Students use spring break to serve needy
3/4/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
NOTE: A map is available with this story.
A UMNS Feature By Linda Green*
By Linda Green*
Spring break is normally a time when college students head
to beaches and resorts for a week of revelry, often fueled by an
overabundance of alcohol. But students involved in United Methodist
Wesley Foundations and campus ministry groups will be rolling up their
sleeves for service work instead.
Campus ministry groups from
across the country will spend their spring break working side by side
with people in need. Instead of fun in the sun, the students will be
working up a sweat swinging hammers, laying bricks, digging ditches and
performing other service work.
"What draws our students into
mission-related work during spring break is their desire to make some
tangible difference in the world," says the Rev. Mark Forrester,
director of the Wesley Foundation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tenn. "This desire, rooted in faith, relates belief with purpose in
practical ways that can be accomplished, valued and shared."
March, students are building and repairing homes in economically
depressed areas from Appalachia to Guatemala, participating in Habitat
for Humanity projects throughout the United States and in other
countries, teaching children in Mexico and Haiti, performing
environmental preservation in Northern Ireland, ministering at an AIDS
hospice in Puerto Rico, holding seminars in Berlin and working with
Methodists in the Bahamas.
The United Methodist campus ministry
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is sending 50 students to
work in four Southern communities - Atlanta, Clarksville, Miss.,
Birmingham, Ala., and Cherokee, N.C.; and in two closer to home -
Holyoke and Mashpee, Mass.
Since 1997, University of
Massachusetts students from different faith traditions have been
engaging in the service projects. "Rather than worship without
sacrifice, what appeals to most of our students is self-giving and
sacrifice as the context for spiritual development and devotion," says
Kent Wiggins of the school's United Christian Foundation.
second time, the campus ministry of King Avenue United Methodist Church
in Columbus, Ohio, will depart for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to partner
with International Child Care, a medical mission organization, to visit
urban community health sites in slum areas. The 11 participants,
students at Ohio State University, will spend time at Grace Children's
Hospital, a United Methodist Advance Project operated by International
Child Care, as well as St. Joseph's Home for Boys.
do wonderful things on spring break, such as Habitat for Humanity,
Appalachian Service Projects and many others, but there is a tendency to
disengage from the systemic issues of poverty and race that those sorts
of trips are working to combat," says the Rev. Don Wallick, campus
minister and associate pastor at King Avenue Church. "A trip like this,
which lifts students completely out of middle and upper-middle class,
sheltered American life, immerses them in the deep material poverty of
Haiti." The trip will allow the students to engage the people there and
to "re-evaluate their entire life and faith, laying the groundwork for
deep personal transformation," he says.
For the past four years,
the chaplain's office at United Methodist-related Rocky Mountain College
in Billings, Mont., has taken students on mission trips to Merida,
Yucatan, Mexico, where they have helped construct a church and led Bible
school. This year, the students will build homes and help with
rebuilding as a result of damage caused by Hurricane Isidore last fall.
chaplain's office at Wesley College in Dover, Del., is sponsoring a
service trip to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn. The
Hole in the Wall Gang Camp serves children with life-threatening
illnesses (cancer and blood diseases such as HIV, sickle-cell anemia and
hemophilia) by giving them a free "normal" summer camp experience. The
spring break group from the United Methodist-related school will help
prepare the camp for the children by doing work projects on the site. At
the end of the week, the students will serve as camp counselors for a
campout for brothers and sisters of the critically ill children.
United Methodist campus ministry groups will join ecumenical
delegations in the Collegiate Challenge, Habitat for Humanity's national
spring break program, in which thousands of U.S. students will visit
200 locations through April 19. The participants will hammer nails and
raise walls as they build simple, decent and affordable houses in
partnership with families in need. The students will travel to rural and
inner-city areas of the United States to build new houses or refurbish
existing residences. Other students will travel overseas to help
families in Third World countries achieve the dream of homeownership.
students from United Methodist-related Emory & Henry College in
Emory, Va., will journey to Columbus, Ga., as part of Collegiate
Challenge, to give a "hand up instead of a hand out" to families in
need," says the Rev. Tim Kobler, chaplain at the school.
at State University College in New Paltz, N.Y., will answer the
Collegiate Challenge by building houses in Horry County, S.C.
the first time since the early 1990s, the students involved in the
Tidewater Wesley Foundation and the Wesley Westminster House at Norfolk
(Va.) State College are traveling with students from the Baptist Student
Union of Old Dominion University in Norfolk to Red Bird Mission in
Beverly, Ky., for a week of service and fellowship.
and nine students from United Methodist-related University of Evansville
(Ind.) are headed to Gray, W.Va., to make repairs in areas devastated
by floods during summer 2001 and spring 2002. Last year, five inches of
rain fell in less than an hour on six counties in West Virginia and
Virginia, damaging or destroying 3,000 homes.
A six-student team
from the Wesley Foundation at Texas Tech is going to Louisiana to
assist the United Methodist Committee on Relief in helping victims of
the 2002 hurricanes that hit the coast. Another team heads to Memphis to
work for SOS, an inner-city ministry started by Christ United Methodist
Several Wesley Foundations and ecumenical campus groups
will participate in "Alternative Spring Break," a substance-free break
that exposes students to the diversity of cultures, lifestyles, and
living environments in the United States and South America. Students
from across the country will journey to parts of Tennessee, Kentucky,
Virginia, and West Virginia to work with the Appalachian Service
Project, primarily on home repair.
The Wesley Foundation
students at Radford (Va.) College and Tennessee Wesleyan College in
Athens, Tenn., are going to Marion, Va., to work with Project
Crossroads, an ecumenical building and rebuilding project in rural
southwest Virginia. The students also will speak in local United
Methodist churches to share the Wesley Foundation story and thank
congregations for their financial and moral support.
School in Espanola, N.M., is the destination for 18 college students
involved in the United Campus Ministry of the Tri-College in
Fargo-Moorhead, N.D. They will help with service projects - painting,
landscaping, cement work, repairs, spring cleaning - to benefit the
children attending the preparatory school, which is a project of the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The group also will dig out
ancient irrigation ditches for "subsistence farmers" in the area and
make repairs at a retreat center, a community health clinic and hiking
Mission trips abroad
The denomination's Volunteer
in Mission Program has enabled students and others from United
Methodist-related Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., to
participate in a mission trip to Caribbean and Latin American countries
for the past seven years. This year, 21 students will continue the
construction of a parsonage and preschool for the church in San Isidro,
Guatemala is the destination for students of the
Wesley Foundations at Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State
universities. The foundations at both schools are uniting to take
students to complete work on a church at Chuisamayac. The group will
construct pews, paint, install computers and conduct a Bible school.
challenges of language differences, cultural difference, relationship
building with our hosts and each other, and experiencing a spiritual
reason for what we do make for a powerful week of sweat, inconvenience
and love," says the Rev. Barry Foster, chaplain and director of church
relations at Shenandoah University. "Students are thrust into an
environment where they are asked to look deep into their Christian faith
to see if they are truly following the Christian path to open blind
eyes, bring good news to the poor and to set oppressed people free."
Protestant campus ministry at Pennsylvania State in Erie is going to
Northern Ireland to perform service work, including planting trees,
pruning shrubs, and cleaning trails and underbrush at Castle Ward near
Others traveling abroad include a group from Indiana
University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, and the Indiana Institute
of Technology, also in Fort Wayne. The United Methodist representative
campus minister is taking the six-member team to Berlin to lead seminars
on youth ministry, creation vs. evolution, marriage relations, and
teens and children. The students will interact with German Christians
and non-Christians, and meet with the one-time American warden of the
prison where Rudolf Hess and other Nazi criminals were held.
always take a cross-cultural trip so that the students can be stretched
out of their comfort zone and learn that the world is a much bigger
place than Fort Wayne, Ind.," says Benton Gates, the United Methodist
campus ministry representative to the three Indiana academic
institutions. "We expect the trip to be a life changer."
from the Duke Wesley Fellowship at Duke University, Durham, N.C. will
be joining others organized through Duke Chapel on a mission team to
Honduras. Another student will travel to Uruguay with the Duke Freeman
Center for Jewish Life. The Duke Wesley
Domestic Work Team will stay at Lake Junaluska, N.C., and work in Haywood County.
and teaching is also on the agenda for 10 students from the San Antonio
United Methodist campus ministry. The students, all interested in
exploring the call to ministry, will tour three United Methodist
seminaries: Candler School of Theology, Atlanta; Duke Divinity, Durham,
N.C.; and Perkins School of Theology, Dallas.
Foundation Campus Ministry at the University of Oregon in Eugene is
joining forces with Oregon State University's Westminster House Campus
Ministry in Corvallis, and heading to San Francisco to volunteer in the
dining room of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church for Project Open
Hand, preparing and delivering meals to HIV-positive patients in the
community, and at Cameron House, a mission of the Presbyterian Church in
Oregon State University's campus ministry is an
ecumenical effort of United Methodists, Presbyterians, United Church of
Christ and Disciples of Christ. Nine students chose San Francisco as
their destination "because they wanted to have an urban experience, to
learn more about the issues that the poor face in the city, and to see
how churches and social service agencies are attempting to meet the
needs of those who are living on the margins," says the Rev. Jeremy
Hajdu-Paulen, campus pastor at the Wesley Foundation at the University
of Oregon. "Reflection will be an important part of our experience as
we integrate what we see and do with our own Christian journeys of
Pearisburg, Va., is the spring break site for nine
students of the Ecumenical Center at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The group will help build a Habitat for Humanity house; build a deck for
an Adult Day Care facility; install a merry-go-round at a playground;
and help judge a school science fair.
Thirty students from
United Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham,
Ala., will travel by train to Washington to work with homeless programs.
They also will meet with their congressional representatives to discuss
homelessness and poverty.
For Forrester at Vanderbilt, the words
of Methodism's founder, John Wesley, relate directly to the students'
service projects. Says Forrester: "Wesley's maxim, 'the world is my
parish,' becomes more immediate and real when today's young people on
campus venture out, with faith, and local support in hand, to share in
the transformation of people's lives."
# # #
*Green is United Methodist News Service's Nashville, Tenn., news director.
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