Lending a Helping Hand
By Sarah Williams
During Spring Arbor University’s (SAU) spring break, SAU students went on mission trips to Guatemala, Las Vegas and North Carolina.
Post-Undergraduate Outreach Ministry Intern (PUOMI) Cecilia Said, helped plan and coordinate SAU mission experiences and encourage students to become involved in the community.
The mission trip locations were chosen based on different types of service opportunities provided for students. Guatemala was chosen for its relational ministry aspects, the Las Vegas trip focused on prayer and the North Carolina trip focused on service work.
When Said was planning the trips, she wanted each student to deepen their understanding of their faith, understand how their presence can impact others and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
According to Said, 38 students volunteered for the mission trips. Seven students went to North Carolina, 20 went to Guatemala and 11 went to Las Vegas.
Johnathan Husted, student leader for the North Carolina mission trip, said he went on the trip for the manual labor.
The main goal of the trip was to help Hurricane Florence victims get their houses up to code for an inspection so they can move in permanently. The campers provided to the victims by the government were being taken away at the end of March.
“There is something about working hard for someone else with no expectations of getting anything in return that makes me feel fulfilled,” Husted said.
The trip was one week. Excluding drive time, the students spent five days in North Carolina. They would get up at 7 a.m., have a devotion, work and then debrief during dinner. They had a recreation day where the students toured a battleship and watched the sunset on the beach.
Kensington Thomas volunteered for the Guatemala mission trip. The students assisted with God’s Child Project, a center for malnourished babies, as well as Casa Jackson school and Obras Sociales hospital for people with severe disabilities.
At the God’s Child project, the students fed babies, changed diapers, cleaned up around the facility, cleaned windows, folded clothes, moved heavy items and played with the children. At the school, they helped teachers grade assignments and played with the kids. At the hospital, they fed children and took a Zumba class with kids in wheelchairs.
The volunteers would get to the facilities at 8 a.m. and stay until 12 p.m. They volunteered for four days. They also visited other places in Guatemala and learned Spanish. The students went to the Mayan village where they ate traditional food, made tortillas, drank coffee, acted out a traditional Mayan wedding and bought homemade souvenirs. They also went to Antigua where they did a historical tour of old cathedrals and buildings.
The students stayed with host families during part of the experience. Thomas’s host house had six girls. Other houses had either seven or nine. The host families cooked all of their meals and provided them with a living space.
“I learned a lot about the culture. The food was amazing, and the people were so kind,” said Thomas.
Carol Nichol volunteered for the Las Vegas mission trip. She said she felt called to go when people from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and Grace City Church came to her peer advisor meeting and discussed the trip.
Nichol said the trip initially seemed out of her comfort zone, yet she trusted in God’s faithfulness and protection.
The students packed sack lunches and ate with the homeless. They led worship on the street outside the MGM hotel and offered testimony and the gospel. They went into gas stations and motels to pass out flyers of three missing children that were at risk of being trafficked. One of the children was found the next day.
Co-leader of the Las Vegas Trip, Brandon Valentine, said they also provided worship for people on the Las Vegas strip, offering “Free Prayer” on Fremont St. and worshipping with middle schoolers on the week-long trip.
“Our commitment statement toward one another was, ‘to have zero expectations but one: to serve wholeheartedly’,” Valentine said.
According to Nichol, the trip schedule consisted of cleaning the YWAM base after breakfast. They had quiet time and evangelism training for their outreach. Then, they ate lunch, went out on their outreach, debrief and had dinner. Finally, they would have another outreach or team bonding experience.
Nichol said her favorite moment was when they were worshipping outside the MGM hotel and some police officers told them they couldn’t have an amplifier resting on the ground as it was blocking foot traffic. The students picked the amplifier up and sang gospel music for another half an hour. Many people stopped and joined in.
According to Said, SAU does mission trips for multiple reasons: Mission trips allow students the opportunity to broaden their worldview, give them the opportunity to engage with Christian organizations and ministries, give them a glimpse into the lives of others, provide love and encouragement and to allow students to participate in the world with Jesus at the forefront.