What does springtime mean to you? Plants budding? Spring rains? Birds chirping? Easter or Resurrection Sunday? Springtime means all those things and more! To the Wesley Foundations found throughout our Kentucky Colleges, springtime means a time to put their faith to work and go help others.
College spring break often conjures up images of scantily-clad college students partying beachside, but all college students are not the same nor are all spring break activities. From the inner cities of Illinois, to the beaches of Florida to an orphanage in Haiti here is how many of our Wesley Foundation students spent their recent spring breaks:
Western Kentucky University (Missouri and Illinois)
March 8-14th, eleven students and campus minister, Rev. Shea James, traveled to St. Louis, MO. While in St. Louis they stayed at the AMEN House which is a ministry of Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). The group began the trip by worshiping at Grace UMC and exploring the community in which they were serving. While in St. Louis they partnered with Grace UMC and served at their food pantry and at the St. Patrick Center downtown which works with homeless and near homeless populations, assisted Isaiah 58 ministries in structuring and organizing their clothes closet in order to be able to serve the population, and sorted a large donation of toys (which will be distributed at Christmas) at the Board of Religious Organizations (B.R.O).
On Thursday, the group had the opportunity to cross the river to Illinois and work with Trinity UMC in East St. Louis. Part of the group helped with a feeding program and served a delicious lunch of fish, macaroni, green beans, bread, and lemon meringue pie. The rest of the group worked around the property cleaning, painting, and doing whatever Brother Curt asked them to do. Needless to say, the students were in awe of what they saw and experienced in East St. Louis, a city known for its immense poverty and high crime statistics. Pastor Nathan Wolff challenged the students, “Don’t remember this as the place where the houses are burned out and the yards are full of trash. Remember this as the place where all your preconceived notions were shattered.” God shattered many people’s notions of privilege, what it means to be Church, and what community life is really about.
University of Louisville/The Gathering (Haiti)
The number one cause of death in the world are diseases related to contaminated water. Over spring break, some of the students from the Gathering and Rev. Marco Ballesteros (Director of the Gathering) traveled to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Jesus through WaterStep -an NGO based in Louisville that serves countries all across the globe through water purification and health and hygiene training (WaterStep.org
The trip to Grand Goave, Haiti was a clear reminder that God has entrusted the younger generation of the church to be part of God's redemptive plan for humanity. During their trip to Haiti, they installed two water purification systems; and trained dozens of children and adults in health and hygiene through skits, and workshops. The first water purification system was installed in the orphanage/school called Servant of All; and the second water purification system was installed in the house of one of the community leaders of Grand Goave with the purpose of providing free safe water to the people of his community. Members of the Gathering celebrate that God is using them to make a difference in other countries. They are excited that providing pure water will literally save the lives of people in Grand Goave.
For the first time in the life of this ministry, the Gathering Campus Ministry (Louisville's Wesley Foundation) had the blessing of going on an overseas trip. This trip could not have been possible without the support of UM churches and individuals who believe in investing in the lives of the emerging generations. As a ministry, the Gathering is looking forward to more opportunities to shine a light in the lives of people on campus, their community and across the globe. Here you can find a clip of the mission experience and other information about the Gathering: GatheringLouisville.org
University of Kentucky (Beach Reach 14 - Panama City Beach, FL)
During spring break the Wesley Foundation at the University of Kentucky took a group of 17 to Panama City Beach, FL for a mission trip called "Beach Reach." Thousands of college from all across the country travel to Panama City to 'party" during spring break. In fact, it is often referred to as "Satan's playground." The purpose of Beach Reach is to increase compassion toward spiritually lost and depraved college students and to acquire skills to communicate the gospel. The ministry of Beach Reach is designed to build a bridge to share God's love between Wesley Foundation members and their peers. It was a unique experience because as they drove toward the beach from UK, the mission field of fellow college students was driving to the same destination.
Throughout the week members actively witnessed the Spirit of God at work. Here is a snapshot of their experience:
- prayer walked the streets, set up a "free prayer" sign on the beach to offer prayer to intrigued onlookers whose only thoughts had previously been tanning, beach volleyball and beer, poured their hearts out to God on behalf of the lost while in the prayer room at their hotel
- served a free pancake breakfast to spring breakers as an opportunity to build relationships with them while sharing about their faith in Jesus, talked with atheists and agnostics and encouraged struggling Christians
- offered free shuttle rides that prevented students from drinking and driving or walking the streets alone, experienced a church on wheels as they laughed with people and held others as they cried
- served on "street teams" allowing members to walk together in ministry groups so that people could encounter Christ through the Wesley Foundation members, rescued a group of lost and disoriented young women, performed random acts of kindness picking up the tab for strangers in need of love
Everyone on the team has multiple stories about the week where they saw the gospel lived out. There is much to tell...
"Beach Reach was about bringing Jesus to a place where people didn't expect him to be." - Tyler Willett, junior, hometown: Nicholasville, KY
"Beach Reach '14 was an awesome experience. It was great to see God work in the lives of the people to who we were ministering to as well as in the lives of our group members including myself. If a person has never been on a trip such as Beach Reach, I highly recommend it." - Jonathan Reis, junior, hometown: Taylor Mill, KY
"It was awesome to see God working even in the craziest of places. I also realized that without grace, I would be on the others side of this trip." - Emily Starr, junior, hometown: Delta, OH
Northern Kentucky University (Biloxi, Mississippi)
Seven Northern Kentucky University students and their campus pastor, Rev. David Johnston, travelled to Biloxi, Miss., over spring break to work with the homeless.
The students are members of the Northern Kentucky Wesley Foundation, a campus ministry serving NKU. The trip was made possible in part by an NKU Legacy grant. The team worked primarily with Seashore Mission, a United Methodist mission church comprised of persons experiencing homelessness. Staffed by Rev. Judy Longo, who directs the mission, and volunteers from the homeless community, Seashore Mission opens as a day shelter three times a week to worship; serve food; and offer activities, showers, laundry service, pastoral care, and other social services.
The students cooked and served meals, cleaned, helped prepare the mission’s new facility, sorted clothing donations, shared music and laughter, and most importantly built new relationships with the people of Seashore Mission. Through these relationships, students learned about homelessness and heard personal stories and struggles about the experience of homelessness.
“The people of Seashore Mission were impressed and thankful that the NKU students decided to spend their spring break working with them as they strive to get back on their feet and make it through each day,” said David Johnston, campus pastor.
The team also spent a free day in the French Quarter of New Orleans. There they visited such sights as Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, and Café du Monde while enjoying the city's unique food and culture.