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WAU Students Set New Standard for Ministry
Story by Grace Virtue
Brittany Bower (left), a WAU junior biology major, poses for a photo with a local girl during a recent mission trip. Bower is shoeless after giving hers away to a girl she met on the trip who had none.
On Washington Adventist University (WAU) Ministry Department’s “Cruise with a Purpose,” last month, Brittany Bower proved the perfect example of Christian humility and compassion.
Moved by the plight of a young girl, who arrived at a mission event in the Dominican Republic without shoes, Bower, a junior biology major at the Takoma Park, Md., university, promptly removed hers and handed them to the teenager. She spent the rest of the afternoon in her socks until a group member loaned her a pair of size 13 flip-flops.
“It actually began with a little boy who kept tugging at my clothes. I had given him a shirt and some pants but he needed some shoes,” Bower recalls. “I felt badly that I did not have an extra pair for the little boy, so when I saw this girl, who was about 12 or 13, without shoes, it was a chance to make up for it.”
Bower, an aspiring dentist, was one of 17 WAU students who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas for the nine days and 10 nights long trip, led by Chaplain Kaneil Williams, and sponsored by Zack Plantak, PhD, chair of the religion department. The trip was the first of its kind for the school.
While they thoroughly enjoyed life aboard the cruise liner and the adventure of travel, it was the opportunity to serve that beckoned and fulfilled them most.
For Chenelle Chichester, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s in healthcare administration and is an active member of the United States Air force National Guard, the trip brought the concept of service into sharper focus. “I have said the words, ‘service before self’ many times before,” she said. “[But] this trip brought new meaning to these words, as I went on my first mission ever. Only [this time] I was a soldier in the Lord’s army. The experience really changed my life and I look forward to cruise 2014. “
The group’s first stop was the La Perla community in Puerto Rico, known as one of the island’s most notorious neighborhoods for violence and drug trafficking. Undeterred, the group played a friendly basketball match with residents before moving to the local community center for worship and the distribution of clothing, toys, and health and food supplies, all donated by WAU students.
On their second stop, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the group led devotion and played volleyball with students from the St. Thomas/St. John Seventh-day Adventist Academy, distributed bags of toys and supplies to students at Nanna Baby Care, a state funded orphanage, and played games with troubled young people at the Sea View Adolescent Center while encouraging them to make the right choices for their future.
The last stop was Samana, Dominican Republic. Students led worship with members of the community in Downtown Wilmore and painted a local church.
“The distribution in Wilmore was the highlight of our mission trip,” said Chaplain Williams. “ In the midst of rain showers, students passed out pain medicines, vitamins and supplies to residents. None complained and everyone worked together to make sure that everyone got something”
It was here that Bower gave away the shoes off her feet and gave real meaning to Jesus’ teaching: “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matt. 25:45).
“That experience was worth the whole trip,” Williams said.
“Cruise with a Mission 2013” has helped to redefine what mission work looks like in a post-modern context, he added. “Cruise ships can be more that floating resorts if we let them. Though we could not omit the pleasures of the setting, we found a way to make that experience peripheral to our purpose, which was to serve those whom we met.”
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