J. Garpue Lieway | Social Work ('11)
M.A. in Christian Ministry (2009)
M.S.S.W. in Social Work (2011)
Outstanding Graduate Project Award
Hometown: Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Liberia
When international students come to ACU, they often face challenges and difficulties: speaking a less familiar language, learning how to navigate a different culture, and dealing with the problems of how to finance their education.
My vision is to teach at the university level in Liberia. I believe that the future of a nation is partly guaranteed when its young people's minds are educated, trained and positively influenced.
J. Garpue Lieway is deeply familiar with the tensions inherent in being an international student. But Lieway, like many international students who decide to join the ACU community, has found the benefits outweighed the obstacles in his quest for a world-class education and the skills to excel in his home country and abroad.
Lieway is from Liberia, a small state on the west coast of Africa that suffered 14 years of civil war before gaining stability in 2005 with the democratic election of a new female president. Lieway fled the country in 2001 to escape the final phase of the war, heading for the Ivory Coast. While living there, he felt God’s call to pursue an education at a Christian college.
"I felt that God directed me to go to Ghana," he said.
In 2002, he enrolled at Heritage Christian College, which has a standing partnership with ACU and has received delegations of visiting faculty in recent years. Lieway graduated in 2005 with the Best Academic Student Award. After meeting several professors from ACU's Department of Biblical Studies who were visiting the college, Lieway became convinced that he could influence the future of his country.
"They inspired me that I had the ability to pursue higher education and help my country and my continent," he said.
And thus began the saga of financial difficulties that nearly prevented Lieway from achieving his goal. He received a scholarship from ACU that would allow him to pursue a degree in Christian Ministry, but still had to raise money for airfare and transportation. With the help of his family and his church at home, he managed to raise part of the funding, but he still didn't have the complete amount necessary for the trip to the United States. However, two days before he was scheduled to leave Liberia, he received an email from a mentor in Memphis, Tenn., who had purchased his ticket and told him to fly out the next day.
"It was God's intervention," Lieway said. "He is a gracious God."
At ACU, Lieway concentrated on excelling in his classes while staying debt-free. He worked in the Bean and later with Physical Resources 20 hours per week (by law, the maximum amount for an international student) while looking for more scholarships to fund his education and help with living expenses. In the meantime, he cut back on expenses and set a stringent budget.
"Most international students have limited resources. I was hunting for scholarships, and I was able to get a few," he said. "I took painfully proactive steps, but they were worthy measures. For example, I had no phone."
He graduated with a master's in Christian Ministry in 2009, but in that year, news from his home country brought his attention to a pressing problem that would change his focus.
"The census report broke my heart," he said. "It said that 75 percent of Liberians lived in abject poverty - on less than $1 a day. They had no clothing and no food."
He began to realize that his degree in Christian Ministry, while important, was not enough to meet the needs of his country. "The immediate need of my people is not the word of God. They are not ignorant of this," he said.
So Lieway decided to continue his education in another direction.
He was faced with a quandary, however. As an international student, he must either enroll in another program and provide proof of financial solvency for the first year, or pack his bags and head home. Unwilling to give up his vision of helping his suffering country, he turned to the ACU's Graduate School of Social Work. Within a few weeks, he had his application accepted and was granted a graduate assistantship.
Help for Liberia
"I am so happy that God opened the way for me to do this program because it gave me skills to help rebuild the lives of my fellow Liberians," he said. "I want to share with my country what I have learned at ACU."
Lieway hopes his education from ACU will benefit his country while providing support to his family and glorifying the God he serves. He believes the best way to achieve that goal is to invest in the education of Liberia's young people.
"My vision is to teach at the university level in Liberia," he said. "I believe that the future of a nation is partly guaranteed when its young people's minds are educated, trained and positively influenced. My long-term goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in International Development to qualify me as a university-level teacher. That level of education will enable me to conduct applied, community-based research whose findings will enhance national reconstruction and development in post-war Liberia and Africa."
As Lieway moves onward to implement his vision for a better nation and a better continent, he's both grateful for God's blessings in his life and hopeful that God will direct the future for him and his family. He's prepared for the obstacles and challenges he knows he'll face, but says his confidence in God's providence will help carry him through the most difficult of times.
"I thank God that ACU provided me with the environment and skills to go back and help my people someday," he said. "I join my wife to seek God's face to walk us into his own plans. We want clear directions and a plan from God so that we can pursue it for God's glory and to bring relief and blessings to God's suffering people and to our own new family."
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