For many college students, “experiential education” translates into internships, study abroad trips, research and other practical, hands-on means of learning. Belmont University certainly offers all of those opportunities, but as part of the University’s vision to be a Christian community of learning and service, Belmont goes a step further. Through University Ministries and academic departments alike, students are presented opportunities to explore and strengthen their faith in meaningful ways through mission trips in the U.S. and abroad.
“Belmont’s foundation as a Christian university creates a unique opportunity in higher education to offer life-changing missions as part of our students’ experience,” said University President Dr. Bob Fisher. “We provide a place for students to find their God-given purpose through service to each other, their community and the world beyond.”
Frequently, as is the case with many health care-related missions, the trips are tied to academic pursuits, allowing students to see how their chosen field of study can impact places and cultures they never before imagined. Just last year, 250 Belmont students engaged in mission-oriented experiences with trips ranging from tutoring at an after-school program in downtown Chicago to leading songwriting workshops in Zimbabwe to providing a free health clinic in Jamaica.
University Ministries provides countless opportunities to serve as well, including many programs that are held within the continental U.S. and occur over Fall Break (Plunge trips) or Spring Break (Immersion). The most recent Spring Break trips included students serving in a variety of settings. While one group worked in an orphanage in rural Kentucky, others dove into assisting disenfranchised populations in urban areas in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Memphis.
Junior Sean Grossnickle noted that his group in Memphis sought to serve often forgotten populations within the inner city. “On one of the first days we went and helped refugee children get extra practice reading so they could get up to the English level of their peers in school… We all wanted to get a look at what it was really like to live in modern day poverty, to see the perspectives of the people actually living it and to really change our perspective and our mindset toward the individuals living in those conditions.”
Most importantly, these trips foster students’ spiritual growth alongside the academic, physical, social and cultural challenges they face in different situations at home and abroad. Missions opportunities are central to Belmont’s foundation as a Christian institution and its intent, as spelled out in its Vision 2020 plan, to further “exemplify the Christian faith by responding to the imperative expressed in James 1:22, which states ‘Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.’”