Dordt College News

Students spend 2013 spring break serving others

April 2, 2013

Approximately 135 students from Dordt College spent their spring break serving others throughout the United States U.S. and Canada by participating in PLIA (Putting Love Into Action). Students traveled to one of 14 locations including Toronto, Canada; Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia, Argentine, Kansas; Inez and Neon, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana; Cary and Jackson, Mississippi; Camden, New Jersey; Shiprock, New Mexico; Cincinnati, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah.

The goal of PLIA is to share Christ’s love with people in diverse communities; to challenge participants to adopt a more service-oriented lifestyle; and to assist and encourage the growth of ministry centers with which they work.

Toronto, Canada
In Toronto Dordt students helped Urban Promise put on a Bible day camp for underprivileged inner city children.

Sophomore Bridget Rowe of Renton, Washington, found she was able to contribute in ways she didn’t expect.

“I grew close to one of the girls in my nine to 10-year-old group,” said Rowe. “At one point, I found her crying in a corner. I asked her if anything was wrong or if she was hurt, but she responded that she was okay. I felt helpless because she wouldn't tell me why she was crying, but I just did my best to comfort her. Later that day, as she was saying goodbye, she gave me a huge hug and said, ‘thank you so much!’ This interaction was wonderful because even though I felt like I hadn’t been helpful to her, I must have touched her in some significant way. It was a good reminder that even what we think are the smallest things can be vastly important to others.”

“PLIA helped me to get past my own inhibitions and think about how I could serve the children,” Rowe continued. “I'm usually a little uncomfortable dancing or singing in front of others, but I was forced to let go of my pride in order to encourage the girls in my group to join in on the singing.”

Denver, Colorado
Members of the Denver group painted houses and worked with Denver Rescue Mission where they served lunch to homeless people and to those working at the mission.

“This was my first PLIA experience and I would definitely repeat it again,” said freshman Juan Benitez of Asuncion, Paraguay. “I now feel I have finally understood the real reasons to serve: To be bold and touch people on not just a physical level, but also spiritual. I’ve learned that Christ is what people really need.”

Grand Junction, Colorado
Dordt students in Grand Junction helped organize and clean food banks and homeless shelters, and served food at soup kitchens.

“The main chef in the kitchen couldn’t stop thanking us for all our all help,” said sophomore Jon Brinkerhoff of Branchville, New Jersey. “You could tell our presence there was a huge encouragement to those who volunteer there regularly.”

Argentine, Kansas
The Argentine team painted, gardened and did maintenance on a youth center house, as well as hang out with the local youth in Argentine and worked with them in an after school program.

“This was my first PLIA experience and I would go again in a heartbeat,” said freshman Taylor Leach of Sycamore, Illinois. “It was an awesome opportunity to serve with other students on campus that I didn't know very well, and I got to grow as friends with new people while serving God.”

“We met a Laotian family. The husband Henry had had a stroke and his wife Mau was the one running the family,” Leach continued. “It was amazing to see what the family had gone through, and that through it all God was still the center of their lives. Mau kept saying how much of a blessing it was that we were helping her family, but I think her family blessed us just as much.”

Inez, Kentucky
PLIA participants in Inez, Kentucky, helped complete much needed plumbing and electrical work, built a handicap ramp, helped an elderly lady move to a new home and distributed food via the Meals on Wheels program. The team partnered with Appalachia Reach Out which serves in the community through their thrift stores, leading Bible studies and helping the elderly.

“My PLIA experience was one amazing, fun-filled, servant-minded week,” said sophomore Isaac De Jong of Iowa City, Iowa. “Not only did I make new friends, but I was reminded of the importance of mission work and that the need to put love into action never ends.” 

Neon, Kentucky
Sophomore Skye Carter  of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was part of the Dordt team in Neon, Kentucky, who painted and cleaned up problem areas in houses, as well as cleared brush and dug water line ditches for a company who provides affordable houses for low-income families.

As a transfer student to Dordt, Carter had a very positive experience on the trip. “I will definitely go again if I have the chance, because it was so great being able to get to know my team for that week we were gone,” she said. “I never knew I was able to become so close to strangers in such a short amount of time.”

New Orleans, Louisiana
Dordt students in New Orleans helped roof a house, went into the community on prayer walks, and helped with a block party.

Freshman Tiffany Eddington of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a first-time PLIA participant, was surprised when locals said they were blessed by Hurricane Katrina.

“While in New Orleans, people were always saying, ‘Thank God for Katrina,’” she said. “Where we helped roof a house, there used to be violent crime every day. One of the gentlemen I talked to told me, with tear-filled eyes, that where we were standing used to be a ‘killing zone.’ He showed me his bullet wounds and explained that the people living there praised God for Katrina, because their neighborhood is so much safer now.”

Cary, Mississippi
The Cary Mississippi team painted trailer homes, helped the community clean main street, assisted local social workers, and worked in a local thrift store.

“On PLIA I learned a lot about how my gifts can be specifically used for God’s kingdom,” said junior Katie Heynen of Sheldon, Iowa. A verse that was particularly meaningful to her during her trip was 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Jackson, Mississippi
PLIA participants from Dordt helped give Jackson, Mississippi, a facelift by landscaping, picking up garbage and making way for new homes to be built in an impoverished area.

After spending time talking to homeless and financial unstable locals, sophomore Sabrina Wybenga of Burley, Idaho, gained a new perspective.

“It enabled me to grow in my faith, to open up to others, to serve in God’s name, and to remind myself how blessed I am, after seeing where and how some people live,” Wybenga said.

Shiprock, New Mexico
Economic conditions on the Navajo Indian Reservation of Shiprock are extremely difficult, with 50 percent of the residents unemployed and 40 percent of the homes without running water.

The Dordt PLIA team cleaned gutters, burned weeds, roofed, did yard work, and shampooed carpets at the local church.

“Local residents feel since the pastor lives on the church property it’s his sole responsibility to do all this work,” said TJ Van Weerdhuizen, a sophomore from Sumas, Washington. “I think we had a big impact out there. Everyone was so thankful after we had spent the week helping.”

Cincinnati, Ohio
The Cincinnati team worked with a non-profit organization that uses art to bring families together. They spent their break cleaning, organizing the storage space, working in the garden, prepping supplies for art classes, moving furniture to another storage space across town, and did taking inventory of the office.

“We did what would have taken the guy there probably a whole summer to do,” said sophomore Deborah Tyokighir of Jos Plateau State, Nigeria. “Spiritually, it is hard to know how much of an impact we had. They were definitely appreciative (and surprised) that we were doing something like this over our spring break, as opposed to going to some beach and having a chill time. There was no miraculous conversion of anybody to Christianity. There was no random instance of healing. Nobody asked us directly about our faith. But we were different; and people saw that. So if nothing else, I know for sure that a seed has been planted.”

Salt Lake City, Utah
The Salt Lake City team spent most of their time in Colorado City, Arizona, where they served a town that known for its devotion to an imprisoned “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) who has approximately 120 wives. The Dordt team worked with a Christian missionary family in the area to perform small acts of kindness in the community.

“We did lots of yard cleaning work, painting, and planting,” said sophomore Elizabeth Riley of Mount Vernon, Washington. “Our main was to build relationships with people that had left or been kicked out of FLDS. We spent tons of time talking with people, learning about their lives, sharing about our own lives, and playing with kids.

“We worked in a lady's yard for two days,” said Riley. “The first day we talked to her, she told us she was completely against religion. By the time we left three days later, she was asking the Christian couple we were staying with tons of questions about Christ. It was awesome to see such an incredible progress in just a few days!”

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