ETBU Students Minister in Texas, Illinois and Tennesseeby Mike Midkiff
MARSHALL, Texas (3/27/13)- Three groups of students from East Texas Baptist University made long trips to three areas of the United States to build, clean, teach and minister to others in the name of Jesus Christ. The groups traveled during spring break to the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, South Padre Island and East Saint Louis, Ill. A fourth group from ETBU did not travel as far; they went to Arlington to help with Mission Arlington.
Freshman Zach Whitlow set a goal for himself to go on a mission trip each year while at ETBU. "I saw a flier with information about the mission trip opportunities during Spring Break and preferred the trip to Tennessee because I saw it as a more of hands-on working opportunity,” said the religion major from McKinney.
The ETBU Great Commission Center made the arrangements for students to work with "Of One Accord Ministry” located in Rogersville, Tennessee. Rogersville is located in the Appalachian Mountains and has a high level of poverty among area residents. "Of One Accord Ministry” provides services like a free medical clinic, thrift store, food pantry, home repair and community nutrition services.
"My favorite part of the week was delivering meals to senior adults,” said freshman theater arts major Cassie Brown of Fort Worth. "These seniors are really lonely, and most of them have no family close by. I observed how the meal delivers’ created a special bond with those they took meals to each day. At Christmas time, one driver and the cook, Kim, even gave up their Christmas day to cook dinner for the ones they serve.”
Not only did the team from ETBU help serve meals, they cleaned and sorted items for the shelves of the thrift store, collected and distributed food for the food pantry operation, and sanded sheet rock in a large room for painting. The ETBU team was available during the week to assist the ministry in serving the people by doing whatever was asked of them.
"Being around the staff at ‘Of One Accord’ really was inspiring because they truly had hearts for the poor and needy,” shared Whitlow. "On the trip God taught me that when Jesus died, he died for everybody, and all people matter to God because he sent his son to die for them. I need to view people in the same way that Jesus does.”
Dr. Melody Maxwell, director of the ETBU Great Commission Center, who accompanied the group to Tennessee said, "It was a privilege for our team to serve alongside ‘Of One Accord Ministry.’ We were blessed to watch God work through us as we served in a variety of ministries among those who had physical and spiritual needs in Appalachia.”
Jennifer Morris, a freshman religion major from Fort Worth, was impressed with how the staff of the ministry carried out the day- to-day operations, relying on God’s provision. One of the staff leaders asked the ETBU team to pray for them because they had mistakenly missed an application date for a large financial grant. The staff member said he sent the application anyway even though it was 15 days past due.
"The next day he came up to us and told us that the grant application had been accepted. The way they handle and do things, you just knew that God was at work every day keeping their spirits and energy up,” said Morris.
While the team of eight was serving in the East Tennessee mountains, another team of 21 members served on the coast of Texas, known as South Padre Island. ETBU has sent teams to Beach Reach for many years, with each team coming back experiencing how God can work through a simple act of giving free van rides and free pancakes for breakfast to college students on spring break.
"I personally wanted to go to South Padre Island because I felt a specific call to go and serve others who were spiritually in need,” shared Candice Hamilton, a junior and secondary education major from McKinney. "I went on Beach Reach last year and was amazed by the amount of ‘spring breakers’ that were in need of the love of Christ without even knowing it.”
How does one strike up a conversation with a college student more interested in where his or her next beer will come from or what party to attend?
Several opportunities to share the Gospel occurred when ETBU students would be approached on Coca Cola Beach asking if they wanted a "shot” or if they wanted to come to the club with them to party. When Beach Reach ministers responded that they didn’t drink so they could drive vans and pick people up from clubs was seen as something cool to do. The answer more times than not welcomed the non-drinkers into the circle of conversation that started trust and camaraderie, even though they did not drink like the party-seeking spring breakers.
Macy Yglecias, a sophomore nursing major from Waco, said, "We didn’t try to preach to the people that we talked to or condemn them. It was very important that our main focus was to show God’s love without judgment.”
Yglecias added, "Sometimes conversations were awkward and sometimes they were great. I learned that approaching someone with the Gospel isn’t up to me to decide, it is completely left up to the Holy Spirit, and my only option is to obey.”
"I was talking to a guy on the beach, and we were just having a normal conversation. I didn’t even mention anything spiritual to him and as the conversation came to a close he looked at me and asked me to pray for him,” said Jermaca Brown, a freshman kinesiology major from Fairfield. "God’s love conquers all and takes away all nervousness. He gives you the words to speak when you think you have nothing to offer.”
"There were so many divine appointments this week,” said junior nursing major Macy Freeman of Midlothian. "Macy Yglesias and I were surveying the beach one day and decided to sit down next a girl who was by herself. Long story short, this girl was so desirous for relationship with God and we were able to share with her how to have it. It was crazy how my testimony was the perfect encouragement for her current place in life.”
Friendship Baptist Church of Marshall was blessed by the addition of nine ETBU students and an employee of Sodexo, the food service provider for ETBU, who joined their annual mission trip to Illinois. For the past three years, Matthew Paul, pastor of Friendship, has led his church to work with the Christian Activity Center of East Saint Louis, Ill.
With the students coming alongside, allowed Friendship to increase an area of ministry that had been neglected due to the lack of people. "In the past, we have predominately done construction work at the Christian Activity Center. Our work with the children and staff had been limited. But this year, we were able to greatly expand our work with and ministry to children,” said Paul.
The center sees about 200 children each day who come to have a safe place to hang out. The ETBU spring break missionaries played games with the children as well as tutored and helped the children with school homework during the week and worked with the construction project at the center.
The fourth group from ETBU serving was two members from the service organization Delta Pi Theta. Senior members of the sorority returned to Mission Arlington after going when they were freshman.
Senior Mia Moore, a religion major from Lufkin, said, "The seniors wanted to be an example to the pledges and members that they could do something like this in the future. Not every Delta Pi Theta service project has to be in Marshall or on campus.”
While at Mission Arlington, the team spent five days mainly serving with their Rainbow Express. The Rainbow Express is Mission Arlington’s version of a backyard bible club that goes out to more than 100 apartment complexes in the area.
Moore shared, "Through this experience, I learned that even though not as many people came as we expected, that God can still use your group. Mrs. Tillie Burgin, the director of Mission Arlington, encouraged us by saying ‘it’s not about quantity, but we have quality.’ She helped me realized even though it was the just two of us; size does not matter to God.”