For the second year in a row, University Ministries led a team of freshmen on a “Fall Break Plunge,” a three-day mission project Oct. 12-14. The Plunge is an allusion to the University’s annual “immersion” spring break trip program, which is designed to give a broad spectrum of students at Belmont the chance to be immersed in God’s world in various destinations, experiencing God’s work in a number of contexts. The Plunge enables freshmen to get a taste of what a week-long mission trip could be.
This year the Plunge found 20 freshmen, along with University Ministries Director of Outreach Micah Weedman, going to downtown Atlanta for Fall Break. The team stayed in Grant Park and worked with the Medici Project, an organization that designs and hosts alternative break trips for college students.
“For all of the trips we sponsor, we take a broad spectrum approach that is shaped by the locations we go,” Weedman said. “While in Atlanta, we wanted to do Atlanta-centric work. That included spending time with a homeless ministry in one of the city’s abandoned urban neighborhoods and volunteering with one of Atlanta’s most successful urban gardens that distributes the food it grows to low income families in the community.”
Freshman Noreen Prunier, a music business major from Long Island, NY, added, “I chose to go to Atlanta for my Fall Break because I wanted to do something meaningful, and something where I felt my time would be put to good use. This experience has changed my perspective on service because on this trip I was able to see the joy and gratitude in the people we served from such small actions. Even though it seemed like passing out lunches on the street was such a small action, the people receiving them were so grateful and were looking forward to it. So, no matter what small deed we do, it will affect someone in some way.”
Christian missionaries Keren Madora and Kristene Diggins spoke to students about their lives of service working among the Piraha tribe in the Amazon on Thursday night in the Curb Event Center at the 2013-2014 First Year Seminar convocation. Sponsored by the Office of General Education and Student Government Association, this event addressed the university theme of “Through the Eyes of Others.”
Diggins is the daughter of Madora and Dan Everett, the author of FYS common book, “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes.” They lived the experiences written about in the book. Madora has worked with the Piraha for more than three decades. Diggins, who grew up as a child with the Piraha, is now a nurse who provides a clinic for the Piraha and other indigenous tribes in the Amazon.
Madora spoke about her experience learning the language of the Piraha. She related her studies to those of the students at Belmont. “[God] is the author of all truth. Whatever we are called to do, we should seek his face. Make prayer a major component of your learning,” Madora said.
Diggins shared with students her experience growing up alongside the Piraha. She spoke of the importance of discovering one’s purpose in life, quoting from John 10:10, “I have come that you may have life.” She explained that God guides us to discover our purpose.
The event concluded with a Q&A with students moderated by Belmont sophomore Jeanette Morelan.
The General Education program at Belmont University fosters the skills, knowledge, perspectives, values and dispositions that will enable students to apply their understandings and abilities beyond the classroom, encouraging them to become responsibly engaged in their community and in the world.
Approximately 100 Belmont students, faculty and staff are spending their Spring Breaks next week on University-sponsored missions and service trips to sites across the U.S. and overseas. More than half of that number will be participating in Immersion 2013, a variety of Spring Break trips coordinated by University Ministries.
Director of Outreach Micah Weedman said, “University Ministries hopes to expose students, first, to the variety of injustices people of all backgrounds face in our country, and alongside that, the kind of work God is doing to combat that injustice in particular places. This means that students have the opportunities to be immersed in local cultures and places, and to be immersed in the struggles and joys of particular peoples’ lives—hopefully, then, spending their Spring Breaks immersed in love, of God and neighbor.”
This year groups of students, faculty and staff will be traveling all over the country, exploring border issues in Las Cruces, examining creation in Cumberland Island, Ga., assisting with disaster aftermath in New Orleans and working in the inner cities of Chicago, New York and San Francisco, among other excursions. To follow blog entries from al of this semester’s immersion trips, click here.
In addition, the Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing will be sending two teams of students overseas next week to practice their healthcare skills in areas of great need. Assistant Professor of Nursing Robin Cobb and another faculty member will be leading eight students to provide nursing care to the people of Grand Goave, Haiti. Also, a team of about 20 physical therapy and occupational therapy students and faculty will head for the seventh year to Guatemala for a Christian service project. Click here to read the blog entries from these two trips next week.
Finally, the Office of Residence Life is again offering a service trip over Spring Break as well, this time taking five students to family-owned Agata Mountain Organic Ranch (A.M.O.R.) in Tellico Plains, Tenn., to learn about organic and simple living. Maddox Hall Resident Director and team co-leader Alex Snow said, “Students will have the opportunity to live in community with the family, eat and learn about self-sustainable/organic living, and go out into the community to help where needed. Projects will range from helping at local farms, doing arts and crafts that will be sold to raise funds for a battered women’s shelter and helping develop the farm’s ability to support groups.”
Belmont students represented the University through service in March when they used their spring breaks to take mission trips across the country.
For its annual spring break Immersion trips, University Ministries put eight groups with over 70 students directly into a variety of cultures that included El Paso, New Orleans, New York City and Appalachia. The program seeks to immerse students into the work God is already doing.
The Detroit trip’s student coordinator Diana Rogut said the trip was life changing for her and that serving the homeless population of Detroit was eye opening. Building relationships with the people the team was serving revealed the common misconceptions of homelessness across the nation and beyond that, the truths of the people who are suffering from it.
Rogut spoke about her newly formed relationship with a homeless man named Derrick, noting, “The best part of my trip was getting a Facebook notification… and it said, ‘thanks for the friendship and pray that God moves us in His will so never forget you have friends in the (313) Detroit… know that you’re at home when you’re in the D. Be blessed.’”
Residence Life also participated in a trip to Gulf Port, Miss., to serve a mission that works with poverty stricken families and the homeless population, specifically those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Spending the week doing yard work, sorting donations, cleaning the mission and working in the office, the group was able to assist the mission in many ways.
“With the large volume of stories we hear daily about the problems with the world, it was a great sight to see our students interacting as part of a larger group that still believes in doing the right thing,” said group leader and Residence Director Chris DeLisle.
Belmont’s Pharmacy School as well as Occupational and Physical Therapy Schools took trips to the Guatemala City area in partnership with The Shalom Foundation to serve residents of the communities in many ways. The Pharmacy students provided screenings and general medical care to the residents while the OT/PT groups did assessments for disabled residents and home visits, among other things. Although the groups did not travel together, their service projects worked alongside each other and saw some of the same patients.
Pharmacy student and trip participant Mandy Newman said, “They taught me more about life than I could ever teach them about health. My life is forever changed because of them, and I hope to return next year.”
Belmont 2002 graduate Eric McLaughlin returned to campus for Belmont’s Homecoming Chapel Feb. 15 to discuss the work he, his family and others doctors are doing in Africa.
Committed to missions, McLaughlin and his family, along with several friends who are also physicians, moved to Kenya in 2009 to provide health care for residents and to teach young Kenyan doctors. The group is spending a year in the United States visiting friends and family before its members leave to spend 10 months in France. There they will learn French to prepare for a mission trip in Burundi, a country in Eastern Africa.
McLaughlin said his years in Kenya taught him he has limitations and God’s goodness is stronger than he realized. When his human limitations come into play, God’s goodness has the power to overcome.
“Limitations are very real, but the goodness of God in the world is that much more real,” he said.
McLaughlin concluded his lecture by encouraging the students to reflect on their limits and remind themselves God is goodness and limitless.
He said, “Do not fear the darkness, but rather celebrate the light. And know that, by his goodness, God’s strength is made person in our weakness.”