For the second year in a row, University Ministries led a team of freshmen on a “Fall Break Plunge,” a three-day mission project Oct. 12-14. The Plunge is an allusion to the University’s annual “immersion” spring break trip program, which is designed to give a broad spectrum of students at Belmont the chance to be immersed in God’s world in various destinations, experiencing God’s work in a number of contexts. The Plunge enables freshmen to get a taste of what a week-long mission trip could be.
This year the Plunge found 20 freshmen, along with University Ministries Director of Outreach Micah Weedman, going to downtown Atlanta for Fall Break. The team stayed in Grant Park and worked with the Medici Project, an organization that designs and hosts alternative break trips for college students.
“For all of the trips we sponsor, we take a broad spectrum approach that is shaped by the locations we go,” Weedman said. “While in Atlanta, we wanted to do Atlanta-centric work. That included spending time with a homeless ministry in one of the city’s abandoned urban neighborhoods and volunteering with one of Atlanta’s most successful urban gardens that distributes the food it grows to low income families in the community.”
Freshman Noreen Prunier, a music business major from Long Island, NY, added, “I chose to go to Atlanta for my Fall Break because I wanted to do something meaningful, and something where I felt my time would be put to good use. This experience has changed my perspective on service because on this trip I was able to see the joy and gratitude in the people we served from such small actions. Even though it seemed like passing out lunches on the street was such a small action, the people receiving them were so grateful and were looking forward to it. So, no matter what small deed we do, it will affect someone in some way.”
Grayson Schweers, a freshman music business major from Highland Village, Texas, said, “What I’ve taken away is that my problems that seem like a big deal to me are no where near the problems that some people face. I know that sounds cliche, but it really is true, and you just never realize how much you actually have.”
In addition, the team attended Sunday worship services at a nearby church with an intentionally diverse, interracial congregation and visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in the Sweet Auburn district, providing a first-hand perspective on ground zero of the Civil Rights movement. The Fall Break Plunge tends to attract students from the west coast or northeast, who live too far away to go home for a visit over the long weekend, according to Weedman. “This trip provides an opportunity for them to see history and culture first-hand, to gain an understanding that these things come from places, from stories and lives. It’s not just all abstract.”
The team also heard a presentation by a local social entrepreneur with Be Remedy, an organization that uses Twitter to connect people with resources with those who have specific needs, and they volunteered to sort books for Books for Africa, a nonprofit that collects, sorts, ships and distributes donated textbooks to the children of Africa. In the midst of these and other projects and presentations, the students also engaged in numerous social activities and games, allowing the freshmen to build more connections within their new Belmont community.
Weedman noted that he hopes the now annual Fall Break excursion can be expanded to other cities and include even more freshmen in years to come. “I think the Plunge trip can be a deeper introduction for new students to the Belmont way of thinking about service, engagement and reflection. These service projects help introduce students to ways we want them to engage in the world.”