Testimonies 2012-13

PUBLISHED AUG 2012:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC“Never in my life did I imagine myself in a foreign country on a mission trip. Before coming to Asbury, I was perfectly comfortable with leading a life that I now know would be unpleasing to God. I lived my life behind a mask that was made in order to hide my faults, feelings, and true attributes.  Asbury, in general, has turned my world upside down, but my faith has never been rocked or influenced in the way that it was during the Asbury University softball team’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  This journey truly changed my life.  Throughout this trip, I experienced God’s love and devotion to me through some unforeseen circumstances.  I am amazed at the work that God has been doing in my life and the tools that he has been using to transform the unworthy person that I am.” – Mary Ann Warford, Lawrenceburg, KY

UGANDA – “One simple, but touching moment took place when I visited Nazareth Children’s Home in Nyendo, Uganda.  One of the children was crippled and suffered from TB and polio.  Her name was Bridget, and she could not walk.  She just sat hunched over in a corner by herself, unable to talk, very malnourished, flies harassing her sad face.  She stood out to me because while all the other kids cried and demanded attention for their various needs, Bridget couldn’t.  She just sat alone by herself, silent – and she required the MOST attention.  I held her, just sat there with her, neither of us talking.  I fed her the murky tea that was ‘lunch.’  She noticed the lace on the bottom of my cheap Goodwill skirt.  She reached out for it and tried to grasp it, but didn’t have the strength to do so.  This broke my heart.  A three-year-old didn’t have the strength to grasp something as delicate as lace.  The silent bond the two of us shared in those brief moments meant so much to me.  The love that could be shared just through physical touch and not words amazed me.  This young girl rarely received any individual love of any kind, so even the simplest forms satisfied her.  I will never forget that moment.  Since then, Bridget has received medical help and is now able to walk a little on her own.”  -- Laura MacFarland, Lexington, KY

COSTA RICA – “After the [soccer] clinic we had the opportunity to give our jerseys to someone at the clinic.  I chose to give my jersey to a little kid named Andros.  I gave him my jersey and his eyes opened so wide.  I told him to put it on and he did.  As soon as he put it on he put his arms out and started to run around the field while doing the airplane.  This made my trip almost.  Seeing the expression and reaction in the kid, created the biggest smile on my face.”  -- Adam Howard, Nicholasville, KY

MEXICO – “My trip to Mexico was an experience that I will always remember.  I’m thankful for all that God showed me and the life lessons taken from the trip.  My eyes were definitely opened to a completely new world.  I no longer question advertisements on television that show an impoverished region, because I have seen the reality of poverty and oppression with my own eyes.  I know that God has a heart for the lost, and I am thankful that he used this trip to minister to my heart as well as those I interacted with.” – Jordan Crouse, Elizabeth City, NC

PERU – “The medical week of my trip opened my eyes in a new way to poverty.  Medical problems are a poverty that is not always seen with the eye.  Almost every child that comes into the clinic or that I see on the streets has parasites. I would never know about their inner discomfort. There is internal bleeding and rotten teeth that I learn about that would never have been experienced by me.  This is not what I see when I immediately look at a person.  It teaches me to see that the lives of these people are more than meets the eye.” – Chelsea Parsons, Flushing, MI

ITALY “I think one of the most impactful parts of the [choir] trip was when we sang the mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.  Even though none of us on the trip were Catholic, I think it is safe to say that all of us realized the importance of singing in such a sacred space.  I think the best part of the whole service for me was when they started saying a version of the Nicene Creed, or something very similar.  I could not understand it word for word, but I could tell that they were saying ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty’ etc, and I was able to recite it along with them in English in my heart.  That was very powerful for me to realize that although we did not speak the same language, and came from very different church backgrounds, I still had the most important beliefs in common with all the people there.

After all the touring, picture taking, and gelato eating was over, I definitely think that the most important thing I took away from this trip to Italy was the realization of how beautiful God’s creation is, and how even our best efforts at creating beauty, as marvelous as they are, are still nothing compared to the beauty of Christ.  I also was shown Christ’s love through people in ways that I have never experienced before, as well as realizing that even though we had many differences, we still had the most important thing in common:  faith in Christ.  It certainly was an experience that I will never forget.” – Jamie Lloyd, Oneida, TN

PUBLISHED OCT 2012:

IRELAND – “The trip to Northern Ireland was amazing.  It gave me a whole different perspective on the Cross-Cultural requirement.  When I learned I had to take a trip somewhere out of the country, I became terrified. I had never done that before, or gone anywhere far without my parents for that matter.  This trip changed my mind.  I am so glad it is a requirement.  If it was not, I never would have found out how much I loved Ireland.  It was definitely worth it.  I learned a lot and God showed me so much.  He brought me out of a rut I was in and drew me close to Him.  I do not think that would have happened if I had not gone.”  -- Olivia Gildersleeve, Evansville, IN

COSTA RICA – “While on this trip, I did not have any electronic devices with me, except for a laptop that we took turns using every once in a while.  When we would go home after a long day of work, I did not have a phone to use or a television to watch, so I was forced to do something else with my time.  I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to read my Bible.  Before this trip, I used to say that I did not have time to do a daily devotional.  Looking back, I could have taken myself away from the computer or the TV and spent time in the Word of God.  Now that I am back home, I am going to start a devotional and hopefully find someone who can keep me accountable to this.”  - Alison Piercey, Saugus, MA

MEXICO – “Walking away was equally unnerving to the day I walked in because now I was changed.  Now my heart was beating with life that came in the sights, sounds, and stories of the week.  The rest of my life is marked with the knowledge that I am called to so much more than the comfort of being able to pay the bills.  God is at work.  He is redeeming this broken, wicked world to everything it was created to be.  The question that lingers; will we join in the redemptive plan of God, or will we sit in our brokenness?  After a week of seeing redemption up close, count me in.”  – Adam Leopard, Nicholasville, KY

ISRAEL – “I stayed in East Jerusalem which is part of occupied territory according to Israel.  It is located in the West Bank/Occupied Territory as a result of the Six Day War.  When I ventured into the Old City I could both feel and smell the tension in the air.  It was oppressive and like nothing I had ever experienced before. Israeli soldiers would walk through the tiny city streets armed to the teeth with automatic guns and other weaponry.  I had never seen anything like that before.  Israel is and feels like a war zone.  I had never been in one before, but all those that I have read about in history books came to life.  I know this is like that because the Jews feel they have to protect themselves somehow.  They are raw from so many bombings by the Muslims.  It is here in Israel that three religions really do clash:  Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  The reality of living in fear each day is for all three religions.  Because of this dynamic, I now believe strongly that Christians should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem.” – Ruth Slagle, Plantation, FL

NICARAGUA – “I returned to Nicaragua, where I would live with a pastor’s family in Sabana Grande and commute during the week to teach school at Chacocente.  Over the course of the next four months, Nicaragua became my country, the village of Sabana Grande became my community, and Project Chacocente became my family…I was home.  One major cultural difference I recognized immediately, and grew to appreciate and understand, was in worship.  To be an Evangelical Christian in Nicaragua means to be set apart in a community of faith that meets every day of the week to praise God simply, and live in community wholly.  Growing up in the church in the United States, I never experienced such dedication to living in a Christian lifestyle.” -- Rebekah Swineford, Gibsonia, PA

HONDURAS – “One of my favorite memories is when we were standing outside this man’s house and a Portuguese song came on from a distant radio that I love and learned in the States. I started kind of singing to myself and a little boy who was walking with us began singing as well and we just shared this awesome moment where we were both singing a different language, but we were connected by it and it was so awesome to be able to experience that with him.”  -- Hannah LeCompte, Frankfort, KY

PUBLISHED NOV 2012:

HAITI“On the third day of working, I received news that my mother had passed away in a car accident.  I immediately collapsed, and once I was encircled by my fellow workers and being prayed for, Haitians began to come out of their homes and take notice.  They stared, probably not knowing exactly what it was they were looking at, but understanding the pain I was in.  I’m sure there wasn’t a single person in the camp who hadn’t been devastated by the earthquake or poverty or anything else that happens in this crazy world.  They saw my pain juxtaposed with the love of Jesus and the healing power of prayer—pain and love are universal, and I hope that everyone involved saw that they are not mutually exclusive.”  -- Zack Brewer, Hazard, KY

ECUADOR – “I learned a lot from my time in Ecuador.  I now have a broader understanding of the world I live in and the people I share it with.  I am forever grateful for what the Ecuadorian people, young and old, taught me—lessons about life, equality, benevolence, and happiness.  This trip is not something I will easily forget.  My life has been shaped by some of those experiences and my dreams have been broadened by observing what God can do when people are willing to serve.  May I live up to what He has in store for me.” – Hannah G. Smith, Nicholasville, KY

MEXICO – “I am a logical person, and some of the things we did were not making any logical sense.  They were inefficient.  They were arduous.  Yet as soon as I would reach that point, I would remember that it was not about me.  It was not about what was the best way to get things done.  It was not even so much about accomplishing every task we had set out to complete.  Our mission was to serve the Lord and to build relationships with the people.  We could easily have sent the money we paid to go on this trip directly to the people so they could buy the materials and do the construction themselves.  However, it would defeat the purpose of helping these brothers and sisters in Christ.  We needed to reach out to them personally.” -- Brady Lewis, Ft. Smith, AR

ITALY – “One of the neat experiences we were able to have on this trip was singing together with an Italian choir on an English song.  It was so much fun being able to teach them how to pronounce some of the words, and later on how to speak some conversational English.”  -- Hannah Schell, Wilmore, KY

PERU – “This second trip mine to Iquitos is a great experience that I make the most of.  I do not shy away in fear of talking to people even though my Spanish is not flattering.  I make friends and open my heart up to those around me. I touch that which is unclean and do not walk in fear of man.  All glory to God that I once again return to Michigan healed and transformed and in love with Christ.  I have more of God’s faithfulness to declare and a rekindled heart for the lost and needy.  My eyes are focused on the bigger picture and I must fight to remain a part of what God is doing in the world.” – Chelsea Parsons, Flushing, MI

COSTA RICA“I did not recognize the importance of praying for those beyond my circle of friends and family until I spent time in Costa Rica.  We split our team into groups of three students and a leader, then began walking the neighborhoods.  We prayed as we walked and listened to what God had to say.  My group was led to the home of Miron.  Miron lived with his sister and grandmother in a small home on the outskirts of Cañas.  His mother had died when he was younger, and his father resorted to drinking and left the remaining family.  Miron was seventeen and had found himself with the wrong crowd.  Partying is a cultural facet that carries away many youth and adults.  This, more often than not, leads to drug and alcohol abuse.  Miron had seen it all.  When we met him he was sitting outside his home with his sister.  At first, it was awkward to talk with him.  He knew some English, but our translator did most of the communicating.  The next day we walked to his home again and talked to him more, and this time inside his home.  The third day Miron decided to walk around with us to show off the town.  At the end of our walk, he saw the kids playing soccer outside the church.  We invited him to play, and his face lit up.  The next evening, after the final church service of the week, Miron decided to give his life to Christ.  We were excited not only for his decision, but also for one of the local members of the church who committed to disciple Miron after our team had left.”  -- J. Layne Hilyer, Plano, TX

PUBLISHED FEB 2013:

PUERTO RICO – “Each little nudge, each whisper from God is a way that he invites us to be part of his plan.  During the week in Puerto Rico, God taught me to listen.  But sometimes I’m scared to follow because he asks me to do something different.  But if we always do the same things, we’ll never understand the joy of being used by God.  Each time I heard his voice during the week, I was allowed to become part of something so much bigger than my comfort zone.”  -- Rianda Artis, Sophomore, Downers Grove, IL

ITALY – “Something that has especially struck me is the priority and pride Italians take in protecting their beautiful heritage.  They are so careful to maintain the architecture, relics, and even some of the customs from over 2000 years ago.  It is a drastic contrast with America’s mentality that newer, bigger, and faster is always better.  Even our treatment of the elderly reflects a culture that does not appreciate their wisdom and maturity compared with other countries where older people are considered to be incredibly valuable.”  -- Julienne Moore, Senior, Elizabethtown, KY

BELIZE “The question that stuck with me throughout this very first day was how do these children have such great personalities and spirit filled hearts, seeing what they live through every day?  This has been on my heart ever since I left Belize.  Having little children run up to you and just hug you, wanting a loving touch and wanting to take pictures, just really melted my heart.  I fell in love instantly with these children.  And it was not out of pity, but because I looked at these faces, these smiles, and saw love.  I will never forget these children.  I look back at pictures to this day and realize how blessed I truly was to have had this opportunity to just spend some time with them and see a glimpse of their lives.  At one point, we played with one ball for hours in the day.  Most children in America would have been bored after 20 minutes.  These children were so content to just play with one thing, and grateful someone was playing with them.

I would have to say even though this is the only mission trip that I have been on outside of the United States, it has by far changed me.  I grew in a deeper relationship with God and became more aware of how I can make a difference in someone’s life, even if it is very small…. I have learned to be grateful for the blessing God gives me every day.  I learned that just taking time with people can make a difference. This has impacted my life tremendously; it renewed my relationship with Christ, changed my outlook on life, and made me have compassion for others.  I thank God for this experience and that I decided to step out of my comfort zone so I could see God’s working in my own life and in a place called Belize.” – Chelsea Anderson, Sophomore, Midlothian, TX

PERU – “Having the opportunity to go to Peru was an experience that I will never forget.  This experience was transforming and impactful in my life, as well as those whom we ministered to.  I grew so much closer to my friends who provided so much support during the trip.  I also learned so much about my own character when I was placed in trying situations.  Learning so much about who God is was also a part of this trip that I am extremely grateful for and I love Him so much more as a result.  Another aspect of the trip that I am appreciative of is that I was able to see what the role of the American Church is in missions so clearly in action.  In seeing missions in action, I was able to learn about what my role in missions is and will be.  I came back from Peru with a renewed sense of purpose in my calling.  I would not trade my experience in Peru for anything. -- Michaela Bartley, Junior, Strongsville, OH

CHINA – “The most daunting part of the trip was fundraising to get the money I would need for travel, my stay in China, and extra funds to buy necessities and gifts for the orphanage.  I planned to send out letters to family and friends requesting prayer and donations, and then host car washes and bake sales to raise the rest of the money.  However, before I had even received responses from many of those I had written to, the Lord provided $2,000 over what I needed through generous sponsors and my home church!  I was amazed to see how quickly the Lord put to rest my biggest fear about the trip.  Even now, facing huge college loans, I look back on that instance and am reminded that if I follow in Jesus’ footsteps the Lord will provide all (and even more) than what I need.  I am not called to be able, but to be obedient.  I am so grateful to have learned this lesson before even stepping onto the plane for China!

My trip to China was one of the best experiences of my life.  I loved seeing the excitement of the rural Chinese people as they encountered ‘rare’ Americans.  I loved picking up bits and pieces of the Chinese language.  I loved discovering the hearts of the people on my team and being a witness of Christ’s love to our guide, the nannies, the babies, and the people we met all over China.  Though my trip wasn’t filled with all the ‘warm fuzzies’ I had once envisioned, I wouldn’t change a thing about it, and I am waiting for the day that God allows me to return to China.  Because of the mission trip, I am more passionate than ever for the plight of orphans.  I pray that one day soon the Lord will use me to bring His love to China’s children in new and creative ways, and that through those children, China itself might be won over salvation through Christ.” -- Jessica Guy, Sophomore, Ball Ground, GA

ARIZONA, USA – Native American Ministry“I learned a lot on this trip, and I am very thankful for the experience.  I wasn’t too happy about the trip requirement before I went, but now I can say I really am thankful for it.  I learned about the Native American culture and how it is different from my culture.  I learned things like how they shake hands differently, and how they don’t really pay attention to time, but rather they live in the moment. I also learned that I need to put more trust in God that he will come through for me.  I have faith that things will work out, but I don’t always trust God will make everything work together for my good, even though I have seen him do it before in my life, and I have faith that he will do it again.  I have to learn to trust.  Plus, I learned that my plans are not always the same as God’s plans. Now I just have to keep reminding myself of that.” – Jessica Nusbaumer, Senior, Keystone, IN

HAITI – “I can be jealous of the Haitians I met while living there.  They all had real joy in serving the Lord and praising Him on Sunday.  While here in the U.S., it can take 50 songs before anyone decides to truly worship on their own and show it fully. It was incredible to see them being moved by what the songs were saying and what they felt they had to do to show thanks to the Lord.  The raising of hands, humming into prayer, amens thrown around like medicine, and true faith in knowing that they would enter the kingdom of heaven someday soon were just a few things I saw going on.” -- Cody Emery, Sophomore, Lawrenceburg, KY

PUBLISHED APR 2013:

HAITI – “I didn’t even make it out of the truck when I had gained three little girls attached to my body.  This was such a beautiful image of the desire we have in us to be loved.  These kids didn’t even know us, but they knew we would love them.  They just wanted to touch us, wanted us to hug them, wanted us to hold their hand.  I think that we think when we go on mission trips that we believe we are going to help others and that we are the ones who are sharing our faith with others.  I think we forget how much the people we want to help will help us and will share their faith with us.  I would like to think that I made an impact in any of the children’s lives, but I know the impact they made in mine was far greater.  They showed me what faith looks like.  They showed me how to love like Jesus.  As I continue to look back on my time with them, I see more and more how they loved me. They loved me unconditionally.  They loved me from the start before they even knew me.  My past didn’t matter to them.  They wanted to love me just because they wanted to.  Their love is such a beautiful image of Christ.  These children are the ‘espwa pou Ayiti’ or hope for Haiti.

The church I went with on the trip was from Lee County, Virginia, the poorest county in Virginia.  There were only six of us, but we were the first group from this church to ever go on an international mission trip.  Many people see Lee County in the way I had originally viewed Haiti.  It is a very poverty stricken area with many other social problems, like drug abuse.  Many who live there have given up hope on Lee County.  It was this same summer that I went to Haiti, that he gave me hope for Lee County.  He put in my heart a passion for Lee County and its people. He gave me a passion to share Jesus there and love the people.  Also, he gave me a passion to help transform the community.  Many people think I’m crazy when I share my hope for Lee County with them.  What I witnessed in Haiti that summer is that there is always hope.  Just as there is ‘espwa pou Ayiti’ there is hope for Lee County.” – Brittainy Martinez, Senior, Dryden, VA

CHINA – “Bill was the student who had bought a Bible and had asked [my friend, Barrett] about what is Majesty and who is Jesus.  On our last few days Barrett began asking me questions about the Bible and how he should talk to Bill.  I gave him what I thought would be the best thing to say, but in my heart I was sad.  I had this idea in my head that I was going to be making a difference and that God had ordained me to present at the right time for one of my students to become ‘Christian.’  I was mortified that the trip was ending and that I had made no real influence, and then it hit me!  God didn’t bring me here for a bunch of students.  God brought me to China to influence Barrett who made a huge impact in the life of a young Chinese student named Bill.  I was not called to receive any glory.  In fact, I will never be because all of the glory belongs to God!  I may have not been the direct influence for Bill or even be a part of Bill’s testimony, but I made a difference that summer!” – Job Canfield, Senior, Versailles, KY

IRELAND – “Starting out, I knew Ireland was once a troubled place.  In some places it still is.  The north and the south have fought for hundreds of years over independence from the United Kingdom—not to mention all the trouble between the Catholic and Protestant churches.  I had never been in a country that had barbed wire and spiked fences around their churches.  It is incredible to me to think about not feeling safe in my place of worship—no matter who is the opposition.  I gained a lot of respect for people like Pastor Albert and Rhoda, who had to lead churches in a time when they didn’t feel safe.  I think that one blessing of Asbury’s cross-cultural requirement is that we get too comfortable in America, the land of free religion, and we need to realize what it is like to be a soldier for our faith.  It was humbling to see how lucky we are in the States and all the things that others in different cultures have to go through just to practice their faith.” – Jordyn Rhorer, Senior, Lexington, KY

CHILE & PERU – “I learned so much while I was in Chile, especially in Orsorno.  I got perspective on the fact that the same God we serve here in America is the same God that they worship in Chile, and Peru, and Costa Rica, and all the other places I have since traveled to. So often times I try to put God into a bubble and think that God is ‘American,’ but when I step out and see people who are so different from me, and don’t even speak the same language, and I watch them worship, I see the vastness and the infinitely huge God that we serve.  I see that he can’t be reduced to a country, or a language or a social group, but that He is creator of all and that He understands and is Lord of all.

This group of Chilean men and women travel miles and miles to hear the word of God preached every Wednesday night and learn Christian theology.  The thing that struck me the most was how enthusiastic and eager these men and women were to come to church and learn. The building of the church was very small, had no heat, and needless to say it was freezing.  After each break people would gather by the heat lamp to warm up their hands that they were so eagerly taking notes with.  This still is an image in my mind that is one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

Circumstances can be out of control, money can be non-existent, family situations can be rough and food can be scarce, but resting in Jesus and trusting him to fulfill and supply every need is when true Christ-like faith becomes real and true happiness can really be found.” – Charlotte Smith, Senior, Denver, CO

ITALY – “Getting to sing for the 5:30 Sunday mass in St. Peter’s was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had in my life.  Not only is the cathedral absolutely amazing in its architecture, but the history of worship represented by the building is astounding to me.  The music, the people, and the opportunity to visit so many beautiful cathedrals in Italy were the major highlights for me.  Singing in Latin never meant much to me when I was in the States, but when I got to sing Latin for a Catholic mass, the power of the words had more meaning for me, and the significance of the language in the history of the church hit home a little bit better.  The experiences I gained in being able to partake in such a major part of Christian history are something that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.  God is God in Italy as much as in the United States, and He is God all across the world.  We are a church of all nations, and it was a beautiful thing to start to see that and understand it firsthand.”  -- Samantha Penwell, Senior, Clarendon, PA

COSTA RICA – “I love seeing the beauty that God brings from pain.  Looking at some of the kids you would never know what they had gone through.  Is it easy to hear their stories?  NO.  Is it easy to look into their innocent faces and know that they have been used and abused?  NO.  But now when I pray I don’t see numbers and statistics, I see faces and names.  These kids are my little brothers and sisters, and I will fight for them. If it were Jenna or Briana (my younger sisters) on the streets, one would question my love if I did not do everything in my power to bring them freedom and redemption.  It is the same there. If I do not fight for them, do I truly love them?  The main phrases from this summer that God ingrained on my heart were:  never forget that God is faithful, never forget that God is good, never forget that God is BIG, and never forget that God loves you.”  -- Megan Kuhl, Junior, Wilmore, KY

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC –“We were told not to give any money to poor children who seemed to always be around begging for money.  One little boy stood outside the gate to the restaurant we ate at and spoke the only English he knew, which was ‘You-money?’  I think this little boy broke all of our hearts.  Despite our own hunger, we all gave up what was left of our meals and passed it out to the little boy who went and took it to his little brother. I saw God in that moment and though we may not have given the boy money, which was what he was asking for, you could tell they needed food over all else.  The happiness that shone on the little boy’s face when he saw all the food we were handing to him was enough to fill all of us with joy in that moment. 

Working with the children, even just painting their faces and seeing the joy in their eyes from something so simple as paint in the form of a heart on their cheek warmed my heart and was the beginning of my passion for working with children which I later found out led to my calling to be an elementary teacher.  The trip left me with an overwhelming amount of warmth and compassion for helping children and for helping those less fortunate.  Noticing those who are overlooked every single day became my goal once back here in the States.  I look forward to my career of teaching children and making sure no child falls through the cracks or goes unnoticed.”  -- Megan Lewellen, Senior, Wilmore, KY

PUBLISHED JUL 2013:

GUATEMALA “Another math major and I got to teach math to 5th and 6th graders.  That was such an amazing experience especially to me because I have thought about teaching math for a long time. To be put in front of a classroom with a book and be told to explain alternate interior angels was mind blowing. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it.  The kids were learning, and I was loving it.  I definitely experienced a sense of peace knowing that I may very well be doing that exact thing as a career some day.”  - Laura Smith, 2013 Graduate, Wilmore, KY

HAITI “In relating and talking to the Haitians, God showed me how to truly show love to someone.  In playing with the local kids and talking and hanging out with the rest of the locals I saw a different culture and a different way of doing things.  God helped me to truly love them and their differences.  I had great conversations with them, and all of us in the group had a lot of fun playing with the kids.  God was truly evident in our relationships and fellowship.  As Americans I think we forget how valuable differences and different cultures are.  This is the reason why I’m glad that Asbury has a cross-cultural requirement.  Many Americans need to get out into the world to see how real it is.  I think it would change our perspectives and thoughts on some things if we got out of our comfort zones.  Because many don’t get out into the world, they seem to shun people (whether intentionally or unintentionally) who think, act, or live differently than they do.

In America and within the church, I think we’ve formed a standard of living, thinking, and doing things, and anything different—any questions, challenges or changes—need to be "fixed" or cast away.  Not everyone is like this, but I know I was before I started being open to and accepting different opinions, thoughts, and behaviors.  God’s reality is that we are all in some way different, but we can all be used and our differences need to be treasured.  There is value in difference, and there can be understanding in the face of difference if we look for it.  Despite these differences, we are still connected by the same fundamental things that underlie the human race.  I don’t know why I didn’t realize this the first two times I went, but the Haitians are real.  For some reason, going down there this time opened my eyes more to the fact that different people are the same as me; they have similar emotions and thought processes and for some, the same faith in God.”  -- Bryan Hershberger, Senior, Sarasota, FL

ITALY – “Seeing the way other people live and how they do the same things I do is so cool.  It makes me want to learn more languages.  The gap between what I wanted to say and what I could say was so big that it seemed almost pointless to say anything, but I stuck it out.  I tried to speak Italian to some; it really came in handy when I got lost.  I loved the whole trip. If I had to sum it up in ten words it would be:  a look at how culture shapes life and good food.”  -- Dylan Schatko, 2013 Graduating Senior, Ft. Wayne, IN

PUERTO RICO “Long flights on the airplanes made for great bonding time with my teammates. It helped us grow closer as brothers. We also went over what was going to happen on the trip, but I was basically only worried about getting on the beach of clear waters in Puerto Rico. I remember hearing about the service projects and the ministry work and thinking to myself that I couldn’t wait to get those things out of the way so that I could just hang out with my friends on the beach and act a fool. I was basically treating this trip as a vacation. Our plane landed and then we had to drive a little ways to get where we were staying. I remember looking around and just seeing beautiful landscapes and things that only could be created by our God. It is amazing how a sunset can change your whole mind set. I then began to change my attitude on this trip.

Slowly but surely my attitude had flip flopped in about a day in Puerto Rico. We hadn’t even done anything that would be considered a service yet. I just had a different gut feeling that I couldn’t explain. I remember praying the first night to God asking him to change me on the trip. The first couple things we did were related to basketball. We got to get some practice time in on a unique outdoor court. This was exciting because it was a different environment that we had never practiced in. One day when we were practicing everything changed. A group of young males showed up to play ball and we were using the court. We ended up playing pick-up basketball against them. This lead to communication, and of course when the opportunity presents itself, you should always give it a try so I began to talk to them about God. However, this was very difficult considering I knew no Spanish and they knew no English. I gave it my best effort. Also, we got to scrimmage a high school and a college team and got to teach them the power of God. I think the most important thing we did was show them that it is possible to play a competitive sport and still give the glory to God and not lose your mindset.

The experience of Puerto Rico did more for me than I could have ever done for someone else. I got more for myself through the act of giving than I could have ever received by being selfish. In the end I learned a ton in Puerto Rico about myself and about God. It makes me almost want to become a missionary and help others all the time when I graduate this year. I would love to relive that week of my life over and over again” – David Delph, 2013 Graduate, Louisville, KY

EUROPE“Respect plays a big role in their [French] culture.  They do not only expect you to respect their language, but to also respect them as people.  I traveled through Europe with a group called Kentucky Ambassadors of Music.  We traveled to several different countries to play concerts for them.  They really appreciated this everywhere we went. They saw this as respect for them because we were sharing our hard work with them and taking the time to sit and play a long concert for them.  When we traveled in our group shirts, people would smile at us and show us the same respect that we were trying to offer to them.  However, if we did not wear our group shirts, they saw us as the common American tourist group and paid us no attention.  Because of the respect we gave them through our music, the people were excited to come listen and to talk with us afterwards.  It is amazing how open someone can become when you take the time to show that you care, even if it is just through playing a piece of music.”  -- Stephanie Jones, Junior, Charlestown, IN

HONDURAS – “It was Wednesday that we were faced with a surprising ordeal. Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, publically supported the corrupt former president of Honduras and requested that he be reinstated as president. Chavez is known as being a violent leader, and he even threatened the use of force for the reinstatement to occur. Choluteca has one of the major roads that lead to Nicaragua, another country that supports Chavez and his request. On Wednesday we began to see military travel on the road towards the border with Nicaragua to prepare for a possible attack. It was also on this Wednesday that an article was posted in a newspaper back home in America, citing that our group was in Honduras and was in danger. Not only did it post this information, but it also listed the names of us in the group.  The fact that our names were listed was not done to bring us into danger, but it indirectly did.  It was decided that we would leave with another missionary family and evacuate to El Salvador. We made it safely to El Salvador on Thursday and flew out safe and sound back to America.

I learned a lot from this trip about myself and my relationship with God. I really learned how to trust God with my life, because for the first time in my life, my life was actually threatened. I was scared for myself and for my group, but God provided us with protection and great leaders who were able to lead us through a tough situation. God also gave me peace about the situation we were in. We weren’t able to finish the concrete floor that we planned to finish due to the political unrest. We were, however, able to start on it and get a majority of the way completed. At first some us in my group felt that we were failures because we had not finished the job we set out to do. God gave us the peace to see that our success was not based on the completion of the concrete floor, but in the fact that we went to love on his people in Honduras and that is what we did, even throughout the whole ordeal.

The last thing that God showed me on this trip was that he gave me confidence in my calling that I have received in my life. I have always felt that I will enter politics at some point in my life. Being there when political unrest was occurring around us really increased my passion and my will to get involved and help in some sort of way. My passion also was enraged when I saw my country, a land of democracy and freedom, not offer to help the Honduran people who threw out a corrupt president who was acting as a dictator. Seeing all these events around me in the political sphere really gave me confidence that the calling I had heard from God about entering politics was in fact his will. The confidence I gained in my calling from that trip has helped me decide my current major, political science, and my next goal in life which is to go to law school and become a lawyer.” – James Banter, 2013 Graduate, Fort Valley, GA