who love him. He has provided money when needed and rest when she felt weary from long days. And most of all, he has provided her with encouragement from students and Snyder that she can pull from and find joy in.
“The Christian life is not easy, but it’s worth everything because when everything is said and done I can say I didn't do any of it. Jesus did it all. And than the glory is in the right place, the honor is in the right place, the praise is in the right place and I can be a servant, which is what I’m called to be,” said Whitley.
Whitley encourages students to always remember that God is truth. She was challenged that if she could say one thing about God, what would she tell people? That question struck her as challenging and she explained how the Spirit told her that he doesn’t lie. The truth of that statement hit home in her life.
“It hurts because how many times have I treated [God’s] word not as if it was a lie but as if I didnt have to pay attention to it, which is saying I don't believe it’s true, which is saying it’s untruth, which is saying it’s a lie. Which has brought me to a point of -- wow….if I could say one thing about God, it’s that He doesn't lie,” said Whitley.
Finally, Whitley shared a word of encouragement for students while they are at college and beyond. She said, “Find out what God created you to do and than do it with all that you are for as long as you are so that people might see Christ in you. Sometimes the only way you can be a testimony is by what your hands produce and what your mind produces. Sometimes you cannot say a word, but you can show it by what you can do and how you do what you do."