Testimonies 2011-12

PUBLISHED SEP 2011:

MEXICO – “We took a five-minute bus ride to Casa Hogar a Douglas, or just Douglas as those who live there refer to it.  Children swarmed the buses as we pulled up and they were ready to play and connect the second we stepped out of the bus.  We took a brief tour of the compound, ate dinner with the children, and headed home.  The first day was all a blur, and what I remember most vividly from that day was a sense of calm that came over me.  Even though I was estranged from everything in my life that brought me day-to-day comfort, the open hearts of the children at the home calmed me.  How silly of me to think that I was going to be the one doing the most ministry in that place.  Often we find our lives most served by the people we set out to serve.” – Adam Leopard, Nicholasville, KY

UGANDA “Just like every trip I’ve taken and/or planned to Uganda, I’ve had to really rely on God for all technical aspects of it—finances, safety, and timing.  Every time I start planning, my family’s financial situation screams, ‘There’s no way this can happen.  No way can we afford this.’  My church is an inner city mission church, so I can’t rely on them for financial support.  But I ignore reality and keep trudging along, assuming God will provide.  We’ve never raised enough funds to pay for the entire trip, but a good amount of it has usually been provided, making a total of three trips for fifteen weeks possible….I am currently planning a fourth trip to Uganda, although once again financial support is an issue and is dragging me down at the moment.  I have several other people who have never been before and want to go, so I’m trying to move ahead and continue planning, putting all my trust in God that funds will be provided!”  -- Laura MacFarland, Lexington, KY

NICARAGUA – “I met many people in my travels around the country of Nicaragua, but one boy in particular is forever a part of my life.  Axcel Abraham Abando Gomez is an 8-year-old boy who opened up to me.  By the end of the trip we were practically brothers.  He became part of my family and I became part of his.  His parents let him travel all around the country with my family and me.  I was able to help meet some of his physical needs and showed him more of the country than most Nicaraguans would ever be able to see.  In return, he helped open my eyes up to reality by showing me what true joy was and how happiness was not measured in belongings.” – Joshua James, Waxhaw, NC

MEXICO – [Clown Ministry Team]   “Overall, I am overwhelmed by the blessings I received from this trip.  I not only got to serve God in a unique way, but I got to network with people that have similar callings on their lives.  I came away feeling so uplifted and knowing that God has placed an incredible calling on my life.  Through this trip I learned that being called to be a clown is unique, but I am not alone.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and the chance to fellowship with other ‘weird’ people, and I’m hoping that I will get to return with this group next year.” – Elinor Blankenship, Lawrenceburg, KY

ISRAEL – “It was on the last day that I feel as if the insight came.  It was the morning that we went to the Garden Tomb.  My senior exhibit as an art major is dealing with depression, loneliness, and hope revolving around the verse mark 15:34; and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ –which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsake me?’  It was here at the base of what was believed to be Golgotha where those lines took more affect on me.  It was at this location that even the Son of God felt abandoned and alone.  It was there that the knowledge that even Christ had experienced the pain of separation from anyone that the feeling of having the one person that was always there was not able to help.  This was what allowed me to draw closer to understanding God.  Christ who was human had experienced all the different emotions up until that point:  fear, love, anger, and the list could go on but it was here that he felt abandoned.  This is where the connection started to sink in.  The experience did not end at the base of Golgotha.  We continued to walk just a little ways back and came upon the tomb, the empty tomb.  It was here that the realization that the abandonment no longer had to be felt for Christ had been through the trial and could now reach out to those who felt alone and pull them back to a place of safety.  For the person (as I know from my experience) that deals with depression and loneliness does not want pity but rather someone who has been there and knows that pain.  This is where Jesus can now reach out to those that need him for the knowledge that they are not alone. This last stop was more than I had expected from this trip.  It was more than the hype of ‘you’re going on a pilgrimage to the holy Land—what a spiritual insight that will be.’ This was the place where for the first time I had the knowledge that I was not alone.  The burden of loneliness and depression was not meant for one person to carry.  The trip turned from being a lot of pretty views that made me long for my art, into a gift of knowing the presence of God was active and was reaching out to those like me that need to know we were not alone.”  -- Andrew A. Baker, Versailles, KY

PUBLISHED OCT 2011:

NICARAGUA – “At the close of my cross-cultural experience, I reflected on what I was bringing home: ‘…So here I am in my last night in my beloved Nicaragua.  Up until today I have been anticipating and even anxious for the return home.  I haven’t been dying to get there…but I’ve been excited to see the family, the friends, the pets, to share my experiences…I’ve been missing things like American food, my Serta mattress, not having mosquito bites, not relying on unreliable public transportation, faster internet…you know, the little perks in our rich lives.’  Well, today I don’t feel any of that.  Today I look back at how far too quickly it went—although it was filled and passed better than I could’ve asked for.  Today I realize anew what an effect the past four months has had on my life.  Today was the culmination of one of the greatest experiences I could ever have. Today was also the commencement of an obligation—an obligation to remain in contact with, and continue relationships that I have formed here.  In four months I have become a member of many families, and a part of very special groups of people.  I have made lifelong relationships and now that I leave to live in my country again, I realize how easily these relationships could falter.” - Rebekah Swineford, Gibsonia, PA

TURKEY & GREECE – “A tour of the life of Paul through Greece and Turkey is both exciting and educational.  You get to see all of the distant places you read about in the Bible while also getting a first-hand look at the situations and challenges people of Bible times would have had to deal with…. I have gained a new perspective on scripture that I will never forget.  This trip will impact my personal, as well as spiritual growth, for the rest of my life. I would not trade the experience for anything.” – Cari McMullen, Paducah, KY

GUATEMALA – “I often hear talk about mission trips changing lives and now I see it’s true.  It is hard to imagine how a week-long trip could really change so many things about you until you actually experience it firsthand.  I thought I was prepared and expectant of what Guatemala would be like and how the conditions would be different than America.  It wasn’t until I stepped foot out of the Guatemala City airport did I realize that there isn’t a way to prepare for a culture you have never been in.  I learned a lot about love on this trip through some truly incredible people I met at La Senda.  Something about Jefferson and me clicked.  Every night he would ask me to sit with him at dinner.  We were ‘tag’ partners when we played the game each night and ‘hotdog-roasting’ partners at the bonfire.  Each night a few of the kids gave their testimony—usually in Spanish and someone would translate.  It was a cool March night, and the last night we would be spending in Guatemala.  Everyone was sitting around the bonfire and Jefferson stood to give his testimony.  Jefferson began by telling how he asked Jesus into his heart when he was 7.  He stopped short and tears filled his eyes as emotion overwhelmed him.  It was so touching to see how changed this small boy not even ten years old was by the difference Jesus made in his life.” – Haley Sheffield, Panama City Beach, FL

COSTA RICA – “After the [soccer] game we all got into a big circle and prayed together and thanked God for bringing us together and that wonderful night to play against each other.  The best part was to give away our soccer stuff after the game.  The reaction on the coaches’ face when we gave all of our stuff to him was just so heartwarming.  It felt good knowing that your stuff was going to someone that needed it and could use it so much more than you could.”  -- Adam Howard, Nicholasville, KY

HAITI – “Going to Haiti was an incredible experience, and I would go back at any moment if given the opportunity.  The biggest thing I took away from the trip was a lesson on love.  If I can go to Haiti for two weeks and fall immediately in love with children who go to the bathroom on me, haven’t bathed in who knows how long, cling to me when I’m dripping with sweat and cannot communicate fluently with me, then I should have no problem loving the kids that I come across everyday in America.  Loving people in America should be no more difficult than loving people in Haiti.  People are people, all different colors, in all different shapes, with different minds and hearts, but they are people looking to be sought after, loved, desired, and needed.” – Rachel Taber, Windom, MN

MEXICO – “The first thing I experienced was that serving is not just about feeding the hungry, or building a house, but it is also about comforting and being there for people.  That is exactly what my family and I had to do right when we got to Juarez.  Our host’s wife’s relative tried to commit suicide.  So the first day we just stayed at our contact’s house and comforted the family.  It was very interesting to see how people from a different country coped with sadness, and because of the language and cultural barriers we had to be sensitive in how we comforted them.  This incident could have been awkward, but we all had that common bond, so it was actually a very sweet time of fellowship, despite the situation.” – Whitney Ward, Lucasville, OH

PUBLISHED NOV 2011:

GUATEMALA – “The main purpose of our mission trip was to serve the kids.  I constructed a table and carried supplies to different areas.  But this wasn’t as rewarding as the time we spent ministering or tutoring these kids.  I helped one girl out with chemistry.  I am not a science type of person and neither was she.  But we battled through chapters of chemistry, and the Lord provided wisdom and clarity to both of us along with an answer sheet.  Also, I aided Victor in math. He was doing sixth grade math, which I was better at than chemistry.  These kids also taught me a lot of Spanish. But helping to further these kids’ education, even in the little bit that I did, proved to be such a rewarding feeling.” – Will Houp, Wilmore, KY

MEXICO –I met a boy named Esras and spoke some with him, but I quickly realized that language was no barrier to him or any of the children.  Their shy demeanors disappeared and they came to life as soon as I spoke a bit of broken Spanish to them.  They laughed and could see how hard I was trying to communicate, and even that effort to talk to them as a friend instead of talking as a superior caused them to respond in the most loving way.  Language has nothing to do with communication, because communication comes just as clearly even when no words are spoken.  Love takes language’s place. If I could summarize the trip in ten words or less, I would say, ‘Kingdom building is far greater than building here on earth.’ Every day showed me the importance of relationships instead of the construction with which I set out to help.” -- Brady Lewis, Ft. Smith, AR

ECUADOR – “After one week of Vacation Bible School with these Ecuadorian children, I found myself at home in Winchester, Kentucky.  The first thing I did when I entered my house was walk through all of the rooms in my house.  I never realized how big my house was. I never realized how many rooms I had. My mind was in shock as I looked at all of the books and movies and food and drinks that I own.  I wept for those in Ecuador who had nothing.  I also wept for those in America who have everything but are deceptively being led astray by their excess of stuff!  Oh, how my desire is to give up the stuff to which we are so quick to give our time and attention, because there are so many lost souls out there who are missing the point of life, and are wasting their lives! I had to stop and ask myself:  ‘Am I wasting my life by becoming consumed with all of these possessions?’ My heart broke when I returned home, and to be honest, it is still broken.  I am looking into how I can use my English education major in missions, because I do not want to waste my life.  There is no greater tragedy than to waste your life, but I feel that many Americans are doing just that, because their stuff is enough for them.  Their excess of comforts drowns out the sound of the hungry child in Ecuador.  Oh, how I pray that I will not waste my life.” – Thomas Walters, Winchester, KY

TURKEY & GREECE – “The one single thing that most influenced my personal understanding of Paul’s travels and adventures is simply the geography of the regions and cities to which he journeyed. The distances and terrain Paul covered between cities such as Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth have actual meaning now…. Having traveled through western Turkey and Greece, one cannot help but gain a great understanding and appreciation for not only Paul but also all of the early Christian missionaries who traversed vast distances for the name of Christ.  The tales of Paul and his numerous companions in the book of Acts nearly come alive while visiting the actual sites of their occurrence.”  -- David Boggess, Pittsburgh, PA

COSTA RICA – “This trip to Costa Rica proved to be life-changing for me because my eyes were opened to a culture where life is very different than ours in the United States.  God was definitely working in me this summer because I felt that His presence was stronger than ever before. I learned to trust Him more, especially in the situations where I felt unsafe.” - Alison Piercey, Saugus, MA

PERU“Lima, Peru, is just a place that I went.  The mountainous desert that hits the cool Pacific Ocean make something beautiful that bring me to awe at God’s power, and the city and all its lights and history gives me excitement.  However, it is not the beautiful landscape and exciting city that captured my heart.  The real treasure that is worth more than anything that any place can offer is the people within Lima, Peru.  The sweaty, dirty kisses that left marks on my cheek also left a mark on my heart.  The little sweet hands that grasped tightly to mine still hold a piece of my heart.  Any place is just a place no matter the beauty, but the people within it are worth more than any money no matter how much its worth.”  -- Breanna Madill, Armada, MI

PUBLISHED DEC 2011:

COLOMBIA – “Our final day in Bogotá we went to the youth service at the church of the family we were staying with.  It was amazing to see how they worshiped the Lord and thanked Him even though most of them had so little.  This showed me that Jesus is everywhere and all of the material things don’t matter.  I could tell that these people loved the Lord.  During the service some of the members of our team shared their testimonies and then we had a time for everyone to come together and pray for each other.  This was truly a holy experience for me because it didn’t matter that there was a major language barrier between us.  We prayed for them and they turned around and prayed for us.  These people who we have never met, they were thanking God that we came to their city.  It truly changed me in a major way.  Even now, I can think back on that time we spent together and I just get chills.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen.  After we prayed we all came together and sung songs of worship.  Those people showed me how to show love for Jesus.  Their love was unconditional.” – Erin Sieberkrob, Nicholasville, KY

GREECE & TURKEY -- “Walking down the streets of Ephesus, we passed such sites as the temple of Hermes, the fountain of Domitian, the gate of Hercules, and the temple of Hadrian. I began to realize just how deep polytheism was entrenched in the everyday lifestyles of the common man. Everything—from art and architecture to literature and philosophy—was infused with religion and the divine.  As this notion began to dawn on me, I thought of Paul and his message—one man who came and stood in the streets of Ephesus and preached a radical message about the one true God represented in his son Jesus.  Walking toward the theater of Ephesus, I thought about Demetrius and the riot that he started with his speech. I wondered if we passed by the shop where he sold statues of Artemis, and I wondered what Paul must have felt as crowds of angry citizens screamed, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’ (Acts 19.28, 44). Paul ministered to real people in real places.  The early church experienced joy and suffered persecution in real places, and I now have the privilege of understanding their experiences more fully because I myself have walked in these real places.” -- Kate Ballard, Opelika, AL

COSTA RICA“Although the trip was for the soccer team, it was not soccer focused.  We quickly discovered that our focus was in connecting with the kids and players, and sharing God’s love with them.  Soccer was simply one of the ways through which we expressed His love.  It also helped us learn that soccer is more than just a game, even here in the United States.  Since the trip, our team has been emphasizing how we can use our sport to make a difference even on campus.  We’ve learned that although we are a team who wants to succeed on the field, we have an even more important purpose as soccer players.  Personally, this trip to Costa Rica pushed me to stretch out and grow outside of my comfort zone.  The Lord used it to show me that I can be calm and trust Him, even in difficult and uncomfortable situations.  As I said in my journal, ‘it was awesome to shine God’s light in some of the darkest places.’ Having a significant impact on the local people there was incredible, and I hope to get to go back soon.  I drastically grew during that week in Costa Rica and had an amazing time learning more about myself, my team, and especially my personal and loving God.” – Caleb Griffin, Carrollton, GA

POLAND “Each morning we would go to the cobblestone square and a restaurant there would provide tables and chairs for us to ask people passing by if they would like to have coffee and practice their English. It was so wonderful to talk with people from so many backgrounds.  Our time in the Old City was so well received we were even on the local evening news!” – Sarah Hammerlee, Erie, PA

PERU – “On my first trip to Iquitos, I had many moments of realization of what real poverty looks like.  All these beginning moments were very general and opened my eyes.  This summer, however, I experienced poverty on an emotional level. I met Katie for the first time at the clinic.  I see her true humility when she refuses to look me in the eye.  She comes out of her shell though, and all I see is beauty that had been hidden.  Her skin is covered with parasites and she is dirty, but as I get to know her at the clinic, I see the beauty of the person God created her to be.  The next week I see her family sleeping on the street one night.  That is a breaking point for me.  I realize these girls of inner beauty do not experience love regularly, do not know how they will get food every day, and have no safe home to go to.  Seeing this family so often and building a basic friendship with them makes it very hard to see them suffer.” – Chelsea Parsons, Flushing, MI

GUATEMALA – “I would summarize my trip as one that taught me what really makes me come alive, helping others!  The Lord blessed me with a safe trip and photographs I will hold close to my heart.  This trip has motivated me even more to travel the world and share the gospel.  I am grateful for the help in funds and the prayers while I was gone and couldn’t do it without my loving family and friends.  I am so very blessed and am looking forward to my future here at Asbury University and the growth to come.” – Bryce Toole, Orlando, FL 

PUBLISHED JAN 2012:

MEXICO – “When I departed for Mexico, I was really only going to fulfill my cross-cultural requirement.  That changed very quickly.  I found myself wanting to help with everything and so excited about getting the chance to serve people.  I fell in love with the people I worked with:  the people from my group and the locals.  They all became very good friends in just a few days.  I did not want to leave!  I wanted to keep helping the locals and learning from them.  I wanted to keep using the talents God has given me to help them build the church.  I wanted to submerge myself in their culture so that I could really learn the language.  I wanted to sit down with each of them and listen to them tell their story.  Some things I just can’t express about the trip, but I know that my heart and mind were wide open when I left Mexico.” – Hannah Amstutz, Wilmore, KY

FRANCE“There was a great moment where we were walking towards the Louvre while throngs of people went in the opposite direction toward the parade.  Later I realized that sometimes being a Christian can be that way, where it seems like everyone else is going one way and we must go upstream in the opposite direction to follow God’s calling.  Walking through the Louvre I saw all kinds of artwork from different times and cultures.  It struck me how in America everything is relatively new since it is a young nation, and how in other parts of the world there is a whole cultural history that we remain relatively unexposed to in our American bubble.  It also occurred to me how transient and disposable our culture has become.  Many of the relics housed in the Louvre were from centuries before; today it appears that everything is quite literally here today and gone tomorrow.” – Catherine Barnes, Pasadena, MD

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – “When I arrived it felt like a hot car outside the airport, and it was midnight.  After awhile I became use to it.  I was so excited to be there. I was able during my time to visit a mosque and ride camels as well as sand duning.  It was awesome.  The culture there is very loving regardless of what some may believe in the States.  Yes, there are some that are not, but for the most part, people are normal.  They have families and needs just like us.  Churches did exist, but every street corner had a mosque, and churches were in hotels typically.  I also had to remember how to dress, and some places I had to wear my abaya, but it was a wonderful experience.  Most people spoke English, and so I was ok for the most part.  I had picked up some Arabic before going and used it once.  I learned the skill of patience on this trip.  People take their time.  If someone needs them, it is understood that they will be late.  Being a bit late is not seen in most contexts to be rude.”  -- Laura Bertrand, Lexington, KY

GUATEMALA – “I found myself absolutely falling in love with these kids.  I wanted to help them in any way that I possibly could.  They were so willing to give their love and for some of them, even their possessions.  I told a 14-year-old girl that I liked her earrings which appeared homemade.  At the end of the class, she slid her hand into mine and I felt her put her earrings into my grasp. I tried to give them back but she wouldn’t have it.  I was so touched by her giving spirit.  I’m so thankful to have gone on this trip.  It’s an experience I’ll hold onto forever, and I hope to never forget what it feels like to be loved immediately by a child that has almost nothing.  How much more must our Savior love us all the days of our lives?” – Alexandra Richard, Greenwich, OH

GREECE & TURKEY -- “Travel has that exciting sense of adventure. Asbury University professors want their students to see how much the world has to offer, but I feel that what they really want is for all of their students to see how they can be of value to the world…I never thought that I would end up in Turkey or Greece. All the months of planning did not prepare me for the actual day when I arrived there… I could not have asked for a better cultural experience….” -- Johanna Rodig, Carpentersville, IL

BELIZE“One realization that I enjoyed was that children tend to have very similar characteristics despite distance.  This was particularly interesting to me because I plan to be a teacher.  During this trip I recognized that I really felt called to a missionary lifestyle, but that I could pursue my talents by teaching English internationally.” – Berenice Soto, Lexington, KY

PUBLISHED MAR 2012:

GREECE & TURKEY -- “The main thing that I learned was how important contextual knowledge is when reading the Bible… If context is unknown and geography is a mass of confusion, big names are not remembered for long and books like Acts are skimmed for the theology, or the travels of Paul are interesting only for a few minutes. However, after this trip, I have realized that the New Testament is not just to help me grow spiritually, but to show how big the picture I am in really is…. So many people stay in the same place their entire lives, but going on a trip like this and seeing the ancient ruins and the modern culture, hearing Muslim calls to prayer at five in the morning, and looking at signs you are unable to read in languages you do not understand shows how big the world really is and that there is more experiences and knowledge out there than a person can retain.” -- Michaya Snell, Hillsdale, MI

COSTA RICA – “I learned that gratitude is the first step to attaining pure joy.  One can be joyful and have nothing in this world.  Soccer can unite a country and be a place of peace when chaos is everywhere around you.  I learned that the only way to grow is to sacrifice.  This mission trip was very beneficial to me and the Asbury soccer team.  I am extremely grateful for being a part of a God-centered program.  I cannot wait to go next year.”  -- Stephen Mitchell, Nicholasville, KY

HAITI “The thought came to me that Americans are money rich and time poor, unlike the Haitians who are time rich yet money poor.  On this theme I began to realize that we Americans spend our time like credit.  Unlike the Haitians, who focus on the day at hand, we Americans borrow time weeks in advance, month, and even years in advance.  We don’t have time I our schedules to stop by someone’s house to talk for a little while. We are task oriented and time conscious.  It is a shame, because we don’t have time for our relationships.” – Ben McElroy, Chapel Hill, NC

ENGLAND “The church took place in a small upper level sanctuary and was populated by the small congregation made up almost entirely of people who were over the age of 45.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but upon returning home, I learned that only 15 percent of British people go to church and that includes almost no one 20 or younger.  This steady drop in church-going has been going on since the 1980s along with a more secular attitude toward life in general.  The British people are well aware of Jesus Christ, they simply choose to ‘move on’ into the more ‘contemporary’ and non-religious lifestyle in the postmodern era that we now are faced with.  This experience has led me to firmly believe that the hardest and harshest area for Christians to evangelize is Western Europe, including of course, Britain.” – Justin Cresswell, Bristow, VA

MEXICO“One of the biggest things that I took away from my trip to Mexico was a realization about life.  Happiness doesn’t have to depend on my circumstances.  We put on the Vacation Bible School in the Squatter’s Village, and I was amazed at the joy these little children had.  These were kids who had almost nothing to their name, but that didn’t matter to them.  I realized that I let my circumstances define how joyful I was, and I didn’t want to live that way anymore.  If the temperature was hotter than I liked, I didn’t have to focus on that; I could choose to see and embrace the many blessings that I had in my life.  I will never forget the many smiling faces of the young children at that village.  I loved interacting with them and helping them with their crafts.  It was in those moments that I realized I didn’t have to be an amazing ‘world changer’ to make a difference.  I just had to be willing to go.” – Jordan Crouse, Elizabeth City, NC

DOMICAN REPUBLIC – “This trip to the Dominican Republic was more than we could have ever asked for, and personally it changed my entire life.  I realized that we are to praise God no matter what current situation we are in because there are always people who could only dream to have the life that we live.  I felt like I went on this mission trip to help others, but in reality, I was the one who ended up being ministered to the most.  I loved every second I was in the Dominican.  I plan to go back out into the mission field when it is possible for me and begin doing work wherever God sees fit.  This cross-cultural experience was amazing and I would love to be able to provide everyone with this type of journey.” – Mackenzie Burke, Lexington, KY

PUBLISHED APR 2012:

MEXICO “I have never had an experience like I did in Matamoros, Mexico.  It was filled with joy, sorrow, strength, and peace.  So much was going on around me, but my heart was quiet with peace while we served the Lord.  I have never felt so good serving others in my entire life, and I always want to feel that joy that only can come from serving the One True God.”  – Sara Lokar, New Galilee, PA

GREECE & TURKEY -- “I...thought it was cool to go to the church of St. Mary [at Ephesus] where the Third Ecumenical Council took place [in 431 A.D.]. I remember the different councils being mentioned in Theology 300 and how important they are to Christianity, but to be in what was left of this building where it took place brought those lessons to life. Honestly, everything on this trip has made everything I know about the Bible, history, and specifically the history of the Church come to life and seem more real than it ever did before.” -- Jennifer Crum, Martin, KY

FRANCE”While in the Louvre, I did see the ‘Mona Lisa.’  However, my favorite painting was ‘The Wedding Feast at Cana’ by Paolo Veronese, which was featured opposite the ‘Mona Lisa.’  I found this to be metaphorical as well, how people will crowd around to see something because of the cultural hype—not that the ‘Mona Lisa’ isn’t beautiful in its own right—and miss the larger than life miracles that God has done that are literally right behind them.” – Catherine Barnes, Pasadena, MD

ECUADOR – “Before my Ecuador trip, I was not comfortable with Hispanic people and felt awkward talking to them.  After, I have overcome this prejudice, learned to love Hispanic people, and see them through the eyes of Jesus.  I discovered a love for children I did not know existed.  I was inspired by the doctors who were giving their precious time to help the Ecuadorians, but I couldn’t help but notice the need for more medical help.  Even though the doctors worked non-stop all day, we sometimes barely made it halfway through the long line. Seeing this need created a desire in me to pursue a career in the medical field.  I hope to someday be able to help needy people with my medical knowledge.  I learned that meeting people’s physical needs is a very powerful way to reach them on the inside.  I want to do things for people that make them ask me why I am doing them because it is then that I can point to Jesus.” – Hannah G. Smith, Nicholasville, KY

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC “ The children at the orphanage were without so much, including parents, and yet they gave me so much love and brought me happiness.  They shared no sign with me that they wanted my sympathy, felt sorry for themselves, or anything negative.  It was not only a shock, but it was something that made me look deeply into my life and look at the parents I am so fortunate to have.  They are going to see a whole new attitude out of their daughter when I return home.  I cannot explain the new respect for my family those orphans placed in my heart.  …I just cannot get out of my head now to just simply love on people.” – Amber Taylor, Springfield, KY

ROMANIA – “After church one day, I went up and talked to the choir director.  He didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak much Romanian, but as we flipped through the music we cam across a few songs that I knew from church back home.  We sang them together in Romanian, and it was better than any conversation we could have ever had.  I’ll never forget that experience or the amazement and understanding I saw in his eyes.  My experience in Romania was one I wouldn’t have traded for anything.  It opened my eyes to a completely different way of life. I made friends I still keep in touch with.  I saw beauty, and goodness, and truth existing right beside pain and injustice.  I saw God in the smallest things—in singing and dancing and sharing my pizza and giving a street dog a bath. I saw God working through the relationships that formed.  I think Romanians have just as much to offer us as we have to offer them.  The people I met and the way of life I experienced are something I’ll never forget.”  -- Margaret Adams, Nicholasville, KY

PUBLISHED MAY 2012:

HONDURAS“It’s amazing how different the culture is there.  When our team walked down the dirt hill to an open area outside the school and started kicking around a soccer ball, kids started coming from every direction.  They didn’t care that we looked different, that most of us didn’t speak their language, or that we were complete strangers.  They saw a soccer ball, some jump ropes, and a group of people who were interested in hanging out with them.  I loved being such an impact in that community.  Looking back at this trip, one of the main things I have taken away from it is the simplicity of life in Honduras.  In the States, we have to be going all the time; we rarely take the time to stop and enjoy God and his creation.  But in Honduras, life is so slow, in a good way.  They are on a completely different time schedule.  They are much more relational than we are.  They seem to value relationships and family a lot more.”  -- Natalie Young, Nicholasville, KY

GREECE & TURKEY -- “I can say with confidence going into my senior year that I am more excited about my life with God than ever before… This trip strengthened my relationship with God because it allowed me to reflect on his interaction with this world through time.” -- Jonathan Drake, Cincinnati, OH

CUBA“In Cuba you cannot build new churches, you can only renovate existing ones.  It took this church twelve years to get the permits to build this church.  But along this process, we hand-dug 23 tons of dirt and laid 30 hundred-pound sacks of cement.  But alongside this physical labor we got the chance to experience some of their church services.  It was a moving experience.  I wish we as Christians in the United States still had as much fire and passion in our rejoicing as they do.  I think we have gotten caught up in our daily lives and in the battle of being on top that we forget where we truly belong.” – Taylor West, Butler, KY

NICARAGUA – “Going to Nicaragua truly opened my eyes to a new culture.  Before we left I knew that there were places in the world that have to deal with much poverty and sadness.  Being in Nicaragua really opened my eyes to the reality of it all. The whole trip was an awakening to what some cultures have to live with every day and how much I take for granted.  The one thing that was hard for me to wrap my mind around was that everything I see these people going through in their day to day lives is completely normal to them.  For example, having to wash their clothes on a rock, bumpy dirt roads, walking everywhere, no air conditioning, the power going out daily, and sometimes not even having water.  There are so many other things that the people of Nicaragua go through that are not normal to an everyday American. Seeing this and living in it was a reality check for me.  They truly helped me know not to take anything for granted.” – Sara Morgan, Winchester, KY

GREECE & TURKEY -- “The first day of touring brought us to Ephesus. We first stopped at the Church of St. John the Theologian [the Apostle John]. All that remained were the ruins of a church that was 1400 years old…. [Later], my eyes welled up with tears as I stood on the stage of the Grand Theatre, for this was the place where a key event in the life of the Apostle Paul and his companions too place (cf. Acts 19:21-41)…. When I preach and teach from the New Testament, I will always be mentally carried off to those cities I visited on this trip….These letters [of the New Testament] are real to me. I have been to the places where they were based….The world is a big place, and after this trip, my understanding of world culture will be forever broadened.” -- Keith Turner, Hurricane, WV

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC“The whole time that we were preparing for this trip, I was dreading it.  I didn’t want to go.  I wanted to go back to my house.  Once I got there I realized how horribly wrong that was for me to feel.  It was very selfish of me to want to sit in my big warm cozy house and not experience what these people had to offer me. Even if I didn’t impact a single person’s life, they impacted me in ways I never would have imagined.  I relied on God to give me patience and courage to get through the week.  He gave me this by showing me that these kids want to see the love I can offer them, and in return these kids love me without even knowing my name.

Being an accounting major I have many different options of what path to take.  I had already decided that I didn’t want to do public accounting.  But after this trip I have realized that I want to work with a not-for-profit organization because I feel like I will be helping people more so than I would if I was working in a corporation. 

Another change this trip has started is that of my heart. I have always been known as a tough person that doesn’t show her emotions. It became such a big part of my life that it was my life and that’s who I was.  I didn’t talk to people about how I felt and that caused my heart to become very cold and hard. I became very insensitive to people because I felt that they should be the same way I was.  This trip made me open up and showed me that I don’t have to be that person and that I’m not that person.  It made me realize that I am a loving, caring, and very emotional person. It is still a process that is happening because it is very easy for me to go back to being that tough person but I know that I am not supposed to be that anymore.  This has started a great change in my life.  It has made me want to go on even more mission trips.” – Miranda Drury, Lawrenceburg, KY

PUBLISHED JUN 2012:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – “Now that I am reflecting on my mission trip, I have noticed that the people of the Dominican Republic have helped me far more than I could have ever helped them.  I learned from this whole experience that we as Americans need help to understand that material items don’t mean anything.  We need help to understand that loving, being nice to one another, and compassion are things we need to be grateful for.  We need help to learn that being joyful is more powerful than anything we could ever have, and the people of the Dominican have taught me this!  In addition, the people of the Dominican have showed me to not be so negative because whatever the situation is, you should be grateful and let Jesus take it into his hands.  They also showed me to quit being so selfish because love, sympathy, and happiness are all the things you need to enjoy life.” -- Brittany Hogg, Berea, KY

HAITI“At the first worksite, we were tasked with carrying some five hundred cinder blocks over a bridge (we referred to it as the ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters,’ as it hung above a river sewage) and down a small dirt road, between various homes.  The blocks would be the foundation of a new home for a local grandmother, who lived with her six children—one of which had her own daughter.  It was really inspiring to see Haitians working alongside us to better their friends’ and families’ lives and simply to give them a safer place to sleep.  Several locals pitched in with no intention of receiving payment for their work.  We worked at this site for two days and made a massive amount of progress; what once was a concrete slate became walls and doors and windows and a home.  We didn’t get to see the building finished, but it was a blessing knowing that soon, Asma and her large family would have a place to live.”  Zack Brewer, Hazard, KY

NICARAGUA – The whole time I was in Nicaragua I had to rely on God.  The language barrier was very frustrating for me because I like to talk and suddenly I could not do that anymore.  God provided for me by showing me that words are not the only way to communicate with others.  Just helping provide for their physical needs and giving them love was enough.” – Joshua James, Waxhaw, NC

JAMAICA – “I remember calling this gentleman’s name out the window and waiting to give medicinal instructions as I had literally done hundreds of times before at this point in the clinic.  I remember him coming to the window, and as soon as I sensed his presence, I immediately began to explain the medication to him.  By the time I had reached his last prescription, an overwhelming feeling in my gut grabbed my attention--the Spirit had nudged me to slow down for a moment in the midst of all the chaos that surrounded me…. In that moment my whole approach changed.  I shifted from the fast paced ‘this medication is for this, and this one for that, and take this when you need it.…’  As our eyes locked, I took his hand, as well as another breath, and began to explain his medication to him one more time—this time in a ‘tangible’ way.   It was through this moment that I began to truly understand just how personal Jesus was with those he helped--so personal that He would take you by the hand, tell you all that you need to know, and walk through life with you every step of the way….  God humbled me and revealed to me a part of himself that I wish I could explain….  Sometimes God calls us to step out of our comfort zone and into an entirely different world, just as He did with me through this experience; but it is all for a purpose that is greater than myself—a Divine purpose.” – Sarah Flatt, Jamestown, KY

GREECE & TURKEY -- “One can read everything ever written on these lands of the Mediterranean, and still never surpass the value of being there” -- Ryan Tribble, Berwyn, IL

MEXICO – “While in Mexico we did many ministries including door-to-door evangelism, hospital visits, orphanage visits, construction building, VBS, community projects, and sports evangelism.  We definitely packed a lot into one Week.  However, there are two activities that I want to focus in on--one being the most interesting and touching for me, VBS.  I had never had so much fun being in a VBS.  The children loved the skit we performed for them and participated in everything that we had planned for them.  We all sang songs together, us in English and sometimes Spanish, and them in Spanish.  It was beautiful and a definite blessing that reminds me of how great children are.  They all wanted to hold your hand, or play with you, or even just talk to you even if you couldn’t completely understand the language.  The church we did part of our VBS in was small and without any nice furnishing like the churches in America.  They didn’t even have a bathroom or desks to color on, but I have never seen such happy and grateful children.”  – Sara Lokar, New Galilee, PA