For 125 Belmont students, faculty and staff, last week meant a trip away from Nashville, but it didn’t include the typical beach and relaxation scene most often associated with Spring Break. Rather, these groups traveled to locations in the United States as well as overseas, including sites in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, to serve their neighbor.
Belmont’s Spring Break mission trip program, Immersion 2018, is sponsored by University Ministries. Every Immersion trip gives participants a chance to be immersed in local culture and in the cares and concerns of local communities while also providing an intense exposure to what God is doing all over the world. Whether working with the homeless in Los Angeles, partnering with immigrant populations in Texas or building a house in Mexico, these mission trips offer an opportunity to gain new perspectives.
Clara Leonard is a senior audio/video production major from Raleigh, North Caroline who went to Chavies, Kentucky. Working with Appalachia Service Project, she and her team conducted repairs on a substandard home, building relationships with the homeowner and other volunteers. “I think it’s important to get out of our box every once in awhile. I also think it’s important to remember that substandard housing and tough situations don’t just exist across the ocean; they don’t even just exist four hours away in Eastern KY–they exist right here, in Nashville. An immersion experience helps to open your eyes to injustice all around you, and how you can work to improve it.”
Sophomore music business and audio engineering major Tom Rowles also went to Chavies, only he was even more familiar with the work as his sister works full-time wth the Appalachia Service Project. During Spring Break, the Chavies team replaced and insulated the underpinning of an elderly woman’s mobile home and started a siding project that was completed by another team the following week.
“Every time I go to Central Appalachia my heart gets re-broken for the people there and the troubles that they face,” Rowles said. “It’s far too eye opening to try and think about all the luxuries that live in my life, while we serve families whose electric bill takes up over half of their fixed income, and they don’t have money to put food on their plate. But the craziest thing of all? They are just as much of jokesters as we are, and finding the common that we share and just how similar we are is the most beautiful piece.”
First year law student Tenia Miles went to Acuna, Mexico to help build a house for a family of eight in partnership with local ministry Casas Por Cristo. “I’ve never been able to do a mission trip, and saw this as an opportunity to connect with other people at Belmont and share an amazing experience building something as big as a house for someone who needs it. This trip was nothing like what I expected. It challenged me in so many ways. It was more hard work than I’ve ever done in my life, but also the most humbling and rewarding. Doing manual labor and going to a foreign country without clean water or decent plumbing was never something I would’ve pictured myself doing, but I’m glad I let myself be used as a vessel for God’s love by serving others.”
Vice President for Spiritual Development Dr. Todd Lake noted the uniqueness of having faculty and staff accompany students on trips. “This kind of cooperation, allowing us to create academically rich mission trips and missional study abroad experiences, is a hallmark of Belmont and provides opportunities for our students unlike those at virtually any other university.”