Their missions are manyfold. But at the core of each of Ohio Wesleyan’s 2014 Spring Break Mission Team Trips, are dedicated OWU students who want to step outside their comfort zones—to places as far away as Haiti and Nicaragua—and make life better for their fellow human beings. This year, nine groups of students are participating in spring break trips, sponsored by the Chaplain’s Office:
- When Two Worlds Collide: Dynamics and Challenges of the Texas/Mexico Border encourages team members to explore the culture, dynamics, tensions, and beauty of life on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border. With a greater focus on education rather than service, team members are studying complex border and boundary issues as they experience life in El Paso and meet with a variety of organizations.
- Re-New Orleans: Hurricane Katrina Recovery continues, years after the devastation resulting from the hurricane. OWU team members show their support for the people whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the disaster. Students are spending one week working with the St. Bernard Project (a non-profit formed to assist with hurricane recovery), to gut damaged homes so they can be rebuilt, and to start the rebuilding process. The issues of community building and national and global responsibility for disaster restoration worldwide will be discussed.
- Gender, Sexuality, and Poverty: Navigating Overlapping Realities in Chicago is offering students the opportunity to explore issues faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the country and the world, coupled with challenges of urban poverty and limited access to resources experienced by so many people. Team members traveling to Chicago will work with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Chicago, a collective of lawyers dedicated to prison abolition, gender self-determination, and transformative justice. The group of students will work with issues of homelessness and legal advocacy as they learn about the lives of urban LGBT people.
- Building and Rebuilding: Lakota Nation, SD is an interfaith mission team that will engage in the long-term mission to rebuild Lakota-Anglo relationships through respectful conversation, reflection, conversation, and service. Team members will work with Re-member, a non-profit dedicated to working with the Oglala Lakota people in both construction and cultural education and immersion. Also to be thoughtfully examined is the damage done by Christian missionaries there and the potential for healing between our cultures.
- Children at the Crossroads: St. Louis Crisis Nursery team members will work with at-risk and needy children at the St. Louis Crisis Nursery, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, and to providing emergency services and support for families in need. Team members will serve by playing, reading, and interacting with families as suggested by Nursery personnel.
- If These Horses Could Speak: Mims, FL is an opportunity for team members to work at The Wild Horse Rescue Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of Mustangs rescued from abuse and neglect. Students will do chores and maintenance for the facility and learn techniques used to work with abused animals, and along the way, understand the connections between all living things.
- Project Chacocente: Moving Out of Poverty in Nicaragua is a mission trip that encourages students to partner with Project Chacocente, a Christian-based non-profit that helps families relocate from lives of poverty in Managua’s city dump, to a self-governed rural community near Mayasa. Students will assist with construction efforts and also will spend time getting to know the people of Nicaragua.
- Love and Hope Ministries: Children at the Core of El Salvador, a trip now in its ninth consecutive year, enables students to work on service projects at the Love and Hope orphanage in El Salvador. There, they will interact with the children and reflect on the significance of the orphanage’s work with dispossessed children both locally and globally.
- Hope in Haiti: Returning to Pwoje Espwa, the Christian-based boys’ home in Haiti, OWU’s mission team members will help with construction, classroom assistance, sustainability issues and projects, and with anything else that needs work. OWU has partnered with organizations in Haiti since the late 1980s.
This year’s palette of mission team trips includes domestic and international teams, with a few that are new locations.
“One common thread is that many of our teams will be working with children,” says Chad Johns ’02, director of missions. “It is important for our students to step outside their cultures and meet their neighbors in other communities and countries. While specific needs may vary, students come face-to-face, with the reality that each person is a human being with something to offer.”