Dordt College News

PLIA participants reflect on mission experience

March 25, 2004

This year 150 Dordt College students used their spring break to serve on 14 mission teams with Dordt College's mission outreach program P.L.I.A. (Putting Love in Action). The groups traveled to Neon, KY; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Shiprock, NM; Cary, MS; Mendenhall, MS; Center, CO; Vicksburg, MS; Cincinnati, OH; Denver, CO; Pasadena, CA; Camden; Jackson, MS; and Chicago, IL.

Each year, the groups of 10-15 volunteers help with the specific needs of each location, from feeding the homeless, helping children in after-school programs, assisting with building and renovating homes and a variety of other tasks.

Listed below are the locations groups ministered to and how volunteers felt about their PLIA experience.

Center, COThe Center, Colo., group did volunteer work at Redeemer Ranch, a ranch for troubled adolescent boys. They helped with maintenance projects, including painting four dorm rooms, the hallway, along with various other construction and yardwork. They also interacted with the staff and the boys who live there.

Jennie Van Velzen: I had an amazing time! I could definately see God's work being done throught the people we were working with.

Larissa Brown: It was a great experience, and the ranch was an awesome place to do my service project. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and I enjoyed working with the people at the ranch and together with my group members.

Kyle De Graaf: It was a learning experience as our group worked together to serve others. It was a very rewarding way to spend my spring break.

Holly Andringa: It was great getting to know the people at the Ranch and getting to know our PLIA group. The couple that owns the Ranch gave up everything to start this ranch for troubled boys because they felt it was their calling. Seeing them in their called environment was a great witness to our team. Being able to be a part of their project was awesome.

Jennifer Van Beek: Very fun and rewarding. I got a lot more out of it than I thought I would. It almost seemed as if I got more than I actually gave.

Denver, COThe Denver, Colo., group volunteered at Mountain View Church, cleaning up the grounds and painting much of the inside. Some group members did construction work with Brothers Redevelopment, which is a non-profit organization that creates community in Denver by doing construction work for and building relationships with impoverished families, the elderly, and other need based work. They also participated in an afterschool program in the afternoon/evenings with the underprivileged Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities.

Laura Leusink: It was a great experience, and the people that we came into contact with were really hospitable. We were invited over for supper almost every night by people from the church we were staying at. We got a lot of work done, which they really appreciated and was a lot of fun to do.

Diana Hoogerhyde: My team was blessed with wonderful leadership examples from Pastor Karl from Mountain View, from the director, Chris, from the afterschool program, and Mike Van Eps from Brothers. We were embraced by the church community and challenged by the interactions with and role models within the impoverished and diverse communities within Denver. We were tangibly reminded of the reality of need and the faithfulness of God within and through His people. Our team also brought individual backgrounds and strengths and weaknesses together to serve and learn from one another for a unique week of service.

Shiprock, NMThe Shiprock, N.M., group did volunteer work at the Bethel Christian Reformed Church, which ministers to an Indian reservation. They helped clean and fix up the church, did yardwork, picked up garbage, repaired a roof at a retired pastor's farm, and did interior painting for a woman of the congregation.

Jessica Braunschweig: Wow! It was quite an eye-opener that people actually live like this. It really made me thankful for my family and my faith in God. So many people are living without hope: it gives us all the more reason to keep on working and serving Him wherever He leads us

Jennifer Baas: It was a great opportunity to see how God is working in the lives of fellow Christians in a different area.

Shannon Hubers: It was a good growing experience. It was wonderful to see what God is doing among the people there and how he is building his church among the Navajo people. It was a pleasure to serve God there by serving the community. It was also a good experience to learn about the Navajo people and it was great to talk with them and worship with them.

Chicago, ILThe Chicago, Ill., group did volunteer work at Roseland Christian Ministries. They helped serve 39-60 homeless people there, listened to their stories, and tried to comfort them. They also helped build an upstairs room, painted a stairwell and helped clean in the church and a house, washed dishes, took out trash and did other miscellaneous tasks.

Jarris Rubingh: It was a very positive experience for me. I felt that God was using us and we also saw firsthand how much we have to be grateful for. I also learned to have some patience with other members of the team.

Elisanna Bell: It was really cool to be able to interact with different kinds of people while being also accepted by them. It was awesome to be able to help others and to do things for other people and them to be so thankful for it.

Kate Reinsma:I found the experience to be different than what I expected. We didn't do as much manual labor as anticipated. Instead, we spent most of our time getting to know the people and share our life stories. It was definitely worth it and I only wish I could do it again!

Laura Ellerie: This was really a life-changing experience. My eyes were opened to a different culture and I was able to learn a lot from the people of Roseland. Seeing how much faith those homeless people had even though they owned no material possessions really humbled me and challenged my own faith.

Cary, MSThe Cary, Miss., group did volunteer work at Cary Christian Center and thrift store, shelving, organizing and cleaning. They also painted several houses.

Katie Kroese: As a team we grew very close through our devotions as well as eating, sleeping, and driving together a lot! God is amazing in his ability to weave teams together so that each PLIA team is able to serve while growing tremendously and learning about and through different cultures.

Jared Brouwer: It was great. We were rarely "really busy" with manual work, but it seemed everyone in our group was always "working" in ways other than physical means.

Brian Hannink: My first experience with missions was everything I expected it to be, and much more. My team was fantastic, and we grew very close to each other, through all of our work and play together. The uplifting spiritual and emotional atmosphere was incredible. The people that we had the pleasure to serve were very grateful for our efforts, but we probably took away more from the week than we gave, with our time. We all agreed as one that we could easily spend a second week in Cary in a heartbeat.

Vicksburg, MSThe Vicksburg, Miss., group did volunteer work at We Care Ministries. They gutted the inside of a two-story house that is being renovated into a shelter, refinished a bathroom at a thrift store, repaired leaky toilets, sinks and roofs of several buildings, and spent time with local boys and girls clubs giving them some encouragement and guidance.

Sara Gerritsma: It was a great opportunity to put into action what we are called to do in the Bible -- serve our neighbors! We learned a lot about the culture in the south and enjoyed getting to know those whom we worked for.

Jordan Koopmans: The trip was an eye-opener. Working with people while being the minority in a primarily black community was a blessing. The people we helped were very welcoming and receptive to our presence. Their response was one of sincere gratitude.

Sara Kooyenga: I had a great time getting to know my group, who pretty much consisted of people that I hadn't known before. I made some great friends, and had an awesome time getting to help the people in the community.

Melissa Hofland: I had an awesome time. We had an AWESOME group of students! It is experiances like this that allow you to realize how blessed you all that God has blessed you with. I was placed outside my comfort zone and I really grew personally because of it. It is a great feeling to know that you were able to make a difference in other people's lives.

Amy Groenenboom: It was an eye-opening experience with a new kind of culture. Although the hard, physical labor wore us out, it was great to be able to see the results of our work and know that we were using our spring break to honor God and serve others. We always kind of think that we're going to help others, although we usually are the ones helped in the end.

Cincinnati, OHThe Cincinnati, Ohio, group did volunteer work at City Cure and helped at a church, fixing it up so the congregation can start working there. They were immersed in the homeless way of life and experienced a day on the streets. They also interacted with kids affiliated with City Cure.

Becky Johnson: I had such an awesome experience. The people who worked through City Cure and the other outreach programs we visited had such a passion for what they do. It is a huge commitment and they often spend many hours a day working with the kids. It just made me want to stay there and get to know the kids even better and help City Cure in their outreach programs.

Rachel Eckardt: I loved it! I really like working with the kids and getting to know more about the Over the Rhine area in which we were working.

Birmingham, ALThe Birmingham, Ala., group did volunteer work cleaning, organizing and painting at New City Church in downtown Birmingham, where they converted a storage room into a new computer room/library. They also volunteered at Price Elementary's afterschool program, STARS.

Joy De Haan: I found PLIA to be a very interesting experience, especially getting to know a culture so different from your own. The people of Birmingham were so welcoming and giving. Most of all they were thankful for helping them.

Mike Elders: The Birmingham group had a great week working inside the New City Church cleaning, reorganizing and reconstructing different rooms within their building. The team also got to work along side and learn from an amazing ministry team that has their hearts truly focused on reclaiming the city for Christ.

Mindy Roemeling: It was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot about God's love. I also experienced a different worship setting than what I am used to and I really appreciated that experience. Overall, the experience was great and I appreciate the broader understanding of many things that I gained from the trip.

Matthew Koelewyn: I had a great time getting to know my PLIA team members but also getting to know people from the church in Birmingham. We had a great experience of being exposed to the southern black culture and their extreme hospitality and welcomeness.

Rebecca Franje: Going to Birmingham, AL was a very good experience. I was able to learn about a different culture and meet and get to know other Christians. I learn how other Christians worship in a different style; it was wonderful to know that though we praise God in different ways, we still worship the same God. I really felt myself grow spiritually through this trip.

Lindsey Van Wyk: This experience was exciting and impacting. I was able to experience the culture and learn more about them. I really enjoyed the entire experience.

Janelle Van Driel: Being immersed in another culture and experiencing the welcoming and Christ-like attitudes of the people we were around was truly a gift from God. I was challenged to be friendlier to those I don't know and show Christ in every area of my life. The kids at Stars challenged me to be a good example even when I think no one's watching.

Chelsea Gerdes: I had a great time on PLIA. It was fun once again to experience the southern life and interact with another culture and step out of my sheltered comfort zone. It is amazing how quickly you can see and experience God through others when you stop thinking of only yourself and work at helping others.

Atlanta, GAThe Atlanta, Ga., group did volunteer work at Youth Project, a homeless shelter. They also worked at God's Farm doing maintenance and physical labor around the farm, a farm developed to give city kids an experience on a rural plantation while learning about the love of Christ. The group also tutored and played games with young children, built a fence, put mulch in a older man's backyard, worked a wood chipper at a place for recovering alcoholics, went to a homeless shelter and served food, cleaned up a school building. A couple of days they worked at a school tutoring and helping kids with their homework assignments, and after school hours they played basketball and other games with the kids. They also did some construction on a school, mudding, sanding and removing supplies from the building.

Chad Nibbelink: Eye-Opening. The trip allowed me to meet and build relationships with people I would not have met had I not gone. Probably one of the biggest things for me was at the homeless shelter when the people who didn't have homes were praising God and thanking him for everything, even though they have nothing.

Chris Kuperus: I loved the experience with the group. We had to be very flexible since we were never really sure what we would be doing on any given day, but each day was filled with great experiences and opportunities to learn a lot about God's creation.

Ashley Van Grouw: It was an awesome experience and very humbling. It opened my eyes to the greater Kingdom of God, outside of the CRC and Midwest. It took me outside of my comfort zone and required flexibility due to situations out of my hands.

Krystal Finseth: It was a great but challenging experience. I had never had the opportunity before to serve the homeless and get to know them personally. What amazed me the most is how enthusiastically they praised God at their nightly worship service. Also, the trip made me realize the necesity of having God at the center of your life, specifially in service. Without God as the center, the entire trip would have fallen to pieces. It was wonderful to get to know the members of my team while we shared new and exciting experiences.

Brett Van Andel: It was a great eye-opening experience to the life of inner-city kids. It was exciting to get a chance to help them out and encourage them to continue in their education.

Neon, KYThe Neon, Ky., group did volunteer work at HOMES (Housing Oriented Ministries Established for Service) Inc., a ministry that builds quality low cost homes for low-income people in the community who qualify. Their activities included landscaping, seeding a lawn, insulating, shingling and general construction work as well as organizing, installing new shelving and doing inventory at the work shed of the HOMES base.

Erin Van Eps: I had a blast. It was a great experience. It was really a learning experience to work with people in a totally different culture.

Sarah Buteyn: The trip was a wonderful opportunity to interact with people from a different culture and learn about them as well as to share God's love with them. I also enjoyed building relationships with people from Dordt that I didn't know before the trip.

Lori Rowenhorst: It was great to have the chance to help out the community by working on houses to create better living conditions. Our group was able to talk to some people of the community at the church we went to on Sunday morning, night, and Wednesday night, and they were all very appreciative of our work with the Homes company. A few of the congregation even told us that Homes had built their house and told us of how much of a blessing the new house had been for them and their families.

Kimberly Taylor: It was an amazing trip that allowed me to see another culture and the differences and similarities we share. It was an eye opening experience into the social and economic differences and an excellent opportunity to serve another community

Hannah Hooyer: This trip was a great experience. I learned a lot from the people we met in Neon, and from the people on my PLIA team. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities between our culture and the culture of the people in Neon. During the week we reflected on the verse Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This was very meaningful to our group because we could see during the week that it was not through our own strength or planning that we accomplished our work and had such a good trip.

Alysia Ter Haar: Simply put, it was a great experience. My team was incredible. We learned a lot about the Appalachian people, sterotypes, the area, and ourselves. The hospitality of the Neon people was humbling. God was clearly at work in Kentucky and it was awesome to see.

Camden, NJThe Camden, N.J., group did volunteer work at Urban Promise Ministries and the Camden Forward after school program (designed for children to have somewhere to go after school to get help with their homework and learn more about a relationship with God). They helped out with inner-city kids in classrooms during the day, and did maintenance work for the school and for members of the surrounding community in the evenings. They also cleaned up in the community, handed out flyers, and helped a man clean up his house for renovation.

Dawn Kooiman: This was an amazing experience. It was not only challenging, but also very rewarding. We may have gone there to help them, but we learned so much more.

Greg MacLeod: It was amazing to see how different life is in the inner city and the way that affects the lives of those who grow up there. It was also wonderful to see how Christ can have such a strong affect on the way people in such a run down urban area live their lives.

Kristen Kooiker: It was a great experience in seeing such a different culture. Camden is an inner city area with run-down homes and businesses, dangerous streets, and many minorities. It was great working with people of different backgrounds and cultures and seeing how much God has blessed me with a great family and community.

Kim Swierenga: I had a wonderful experience; I'm very glad I went.

Tricia De Haan: I loved working with the children and doing painting, cleaning, and remodeling projects in the afternoons. I loved the opportunity to experience the cities of Camden, New York, and Philadelphia. My eyes were opened to the opportunities I have to help spread the word of God to these people. I embraced those I met and helped encourage the adults, teens, and children to stay firm in their walk with Christ. I am blessed because of this experience and my team members, we grew really close and I know that we made a difference.

Bethany Annema: I had a great trip. It was an eye opening experience to see how people live in another area of the United States. It was also a lot of fun to work in the classrooms with the young children.

Ashley Marie Stamp: This experience touched me in a lot of ways. It showed me to be thankful for what I have and to always give thanks to what God provides. Camden is a city that has a lot of murders, gangs, unemployment, broken homes, and lost dreams. Urban Promise is helping the young people of the community by providing a safe Christian environment that teaches them the essentials of life. I really admire and respect this group for doing this and putting hope back into the lives of the children in this city. This trip also taught me to follow and not lead as much, that sometimes this opens your eyes to the world around you. It really opened me up to look at my life and see where it's going. I really enjoyed this trip and really believe that I will never forget what I learned, and am really excited for next year's trip, not only to touch other's by showing them God's love, but also to be open to what God has for my life.

Mendenhall, MSThe Mendenhall, Miss., group did volunteer work at Mendenhall Ministries and Genesis One School, where they worked on a vegetable/crop farm preparing fields for crops, including hauling manure, tillage, setting up drip irrigation systems and other farm chores. They also interacted with the community and helped out with the spring break program put on by the local Christian School.

Daniel Hummel: I really had a good experience, last year I also went to this site but I feel that this year was better. Our team seemed to bond better and we got a lot more things done this year. I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to serve God in an area (agriculture) where I not only have experience but am very interested in.

Chelsea Bierlink: My trip to Mendenhall was very rewarding. We were able to work with so many people there and learned a lot about the culture and way of living in the south. Each member of my team complimented each other as we grew together in God's love. One of the many things I took out of the trip was to give your whole self to God's work and he will provide for your needs. And when planning your future career, do what you love doing and what fulfills you rather than what pays the best or gives you high status. Also, God calls us to be happy and joyful - full of his love. The people I met there did not have much for material goods, and yet they were some of the happiest people. From this I realized what a big importance we put on unnecessary things instead on what brings true joy.

Sarah Schaap: It was an incredible experience and I would go back any time. It really made me think at how amazing it is that the people who work with the people down there just devote every bit of their energy and effort to God's will and completely trust in Him and are completely filled with the joy of Christ in how He is using them. It is amazing to see the love of God at work when you see people devoting so much of their time and lives to service for Christ. The people we served just soaked up the love of Christ and it was amazing to see how God can work in small amounts of time and through unexpected servants.

The Pasadena, Calif., group did volunteer work at Harambee Center and Harambee Preparatory School. They painted at the school and the center and did yardwork in the community. They also helped refurbish a house that will be used to house children in the area that have no where else to go. They also tutored and interacted with the children in the after school program.

Elizabeth Hickox: I had a wonderful time being back in California, my home state, and enjoying working out in the sunshine! Everyone kept telling us that it was such a sacrifice to give up our spring break to work and be volunteers instead of hanging out with our friends. But I made friends that I otherwise wouldn't have and got to touch and be touched by other's lives. To me it wasn't giving up my spring break, but having the most amazing spring break ever!!!

Maria Pencook: My reaction to the experience was why do we in a American culture think of people any different because of their disability or skin color. We are all made in the image of God no matter what our race or skin color is.

Ruth Lynch: I learned so much about a culture totally foreign to the one in which I grew up. The kids there knew quite a few things that I never even dreamed about. I loved working and hanging out there in California and right now all I want to do is go back.

Jackson, MSThe Jackson, Miss., group did volunteer work at Voice of Calvary housing ministry. They re-roofed an elderly man's house, painted parts of the house, cleared brush and garbage from several houses, cleaned up a park and worked in a soup kitchen. They also did inner city work, focusing on racial reconciliation within the city of Jackson. They heard lectures on racism (which is still extremely prevalent in the Jackson area) and viewed an exhibit on lynching.

Megan Van Groningen: It was an eye-opening experience! We served in a community that was 99% African-American, so we were the minority. People think that racism is a thing of the past, but it is still very prevalent in parts of the South. It was amazing working with the organization, Voice of Calvary, the only racially mixed church in Jackson. Otherwise the over 800 churches in Jackson are still very segregated to just whites or just blacks. It was a great experience to work in the community by fixing up houses, serving dinner to men in re-hab, and helping out elderly members in the church in ways they otherwise wouldnt' be able to afford. What was even more exciting was to see God's work in that city by bringing so many different races of people together to do his work.

Julie DeBerg: It was great to experience another culture and to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Rachel Feucht: After this trip, I learned how to be a better servant, and to serve those around me who are less fortunate. It shocked me how much racism is still prevalent and made me want to reach our more to my community and help in areas of need.

Phillip Van Nieuwenhuyzen: I learned about cultural diversity and I was exposed to poverty that I never knew existed in North America. Some of the people who lived in such poverty were able to show me that the only thing that can make one truly happy is if he/she truly knows the Lord.

Tara Dekkers: PLIA was an awesome experience. We went down to Jackson, Mississippi where we were the minority. We lived in an area where it is 99% blacks! Just a block down from where we stayed was a shooting and a drug bust. I never really felt threatened and I really enjoyed our time there. Steve and I worked together well as leaders and had a growing experience together. We started off working at a house that was basically gutted out. Steve and some other folks broke the ceiling down while I and some other folks picked up the yard surrounding the house. The back yard was pretty swampy and had too many weeds and trees growing along a creek. We cleared that area out including tires, a car hood, a couch, a few mattresses, and some garbage. It was quite the task. Then we got to have a bon fire with all of the things we gathered. We also helped to paint and shingle a house. Unfortunately, we didn't have as much interaction with people as I would have liked but it ended up and we got to meet some pretty amazing individuals where we stayed at and through the ministry. We went to 2 worship services one of which was truly multiracial! They were so alive and filled with passion. We also heard numerous talks on black suppression, recovery, homelessness, youth urban ministry, and racial reconciliation. So much is being done there. One thing that really struck me had to do with an exhibit that we went to. It was an exhibit on the lynching that took place in the early 1900s all the way through 1960. They were illegal murders of blacks for one reason or another. They made postcards of blacks that were hung and tortured and sold them for profit. People would send these postcards out as intimidation or just for bragging rights. It was nauseating to see what went on. People would gather on the streets, take off of work; children would get out of school early to see it. It was unbelievable the things that blacks had to endure and go through. The photos and stories behind them were fascinating while at the same time, horrifying. It's not something that you learn about in history classes. Horrifying. Our entire group had a great overall experience.

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