Students on Mission

Cedars explores how students used their talents for missions over the summer

by Breanna Beers

Every year Dr. Thomas White (jokingly?) threatens seniors with a withheld diploma if they attempt to walk across the stage at graduation without having gone on a missions trip during their 1,000 days at Cedarville. This summer, students from several majors had the chance to fulfill that goal and minister across the globe using their specific fields of study.

These trips allowed students the chance to see how their unique skills and professions could be applied in a ministry context. Ahna Mellinger, a sophomore theatre design major who helped run drama camps at an international school in Penang, Malaysia, described how just being a Christian in theater is its own form of ministry.

“Theater isn’t all what you see in New York,” Mellinger said. “There’s another side to theater — there’s just having fun and being with each other and learning about a different culture, maybe through a character or, like we did, through visiting other places and helping them. For me, theater is about relationships and learning about people … the friendships that you form and the family that you become by the end of the show.”

These trips provided students a unique opportunity to see how their skills could be used in other cultures. Mackenzie Mayse, a senior nursing major who served in various clinics in Honduras, described how working in a different culture could bring challenges and frustrations.

“The cultural differences were very hard,” Mayse said. “The culture is very different. Everything is very laid-back and chill. They view time very differently there.”

She described waiting in a lobby for hours before a clinic was ready to receive the team, a driver who arrived to pick them up 45 minutes later than requested and still needed to refuel, and a clinic that didn’t want to say no to the students coming in, which led the team to come in to work on a day the clinic was closed. However, Mayse also witnessed how cultural variances could allow a different type of ministry than would be possible in an American hospital, shifting her view of what nursing could be.

“They’re very open to spiritual conversation there,” Mayse said. “It’s not like an American hospital where that’s kind of a banned topic. We had some cool opportunities to pray for patients at the clinic. Nursing is more than being just task-oriented; the relationship-building part of it is equally important too. Honduras does a really good job of caring for all aspects of the person, instead of just what appears to be wrong with them. There’s more to a person than just their high blood pressure.”

While Honduran culture allowed greater freedom for spiritual conversations, students in some other countries had to be more cautious due to cultural barriers to Christianity. Meghan Largent, a junior English major who ministered to local children through an ESL camp in Italy, described how Italian culture was less favorable to open Christian ministry.

“It’s all heavily Catholic over there, so [Protestant] Christianity is seen as a cult,” said Largent. “So they can’t be as outspokenly Christian around non-believers. It’s like as Christians sending your kids to a Jehovah’s Witness camp. You don’t want them trying to influence your kids with Jehovah’s Witness doctrines, but if it’s just a fun day camp teaching them English. So it was more working and teaching them about Christ by example rather than specific Bible-related things, because [the directors] are still working to build community and relationship right now.”

Whitney O’Brien, a senior business management major who presented leadership seminars to community leaders in southern India, had to be similarly sensitive to the combination of Christians, Hindus, and other religious views in her audience.

“We strove to be as respectful as possible when presenting,” said O’Brien, “being sure that we would clearly explain the biblical examples included with the leadership principles themselves, but never in a way that would imply we looked down on them for their differing beliefs.”

O’Brien also found the trip valuable for exposing her to the way business is practiced differently in different societies, opening her eyes to how her field of study might be adapted depending on the culture in which it is practiced.

“In the US there is one cashier for checkout, whereas in India there are six or seven people doing an elongated process of the same job,” said O’Brien. “Also, respect is viewed as mandatory in India, which makes the process for an employee getting information to and from their supervisor a long process.”

Abigail Krakora, a junior theatre performance major who went to Malaysia with Mellinger, had a similar experience when it came to theater.

“The thing that surprised me is that there’s not a lot of opportunities to do theater in other places of the world,” said Krakora. “So in America, we just have community theaters everywhere, and they have none. So they have their high school drama and then they have street performance, which is a completely, completely different everything. So that was pretty interesting, to just see how the rest of the world does theater — or how sometimes they simply don’t.”

While students were able to experience new cultures, gain experience in their professions, and pass on their skills to others, the ultimate goal of these trips never left their minds: to serve the Lord with the unique abilities and opportunities He gave to them, and to be faithful to the call of the gospel. Jared Klimek, a senior engineering major who installed water pumps in Bolivia, described how the experience opened his eyes to what long-term missions might actually look like, despite only being in the country for 12 days.

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing what being a missionary would be like,” Klimek said. “The missionary we were with intentionally gave us opportunities to do things that he did when he was first becoming a missionary, even just going out and buying food at the store even though you don’t really know too well how to speak the language. You have to just kind of figure it out. So that was really eye-opening and something that I’ve never experienced that much on a mission trip before.”

Global Outreach will have information tables for spring break trips in the upper SSC from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and Wednesday, Oct. 3. Students are welcome to apply online at any time.

Breanna Beers is a sophomore molecular and cellular biology major and an off-campus news editor for Cedars. She loves exercising curiosity, hiking new trails and quoting “The Princess Bride” whether it’s relevant or not.

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