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Dordt College News
PLIA groups serve others on spring break
March 31, 2005This year 108 Dordt College students used their spring break to serve on a mission team with Dordt College’s mission outreach program PLIA (Putting Love Into Action).
PLIA groups traveled to Birmingham and McKenzie, Alabama; Center and Denver, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Cary, Mendenhall, and Vicksburg, Mississippi; Camden, New Jersey; Shiprock, New Mexico; and Carmel, New York.
The Atlanta, GA, PLIA group volunteered with the Atlanta Youth Project organization and served several subgroups of that organization. The PLIA group built a chain link fence for the Neighbors in Need program, refereed a basketball for a youth program, did some maintenance, cleaning and painting for God’s Farm (a summer youth camp), tutored at Atlanta Youth Academy and another public school, worked at a thrift store, served at a nursing home, and cleaned for the Techwood Baptist Center. They also distributed sack lunches to the homeless one night.
“We had several different duties around the city and not just one big project,” commented Amanda Arkema. “In this way it was kind of hard to see the impact we made, but we felt really fulfilled after each experience.”
Debra Blair said “Talking to homeless made me think about how to better serve them in future situations. Tutoring kids after school changed my life just as much as theirs because I am convinced that I want to do that throughout my college years.”
The Birmingham, AL, PLIA group worked at the New City Church, which had a number of ministries to the city. The group painted a computer room, cleaned and organized the basement of the church, and worked at an afterschool program tutoring some children.
“The whole trip was unforgettable due to the different culture I was exposed to,” said Allison (Ali) Jones. “However, one person that I will never forget is Sister Vanessa. This woman truly was a gift from God to me on this trip and I had a blast getting to know her while running errands with her one day. She not only made me feel welcome, but she was also a blessing to the rest of the team as she one night took us all out for Crispy Cremes …. I knew about Southern hospitality, but I had never experienced it first hand. These people did a wonderful job making us feel at home as well as getting to know each of us a bit more!”
Rachel Hamstra echoed the sentiment that it was nice getting into a new culture with different values and learning some of the history behind them.
“I had never been in a black culture and I really enjoyed seeing their way of life,” said Heather Kooiman. “It felt odd to be a minority because I was white, but it was a good eye opener.” She added that their style of worship was “amazing, as they were all engaged in the prayers and they spoke as the Spirit moved them. I loved the children as they looked up to us and accepted us even though we were white. I also really enjoyed time getting to know the Dordt students on my team. It was an enriching experience.”
The Camden, NJ, PLIA group worked with an organization called Urban Promise. Each morning they worked with children in classrooms, while the afternoons were spent doing service projects such as trash pick-up, repairs and painting.
“My eyes were definitely opened on this trip,” commented Laura Ellerie. “I saw such hopelessness in Camden and it really broke my heart. It really changed how I view things now, and I certainly count my blessings. It truly showed me how much people need Christ's love and gave me a desire to share that with them.”
Tim Vande Griend said he has a new respect and understanding for inner cities like Camden after hearing the story of how Camden came to be the “most dangerous city in the country.”
But amidst the crime and fear, there is hope, said Amy Kok. “Urban promise ministry is shining its light for Christ in the heart of Camden, providing a safe environment for children to gain Christian education and to engage in community building activities.”
Kok said the children of Camden made a huge impact on her life. “It made me realize how incredibly blessed I truly am. It also made me see how God works in all situations and lives. These children are growing up immersed in crime, prostitutes, and drug dealers. Yet, they sing praises to God at the top of their lungs and are thankful for all that he has blessed them with.” Kok said the kindergarteners in her classroom held her hand, gave her hugs each morning, and allowed her to become part of their lives, if only for a week. “I shared with these students Jesus’ love for them, but in reality, Jesus love was also being shared with me, and this was a wonderful experience.”
“I am from a small, Christian town, and this experience has caused me to step out of my comfort zone. In doing this, I have not only been given the chance to make a difference in the lives of others, but I also was able to examine my own life,” Kok concluded.
The Carmel, NY, PLIA group spent two days working at Bible Children’s Fellowship of New York, Inc., cleaning, moving furniture, sorting and taking inventory to prepare for summer camp season. This organization annually sponsors Camp Joy, for kids with behavioral problems or broken homes; and Camp Hope, for kids with handicaps. They also did door-to-door evangelism in the Projects in the Bronx, as well as subway evangelism and distributing lunches to homeless people. A tour of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, the Jehovah’s Witness Complex, and visit to each of the five burroughs of New York City (Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island) allowed the Dordt group to experience the diversity of New York City.
“We saw people of every race, culture and language,” commented Alicia Mulder. “It was a wonderful testimony to the awesome God that we serve. He created each person to be a unique individual and He knows each one. It was a blessing to interact with other people from New York City and to create a connection between the stories of our lives.
Street evangelism was something very new for each one of us, recalls Kendra Triemstra, who admitted she was terrified of the very thought. “The experience taught each of us a bit about ourselves. It kindled and spread a flame that we often keep within our own circles. I learned to look at strangers with love and compassion and to pray hard and continually, just so I could have the courage to share with those in desperate need of love. It was a challenging experience.”
Josh Super also admitted to feeling apprehensive about doing street evangelism, but went into the streets of Harlem and Manhattan handing out tracts to people. “We also went to an apartment complex that was part of the projects in the Bronx and went door-to-door inviting people to the church’s children’s fellowship a few blocks away and telling them that God loves them. There were many different reactions: some were extremely open to what we were saying and said that they would definitely check out the church the next Sunday, some people slammed the door in our faces, and most people didn't even answer their doors.”
Super and one of the New York leaders, Jeff, brought their guitars to New York’s subway, where they played praise songs as other people handed out tracts. “We also had a skit about sin that we performed as people were getting off of the subway, and then the other leader, Brian, preached about the necessity of sin, while we handed out more tracts and talked to people. It was a truly eye-opening experience, and I really enjoyed every bit of it. We weren’t sure how we felt about the street evangelism concept, and I’m still not a great advocate of it, but I think that I’ve seen how it can be beneficial sometimes, too. I've been reminded over and over how much God can use what we think is worthless to his glory.”
Erica Vande Kamp the trip also opened her up to a lot of new things about God’s faithfulness. “If there is one lesson that sticks out in my mind from this trip, it’s this: trust God no matter what. He is always faithful.”
The Cary, MS, PLIA group assisted at the Cary Christian Center. They cleaned, organized and sorted baby clothing and supplies; bundled clothes at a thrift store for rag rugs; did some light construction on a house; and accompanied the program director on home visits to several single moms.
“This was one of the most eye opening things I have ever experienced,” said Jeanetta Groenendyk. At the trailer houses of young unmarried mothers babies were checked for health and mothers were questioned about feeding habits, diaper changes, and doctor appointments for the baby. Most mothers were thankful for the intervention, but Jeanetta recalls one home with a malnourished, baby girl and an obvious case of thrush in her mouth. “I wanted to tell the mother to take care of her baby because that baby girl was so beautiful and was a child of God … Later that night I reflected on everything I had experienced in Cary, Mississippi. I am so thankful that I grew up in a loving Christian family.”
Philip Stam was somewhat surprised at how different the culture is in the south was. “Lifestyles and expectations are totally different down there. It was very interesting to see this.”
Karissa Stel commented that they didn’t have a lot of interaction with kids because they were on spring break, so the PLIA team interacted as a group, becoming a family for the week. “We had a lot of fun in our tasks because we would sing, dance and tell stories while we were working.”
The Center, CO, PLIA group helped out at Redeemer Ranch by painting, drywalling, taping and texturing walls, doing repairs and installing plumbing. Members of the group also sanded, stained, varnished and installed cabinets in apartments and mobile homes which they will rent out or use to house more boys.
“I loved getting to know the people in my group, as well as Del and Gwen and the boys at Redeemer Ranch,” said Michelle Obbink. For Jackie Miedema, talking and listening to the life experiences of the students that go to Redeemer Ranch were the highlights of her time in Colorado.
Mitchell Andringa particularly enjoyed their group recreation time, spent hiking the great sand dunes and Penetente Canyon, climbing to hole-in-the-mountain, and swimming in a hot springs pool in the snow.
“I loved the experience and would do it again in a minute,” said Paul Kroeze. “Seeing God’s power in the beauty of nature and in the lives of the people at the Ranch and those I went with was great to see.”
The Chicago, IL, PLIA group did work for Roseland Christian Ministries. During their week of service, they painted and remodeled a basement in a home, retiled a kitchen and bathroom, did some plumbing and electrical work. They also had the opportunity to mingle with people in the homeless shelter and with children.
“At Roseland, we had a lot of interaction with the homeless men who came there for meals and just a place to be at during the day,” said Mary Davelaar. “As a result, many of us have come to see homeless people in a different light. We all carry an increased respect and appreciation for all different kinds of people through this experience.”
Beverly Leusink commented that the men at the shelter ate and conversed with them and were very friendly. “Being in the poor section of town really opened my eyes up to the reality of poverty and what it might be like to live in it. But the devotion many of these people give to God and their dedication to living according to memorized scriptures was amazing.”
“I was surprised at the way some people lived and acted compared to what I'm used to,” commented Aaron De Bruin. “Overall, I rate the experience as one of the best I've had, serving God and others with new friends.”
“By going on this trip, I learned a lot about homeless men and their lives because I talked and met many of them. I was changed in my perspective of the homeless,” said Matthew Koelewyn.
Kelsi Schuller said the experience made her consider how she would respond if she were in a situation where she needed to witness.
The Denver, CO, PLIA group cleaned and painted daycare and Sunday school rooms at Mountain View Community Church; cleaned out the church’s attic; built a wheel chair ramp for a boy with cerebral palsy at his grandmother’s mobile home; and put some finishing touches on a house to be used for mentally handicapped men.
“I was a little apprehensive about going, because I didn’t know a lot of my group,” commented Suzanne Clark. “But immediately into our trip, I knew that we were all going to have a great time, because we all had the purpose of being a servant and serving God and others on this trip.”
The pastor at Mountain View was Pastor Karl Neerhof, a Dordt College graduate. Ann Andree said the pastor mentored and lead the group, showing them authentic ministry and addressing real brokenness in peoples’ lives.
Craig Van Drunen was surprised with how grateful and happy the people of the church were that they had come. “They brought in boxes and boxes of food for us to eat. We were served as much if not more than we actually served them.”
The McKenzie, AL, PLIA group worked at the Life Enrichment Center, a place for the elderly and handicapped to meet and participate in animal therapy. The students repaired hurricane damage, including removing a tree that had fallen and damaged a roof; building a new barn shed, ramps, picnic tables, benches, signs and swings, repairing doors and painting.
“I would say that this was one of the best weeks of my life,” said Jessi Rieken. “We met so many amazing people in Alabama, and the hospitality was incredible. I had a lot of fun with my group and it was such an experience, I really felt like we Put our Love Into Action down there.”
“We had the privilege of experiencing the Alabama lifestyle firsthand,” added Heather Otten. “We went to the town firefighter benefit and heard some great southern music. Then, to follow it up, we heard the Godin family singers, a family of 13, all musically talented and wore the whole southern get-up in old-school clothes. The blue-grass tunes were awesome!”
Nathan Mulder recalls the most memorable person of the trip was Miss Mayme Wilson, who runs the Life Enrichment Center. “She was the sweetest lady and most selfless person I have ever seen. Her own house was damaged by the hurricane and had big tarps for her roof, but rather having us fix her house, she wanted us to work on the center so she could once again care for those less fortunate than others.”
On a Sunday afternoon, Mayme Wilson took the group around to visit the people whom she serves in the community. “Two men lived in places that we would consider unlivable,” said Megan Vonk. “One man had throat cancer and his house was filled with cob webs and spiders. The second man’s house (“Preacher Moore”) was built from random pieces of materials that he’d found. He literally had nothing. These two men showed me how easily I take my house, clothes, and abundant supplies of food for granted every day, every hour, and definitely every second.”
Nathan Mulder was also impressed by “Preacher Moore,” who continually thanks God for what he has, and gives away his small Medicaid check every month to others he thinks need it more than him. “Seeing these people in such horrific states just boggles my mind. We live in such a wealthy country, yet there are still those that are so poor. But what amazed me most was how happy these people were,” said Mulder.
“PLIA was one of the most fun and rewarding times of my life,” said Megan Moore. “I wouldn't have traded it for anything. My group had a blast, and bonded like no other group. We never got sick of each other, and were always encouraging and putting our love into action.”
“I just hope that in a few weeks, when spring break is in the past and tans are fading and the memories are becoming more vague, we forget how easy we have it, concludes Heather Otten. “When we complain about the food in the commons, let’s remember we have food. When we wake up early to go to class, let’s remember we have the financial support that allows us to be here. When we become sick of the hard beds and long for our comfy beds back home, let’s remember we have beds to sleep on. The Bible warns people countless times of riches and having wealth. We are those people. We are the ones who need to be careful. We are the ignorant, the spoiled, the proud, the ones who take life for granted. The Bible is speaking to us. Be careful. Don't let your possessions bring you down. Life, eternal life, is more important than that.”
The Mendenhall, MS, PLIA group worked on a farm, planting cabbage, broccoli, collards; feeding the animals, putting up fences. Team members also put a roof on a home, blew in insulation and helped clean a church.
“I was surprised that it was as powerful as it was,” commented Elizabeth Van Haaften. “I knew it would be an experience, but I didn't expect it to change me like it did.” Justin De Jong and Robert Bushnell also said they were greatly impressed by the pastors who minister to this poverty stricken area.
The Shiprock, NM, PLIA group painted Navajo hogans (octogon-shaped huts) and did spring cleaning at Shiprock Covenant Christian Reformed Church, including landscaping, stripping/buffing/waxing the church floor, garbage pick-up, and minor construction.
“Having the opportunity to go to Shiprock, New Mexico, was an awesome experience,” said Jenessa Van Grouw. “We could see God’s majesty and love present all around from the mountains, deserts, and rocks around us, the people we met, and also through the people on our team.”
Cheryl Korthuis was drawn to a woman named Amile, whose chimney they cleared of soot. Because of the poor condition of the ventilation, she had been in the hospital with pneunomia. “She was released the last day we were there, and she got dressed up nice and came to thank us personally, even in her weak condition. She was so full of joy and peace and gratitude that even one of the guys felt like crying. That was a powerful moment.”
Korthuis was surprised that the Navajo Christians were very verbal and proud of their faith. “They wasted no time in sharing that they had been Christians for 40 years and that the Lord had truly blessed them (even though they had no electricity). There is so much room for evangelism, and the Navajo Christians are assured the Holy Spirit will plant seeds. That was very encouraging and convicting to observe.”
“Overall it was an unforgettable experience, from working at the church, the people’s houses, and even taking a break to enjoy God’s creation all around us,” concluded Jenessa Van Grouw. “Even though our team ‘put love into action,’ we could see that love reflected right back to us in every experience we shared.”
The Vicksburg, MS, PLIA group volunteered in the homes of the elderly, doing interior and exterior painting, cleaning, fixing bathrooms, and helping families.
“My PLIA group was fantastic, said John Vanden Berg. “The whole experience of interacting with the Vicksburg environment was well worth it. I honestly have to say that Southern hospitality is the best and when you spend enough time with those people you tend to pick things up.”
Vanden Berg recommends everyone on campus go on a PLIA trip during their college years. “It was the best experience I have had in a long time!”
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