updated October 2014:
BRAZIL – [Equine Camp] “We set up obstacles, provided lunch, did a trail walk and had an arts and crafts activity for the youth of Barrio de Paz and their friends. The biggest hit of all the activities was the horseback riding. One of the stable hands, Marcelo, led the youth around the ring and they loved to take pictures and really seemed to enjoy this experience out of the city.
This event was unforgettable, from the rain that seemed to threaten the fun to the worship after the activities. All were gifts from God. Doing this event in Manaus made me wonder how this would translate in America. I would love to be able to one day bring this kind of an event to the inner city church where I attend in New York. Many of the youth there seem to rarely leave Yonkers, and I know they have had no experiences with horses. I wonder if using what I learned in Brazil would be an effective outreach for the church I attend in Yonkers. This is something that the Lord is really working on in my heart: not just my passions for international missions but also my passion for the people right in my own backyard who either have negative or no experience with church. I want to see what can be done in the United States to bring some of the joy and pure happiness of being a Christian that we saw in Brazil back to the States. We seem to have everything in America, but without this passion I saw, it almost seems like we have nothing. Something should be done about this, and we have the tools to do it.” – Shannon Hreyo, Junior, Yonkers, NY
PUERTO RICO – “There were several challenges that I faced during this trip. Mentally and physically, I struggled. We painted for four days from 8:30-5:00, and it was honestly exhausting. My entire body was sore, and I would dread getting up in the morning to paint. But whenever a negative thought would cross my mind, I would make myself think of Philippians 2:14, ‘Do everything without complaining or arguing.’ I had to realize that I was not there for me, and I turned my painting into worship and prayer. I originally went to Puerto Rico to fulfill my cross-cultural trip [requirement], but I left there making a difference and realizing that there is more to life than just the ‘obligations’ that we put on ourselves. Sometimes things are required of us, but it is in those moments that we have to learn to make the best of what we have,and realize that this life is not about us. I truly believe that I made the best of this trip. I was able to grow closer to God and closer to a whole new group of people that I would not have known otherwise.” -- Courtney Jones, Senior, Louisville, KY
UGANDA – “My trip to Uganda had an impact on me that will forever impact my life. I landed back in America on the first day of classes for the second semester of my junior year and my worldview had been completely shattered. Before going to Uganda I spent two summers working for Americorps in inner-city Columbus, Ohio, for a free lunch program and thought that I understood poverty. I thought I knew that God was calling me to teach in a low income school district and volunteer after school.
Going to Uganda completely changed my world. Upon returning I no longer looked forward to shopping at the mall, but walked in and got mad about the waste of money and lack of understanding from all around me. Going to Walmart the first few times left me in shock and disarray. My entire being went from wanting to be in a classroom to researching ways to get back to Africa; from teaching to using my connections with Americorps to join the Peace Corps. I have officially begun the process of filling out the Peace Corps application, which is no small task, and applying for missionary schools overseas. If you asked me three months ago if I would have ever done this, I would have laughed and said no, but God took my heart and completely tore it apart. He showed me a lot about myself and a lot about the world outside of America. I learned that the ‘dream’ world I was living in was not a reality for the majority of the world, but that didn’t matter to them as long as they knew Jesus. But what about all the people living in those conditions who are completely lost.
Two weeks in Africa completely changed the current direction of my life. While I still want to be a teacher I no longer believe that God has called me to teach in America. I have always had a heart for the broken, and God was waiting for me to find that in Africa. I don’t know when I will be able to afford to return, whether I will receive a grant, a job, or go as a missionary, but I do not believe this is the last time that I will be in Uganda, or at least in Africa.” - Katherine McMahon, Senior, Upper Arlington, OH
ENGLAND & FRANCE – “We visited a few sites of religious interest during our ten-day exploration of London and Paris. My personal favorite was Westminster Abbey. The halls were filled with the gravesides of London’s most famous poets, scientists, and government leaders. While at the Abbey, I attended the communion service with some others in our group. I found this service to be a much needed time set aside to look introspectively. I sat in awe of our unchangeable, fantastic God and at all those who had worshipped in the same space throughout the years. My favorite part of the service was when the bishop asked us to ‘spread peace’ to our neighbors. Despite nationality or any language barriers, love was spread and my heart swelled with joy seeing the love of Christ inspire others to love. All in all, it was a humbling experience.
Journeying abroad has truly broadened my view of culture and enhanced my first-hand knowledge of England and France. After going on this trip, I feel as though I am an individual who has an enhanced sense of cultural awareness and a new understanding of how to apply global communication skills.” -- Abigail Foster, Junior, Mt. Washington, KY
HAITI – “God sent me on this specific mission trip to experience Haitian love and the love that the 24 other women that went on the trip have for one another. I do intend on going on more mission trips in the future, and I hope to visit Haiti again. This trip and this experience is something that I will cherish forever. The people are so different, and it was a relief to be in a country with a culture full of care and love for one another. I never would have guessed to have bonded with these people the way that I did.” -- Elizabeth Hoffa, Junior, Walton, KY
GERMANY, POLAND, AUSTRIA – “Once in Europe, touring euthanasia centers, memorials, and concentration camps, I began to ask some real questions. How did this happen? Was there no one to stand up for justice? Was everyone involved blind or deceived? Where was God in this situation? These were just a few of many questions I began to wrestle with while in Germany and Poland, and many more have arisen from my reflection on our experiences.
I don’t think I could have asked these questions in the same way before embarking on this journey. Yes, the book we read helped me to begin thinking about some of these things, such as the weight of an idea and the power of thoughts. However, when I walked through the camps at Auschwitz and saw the piles of human hair, clothing, dishes, and other items taken from the Jews, I just felt sick. I remember toward the end of the trip standing in a room at the Dachau concentration camp. It was a room that had been previously used to store dead carcasses.
At that point, the questions I began asking were much deeper, and more felt. The weather was dark, cold, and wet, and I remember thanking God for the lack of comfort on our tours, because even though my body cried out for food, warmth, and a dry place, I didn’t want to be comfortable. After all, who was I to stand in such a place where human lives were eliminated, and torture was a way of life? I felt immensely unworthy to stand where these victims stood, and in that moment at Dachau I realized that I would never understand. Never would I be able to truly know what they went through, and why. These were questions that would never be answered in this life.
This trip has had a major impact on me in so many aspects, and I will forever treasure the time spent in Europe, the relationships that were cultivated there, and the ways I was deeply challenged. I experienced both a different culture and a different way of thought. Some aspects were immensely encouraging and blissful, while others were just wholly evil and disgusting. I am so humbled to have had this experience, and I will forever love to travel and learn about other cultures. I can truly say that without even looking for it, I have gained a greater appreciation for history as a whole, and I am committed to searching for God throughout its entirety.
I greatly value the opportunity to be made vulnerable and to be challenged to question my thoughts, belief systems, and attitudes. Though it was a dark and heavy trip in a spiritually dry place, I know God is working there.” – Katherine Pittman, Senior, Gray, GA
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