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Extending a hand to Hofstra students Sunday mornings

By Tatiana M. Brown

Special to the Chronicle

“When I was in college I made a commitment to follow Jesus no matter what,” said John Amandola, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Merrick, Long Island. “I felt that I wanted to make my life count. I was not interested in gaining wealth or accumulating stuff. I just wanted my life the result in benefiting others.”

Amandola was born in Astoria, Queens, New York, and was raised in Babylon, Long Island. He attended the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York, majoring in psychology.

Upon following the call to obey Jesus Christ, Amandola attended Pheonix Seminary School in Arizona, where he obtained his Master’s in divinity. While attending school Amandola helped out with neighboring high school ministries. After 15 years of being involved in high school and college ministries he and his family decided to return to his roots of Long Island.

“I love Long Island,” Amandola said. “I have been to a dozen countries and 46 states, and to me, Long Island is the best and most beautiful place in the world! I have always had a burden to make a difference on Long Island. I long felt that there was a great shortage of churches here that are gracious, multi-ethnic, gospel-centered, and that believed in doing justice.”

 After packing up and moving to Long Island with his wife Caryn and his three sons, Amandola met Justin and Sherry Varughese. The Varugheses helped found and fund the church that is now known as Lighthouse Community Church. The name Lighthouse was chosen because is relevance and meaning to the community. Lighthouses once helped sailors find their way home and will now, Armandola and the church hope, help churchgoers find their way to God.

Amandola said the Lighthouse Community Church’s goal is to “reproduce many gracious communities of followers of Jesus throughout Long Island. We dream that they will be a benefit to their neighborhoods and townships, and that Long Islanders will see the character of Jesus though our lives.”

The church has made an impact on the Hofstra community, much as it makes an impact on Long Island. Amandola and other members of the church offer rides every Sunday for students to attend a Christian service.

The transportation of students started with an original member of the church who was a Hofstra Student, who invited fellow students to attend church.

“[The church community] made an intentional effort to welcome them,” said Amandola. “We starting having outings and inviting them to our home for home-cooked Italian meals. The rest is history.”

Amandola is adamant that Hofstra students are a great part of the Lighthouse community.

“They are extremely enjoyable to associate with,” he said. “They are intelligent, driven and ambitious. We are happy that we have many friends from the student body. What I love most is the energy and life they bring to our congregation.”

Hofstra students also feel the same way about Amandola and the church.

“Personally Lighthouse is a family away from family,” said Li Wang, a graduate student. “They ask you how you are, not our of courtesy, but because they care; and the next time they see you they remember you.”

Other students agree with Wang.

“Amandola breaks the stereotype of New Yorkers being cold,” undergraduate Faith Rialem said. “He is just so loving and so caring.”

Rialem has attended LCC for a little over the year, and praises it for its diversity.

Hofstra staff members also notice Amandola’s efforts.

“He has a great talent in reaching out and really showing the love of God in a tangible and practical ways,” said Director of Hofstra University Intervarsity Janine Hackman.

Amandola appreciates the love he feels from the Hofstra community for what he feels is his calling in life. Although he feels that he has made progress in his community he still has goals for the future.

For information on attending Lighthouse Community Church one can contact John at, or show up at Graduate Hall on Sundays at 9:45 for service.

Hofstra offers Philly cheesesteak, minus the Philly

Hofstra offers a Philly cheesesteak, minus the Philly