From Canada all the way down to Panama, the university made a strong impact on many lives this spring break, as several families, faculty members and students chose to go on mission trips. Some of the locations where they served included: Edinburg, Texas; Joplin, Mo.; Haiti; Canada and South Padre Island.
The 60 people who traveled to Edinburg devoted their time to speaking about Christ in fast food eateries and flea market settings. They also offered prayers of healing. In Joplin, Gilda and Charles Crabtree helped with the recovery from the tornados by doing several good deeds for the community, such as putting 250 yards of sidewalk in three pivotal locations around the city. Those who traveled to Canada got to learn and study from church planters in the region.
Director of the Baptist Student Ministry Dr. Shawn Shannon served on Beach Reach (located in South Padre) during the break, which helped spring breakers and one elderly couple around the area with a variety of tasks.“We provided free rides (to over 1127 people), we shared in providing free pancakes twice a day, we cleaned the main beach one morning, we helped build sand sculptures one day, we pulled our weight in the group chores, we had conversations on the vans and on the beach, and we had three baptisms, 11 new believers and 16 rededications. We also helped an elderly couple move couches on our way back,” she said.
Sophomore exercise and sport science major Elizabeth Valcin also went to South Padre during the break. It was her first time on a mission trip.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go, but the Lord kept on pushing me to go, so I went,” she said.
Freshman nursing major Hannah Settles decided to spend her break doing something with a purpose. It was her first time serving missionally in Haiti as she helped build a wall along with the others who traveled to the country during the break.
“I didn’t want to (waste) another spring break when I could be out serving and making a difference,” she said.
Freshman sport management major Braxton Tucker saw this as the perfect opportunity to revisit Haiti. It was his second time visiting the country.
The first was before the 2009 earthquake.
“I’ve had a passion for serving missionally since the seventh grade when I got to go see the devastation in New Orleans. I’d gone with Hope for the Hungry once before, and I knew, coming to UMHB, I would get another opportunity to go. They needed more guys, and I guess that’s when it opened the door for me to go. I talked to my parents; they were all up for it,” he said.
Fearing that he might not have been able to go, he was grateful for the support of his family and members of his church.
“At first, I was like, ‘There is no way I’m going to raise that much money,’ but I had some money aside that I used and I was able to get support by selling t-shirts through church members and family friends to help me raise enough money,” he said.
Tucker spent most of his time in Haiti doing construction as well as getting acquainted with some of the boys at the orphanage.
“Our main (objective) was to construct a wall around the future mission home. They have the foundation and the housing put together for that home. It’s not fully done, just the walls are up basically. We mainly just built the foundation for the wall. It’s probably about three feet high, two feet wide of just rock and cement. We carried rock after rock and cement buckets after cement buckets,” he said.
Tucker won’t forget the positive reactions he got from the locals for the job that he and his team set out to do.
“People just came by and shook our hands and said, ‘God Bless You.’ That’s some of the only English that they knew, and they knew we were there to help build and to help what they’re doing in that church. They were really glad to see us,” he said.
Despite all the good that was being done, there were some setbacks at times. That didn’t keep Tucker and his group from doing what they felt God was asking them to do.
“Considering our work was mainly construction, by like the second or third day, we were doing the same stuff over and over, but that’s what they needed the most. …It was so exhausting. We just encouraged each other while (we were) passing rocks. We would have an assembly line, and we would get to know the person to the side of us, hear their story and hear what God’s doing in their life. Just things like that to encourage us to keep going. The Lord definitely helped us get through that,” he said.
The group Valcin was in had the same attitude when it came to motivation.
“We’d pray over each other. If one of us was feeling down, someone would come and talk to you. Also, just like turning to God and praying to him and just saying, ‘Hey I need strength,’ because there’s some days we got like four hours of sleep, and we were up until like four in the morning doing stuff,” she said.
Shannon was thankful for the time students spent bettering the lives of others during the break.
“I am so grateful for the students who invested their spring breaks in serving others for the sake of Christ. I was deeply touched and impressed by the sacrificial service rendered,” she said.
The BSM director believes the time and effort spent were well worth it, and knows that mission trips can be of high value to someone’s character.
Shannon said, “They meet needs on all sides of the relationships: needs of those served and those serving. I trust that those who go are making a greater investment in being the kind of people who live missionally on a daily basis, who respond to people, needs and opportunities out of deep and lively love for God and others. Such trips teach us a lot about God, others and ourselves. And they certainly increase our dependence on God and our commitment to what he is up to in our lives and world.”