Mission Accomplished: Students Serve over Spring Break
Scroll for a photo gallery of Asbury students on mission!
For many Asbury University students, Spring Break 2014 was more than just a time for fun and relaxation — it was a chance to live out a commitment to Mission. From Trinidad to Albania to New York City and more, here are just a few of the ways Asbury students made a difference.
A group that traveled to New York City found a way to combine education and service with Operation Exodus Inner City, Inc., an organization that focuses on helping Latino youth achieve their potential. Each morning, the team visited different organizations in the metro area — such as New Visions for Public Schools, Pureland Pictures, Restore New York, Community Connections for Youth and Safe Horizons — to learn about the issues facing various groups of people in the city. After lunch, the students supported the Operation Exodus volunteers and staff with building maintenance, tutoring and devotional lessons for area youth.
Completing the cross-culture experience were home stays with local families in which the Asbury students built friendships with both the youth they served at Operation Exodus as well as their parents and families.
“The Asbury trip to New York City was very much a cross-cultural experience. New York has a great sense of unity, but there is also a great degree of diversity. Between Washington Heights, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, one can find a wide variety of cultures that are as different from one another as they would be from another country,” said junior Chase Northrip. “The organizations we visited opened our eyes to many of the challenges and problems NYC is facing. Our time at Operation Exodus helped to make an impact on the young students, many of which needed someone to look up to or relate to. Spending the week with our host families taught us much about Dominican culture, including food, schooling, and the effort made by the families so their houseguests would feel right at home during their stay.”
Sophomore Nathan Sharp traveled to Vlashaj, Albania, with a group of Asbury students led by World Gospel Mission (WGM). The group worked in a ministry center led by Nathan ’97 and Cydil VanOrman ’97 Waggoner, former directors of the WGM Student Center in Wilmore.
Sharp says one of the highlights of the trip was hearing testimonies from Albanian Christians who had grown up under Communist rule. One testimony that stood out was the story of a woman named Vera, whose family had been well-connected in the Communist party. When she was still young, her family enjoyed a privileged status in the party. But when one of her brothers fled the country, Vera’s family fell out of favor.
“They went from being the elite to being ousted by their own party,” Sharp said. “But she experienced a drastic change from what she had gone through to when she first believed the gospel, which she heard about almost by accident. Now she ministers to her whole apartment building, and everyone she comes into contact with.”
Sharp says his biggest takeaway from the trip was the need for awareness about what God is doing in other parts of the world.
“It’s so easy to get caught in our situation, all the struggles we’re going through, and wondering why God isn’t helping us right now, in this moment,” he said. “But we need to step outside of ourselves and realize that God is doing so much around the world. Instead of expecting God to follow us around, we need to draw near to Him. That’s when he draws near to us.”
When sophomore Emily Ledford and her friends started making plans for Spring Break, they had a simple road trip in mind. However, the group of worship arts majors couldn’t resist bringing their instruments and turning the road trip into a worship tour. The team consisted of seven students, as well as a student’s father who ran audio for concerts. Ledford acted as treasurer — a stressful job that made her rely on God’s provision.
“Gas is super expensive, we drove over 3,000 miles, round trip, and we had two vehicles,” she said. “I was really overwhelmed by that, and not sure how it was going to work out, but God kept putting it on people’s hearts to give, and using people to really bless us, and it was like God said, ‘Hey, you really don’t need to be worrying about finances right now. I’ve got it taken care of. I want you here.”
Ledford says the highlight of the trip was an all-worship service at the home church of sophomore worship arts major and team member Miller Jarrell.
“Just from God working through the music, not anything we were saying, people were coming to the altar,” she said. “I felt the Spirit thickest in there the whole week long. And then after that service they asked us to stand in the middle of the sanctuary and they all crowded around and prayed for us, which was so cool and really a blessing for all of us. They were there to worship with us, and God really showed up in awesome ways.”
Senior Kristen Cope had no difficulty choosing a Spring Break ministry trip. She went to Trinidad last year and loved the people and the place so much that she decided to do it again.
Cope’s time was divided between several ministry areas. She helped put on school programs that included music, puppets, skits and Bible stories, and spent time with the children afterwards, playing with them or talking to them. She also visited a nursing home, where she prayed with residents, read Scripture to them, and “just talked to them about their lives.”
The ministry area that had the biggest impact on Cope and her team was Vacation Bible School, held in the evenings for four days.
“Working with the kids four days out of that week was cool because we bonded with them, and when we were leaving it was really hard to say goodbye, because the kids were so attached already,” Cope said. “That’s why we go on these trips — to make those impacts on those kids. We don’t know where they come from, what their families are like, their home situations, and we don’t know if they’re ever going to hear about the Gospel. Those four days that we get to connect with them are crucial.”
The connection Cope and her teammates felt with the children at Vacation Bible School had bigger implications than just the emotions of a week-long ministry, though. Through her experience in Trinidad, Cope came away with an even stronger conviction of the love of God.
“We’d just met these kids, and they already loved us and we loved them, and we shared this connection, but how much more does God, our creator, love us?” she said. “We should feel nothing but loved."
Ministering in Medellin, Colombia, with One Mission Society (OMS) was an experience junior Jay Smith says he’ll never forget.
One of the highlights for Smith was attending a worship service in what might seem an unlikely place: Medellin’s Bellavista prison. Smith and his team met with Jeannine Brabon, a 1971 Asbury graduate and missionary to Colombia. At one time, Bellavista was known as one of the most dangerous places in Medellin, but through Brabon’s prison ministry, it has undergone dramatic change.
Smith says the first thing he heard on entering the prison was songs of praise.
“It was around 50 guys, all singing their hearts out,” he said. “They have so much energy when they sing, dancing and clapping so loud, and hands raised all the time — you can’t question their sincerity. You know what they’ve been through, and you know that they’ve just really experienced God’s love, even in these dark places.”
During the week, most of Smith’s work focused on door-to-door evangelism in Medellin, both downtown and in the surrounding mountains. In both places, Smith says he saw examples of God’s power at work. One day, while ministering in the mountains, Smith met a mother with two daughters, and began sharing the gospel with the help of a translator.
“It was just a perfect opportunity, honestly,” Smith said. “My translator that day was great. We kind of tag teamed on her questions and all three of them came to the Lord right there, mother and daughters.”
Smith says the experience was a reminder of God’s power to enact dramatic change in people’s lives.
“It reminded me of the story where the woman who’s been sick with the blood disease touches Jesus’ robe in faith and is healed,” Smith said. “The fact is that when we just accept Christ’s salvation we are healed. Our perspective is totally changed, our eternity is secure and we actually live with the love of Christ now. Talk about healing — what other way is there to be more healed than that? And that’s what we saw all week.”
Having visited the island before, Senior Kayla Clenney thought she knew what she was getting into when she signed up for a trip Puerto Rico. However, her service-oriented mission with the Salvation Army Student Fellowship proved to be just as educational as her more traditional classes on campus.
A week spent repainting the House of God for the Salvation Army of Caguas, Puerto Rico, had its highlights — a chance to bask in warm sunshine after a particularly cold Kentucky winter, delicious home-cooked meals and Spanish-language worship services, for example — as well as challenges such as limited language proficiency. Through the experience, Clenney was able to see a larger picture of the needs of the world and her place in meeting them.
“Throughout our whole time while in Puerto Rico, I was constantly being reminded that we live on such a small planet, and that God has a reason why we meet the people we are meant to come in contact with at the right time, on His watch,” she said. “I could not have asked for better timing and getting the opportunity to travel and work not only with people I had not met beforehand, but to creating lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever after leaving Asbury.”
--by Joel Sams '15 and Rebekah Daniel