Visions of sugar plums dance around most people’s heads during the Christmas season, but for junior Christian ministries major Leah Chapman, the only visions she saw were of women working in brothels.
Chapman traveled to East Asia over the holidays to serve women working in some of the darkest places.
“We made lots of cookies and assembled Christmas stockings with the gospels and other materials in them and then handed them out on the street as well as in brothels,” she said.
Preparation for the trip began far in advance as Chapman started praying two years before for specific brothel ministries.
She said, “I was reminded of how my mentor and I from a couple of years ago started praying for sexually exploited woman. We both felt really broken and burdened for them.”
She learned about the trip one night at the Baptist Student Ministry’s FOCUS meeting and read more about it through Go Now, a Baptist missions organization in Texas.
Realizing that she had a few weeks free from school, Chapman believed she had to do something to help the women in East Asia stuck in prostitution.
“I had an overwhelming feeling that I just needed to do something with my Christmas break,” she said. “I knew that if I didn’t do something, … it would be wasted away, and I wouldn’t be doing what God wanted me to do.”
Though she gave up part of her time with family and friends over the break, Chapman thinks the trip was worth all the time, effort and sacrifice.
She said, “It was amazing to see the very women that we’d all been praying for all this time. But not just see them, we were able to hand them the very Word of God. That was amazing.”
Sophomore nursing and Christian ministry major Dylan Topliff also spent part of his break serving the less fortunate in another country. He journeyed to Haiti with three other UMHB students to a boys’ orphanage that is run by Belton’s Hope for the Hungry organization.
“We … helped remove mold and repaint a room for boys to move into as a bedroom. We also helped do concrete work in building walls, columns and a floor,” Topliff said.
Their main goal was to complete the construction projects, but Topliff and his team also spent time with some of the boys living in the home.
“My favorite part of the trip was talking to a boy about his hopes and dreams, a simple conversation, but it touched my heart deeply,” he said.
Topliff heard about the trip to Haiti through the Baptist Student Ministry which promoted Christmas missions this year.
Topliff not only got to spend time loving orphans, he was also challenged to take a look at his own life after experienceing a different way of life in Haiti.
“It has impacted the way I look at money and how I look at serving others around me,” he said.
Overall, 16 UMHB students served in six different countries over the holidays.
They did construction in Jamaica and Haiti, built relationships with college students and reached out to women in brothels in East Asia, gave new socks and shoes to orphans in Transniestria, distributed food and clothing in inner city Arlington, Texas, and led vacation Bible school activities in Mexico.
Freshman Christian ministry major Hannah Bailey was one of the four UMHB students who served people living in Arlington.
Like Chapman, she heard about the trip through Go Now and decided to give up a part of her holiday to serve others.
Bailey said, “We were privileged to get to work with Mission Arlington in their Christmas store, giving gifts to parents who don’t really have the ability to give gifts to their children. Also in their main building, we gave clothes, food and houseware items to people who had nothing at all.”
For Bailey, the most impactful part of her trip was the selfless attitudes and actions of the people she was working with there and the difference it made.
She said, “It was so incredible to see so many people come together to help people who are less fortunate than themselves (and) seeing the people we were helping get so excited over stuff that gets taken for granted every day.”
Bailey, along with Topliff and Chapman, was impacted by the time she spent serving others when she could have spent all of her time with family and friends. After getting back from East Asia, Chapman looks back and realizes how great the needs are for people around the world.
“I had never seen such darkness in anyone’s eyes before. One of the brothels I entered was just so dark, and the difference in the eyes of the lost and the eyes of the believers we met was so drastic,” she said. “I think it changed my life by opening up my eyes to the needs of people around me to have life in Christ.”