Spring Break

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Casey Stringer, a Bible and ministry major, has been leading a group of 20 students on a spring break mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for the second year. Originally from Atlanta, Stringer interned at an organization called Corners Outreach in 2014.

“Corners Outreach works in a mobile home park with inner-city Hispanic families,” he said. “I was in charge of leading a daily camp for kids in the village. What Corners Outreach does as a whole is use education as a means to empower youth and get them out of their situations and as a way to share Christ. My specific role was to work with the camp counselors, which were 6th-12th graders.”

The group has been working with Corners Outreach throughout the week on a variety of projects around the organization’s building and supporting church, building relationships with children and parents of the community.

“Particularly with this community, they are marginalized, forgotten, unloved and cast aside.” he said. “This organization has gone in and said, ‘That’s not how God sees you, and we’re going to love you.’”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media



Junior Truett Kenner had never been to South America before this week. He has been co-leading a group of 22 students on a spring break mission trip in Ecuador.

Keener has participated in mission trips during spring break before, but this is the first trip he has led as a part of spring break missions through the Mitchell Center for Leadership and Ministry.

“People often don’t realize how many opportunities there are to travel, to lead groups or participate in a group, and that’s something I would love to see vocalized more,” he said. “I would love to see the program grow.”

The group has been busy ministering to children, leading Bible classes and chapel, and working on the property around a local school. While Keener has been focused on the specifics of his trip this week, he can’t help but see the impact of spring break missions as a whole.

“Sometimes we can get caught up in what’s happening with our individual trips, but when we look at the big picture, it’s very impressive what actually happens,” he said. “I’m really happy to be able to be a part of it. “

Hannah Owens, director of digital media



This week, junior nursing major Jenna Harris has been helping lead a group of 44 students with two student leaders on a mission effort in Ensenada, Mexico, at the City of Children. She filled a spot for the trip during her freshman year, and when she found out about a need for a leader this year, she decided to put herself in that leadership role.

“It was such a good thing my freshman year that I really wanted to help again,” she said.

A home for children in the area that are either orphans or have been removed from their families by the government, City of Children operates all year and caters to mission groups who come in to help.

“Kids live there and go to school,” Harris said. “Groups are there to encourage and teach as outside Christian examples. They divide it into weeklong sections, so we’re the very first group for their season.”

Harris said that being a leader of the trip has been a much different experience than being a participant, but she said all the work and planning that has gone into making it successful has made it that much more rewarding.

“I’ve learned that being a leader of anything, you have to sacrifice the most. It’s been a different experience being a leader because we’ve had to do the grunt work,” she said. “Marcus, Dillon and I had to plan meetings and contact different groups. I think it’ll be that much more beautiful because I’m invested in not only the people in the city itself but also in our group. I want them to be able to serve and learn as much as I’ve learned from it and to be able to have that same love for it.”

The biggest goal Harris had for herself and for every team member is to show God’s love to even one person.

“If one experience happens that shows God’s love in a new way or helps someone understand God better, I think it’s worth it,” Harris said. “There’s a lot of controversy about short-term missions, but I think God works in a week just as much as in big ways he can work in years.”

-Hannah Owens, director of digital media



Senior Weston Woodruff went to the Dominican Republic on a spring break mission trip in 2015, and now he is co-leading a group of 21 students on the same trip with his fiancée.

“She’s a planner, and it’s been a good couple experience,” he said. “It’s its own premarital counseling.”

This year’s mission to the Dominican Republic is formatted very similarly to previous years. Students will focus on relationship building as they spend time with people and children in the community.

“We’ll spend a lot of time learning about Dominican culture and how they do things for their ministry,” he said. “They’re really big into one-on-one discipling with kids.”

Woodruff first became interested in missions after a taking a missionary anthropology class during his semester abroad. After learning more about the subject, he gained a new perspective on how mission trips should be done.

“Our intentions shouldn’t be to take Jesus down there; our intention should be to see what God is doing there and share love,” he said. “When I gained that perspective, I wanted to go on a trip that reflected that. Going last year, I felt the call to bring people back.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media



When she first became a co-leader for the spring break mission trip to New Hampshire and Maine, sophomore Savanna Distefano said there were two people signed up to go. For a period of time, the co-leader spot was vacant when her previous co-leader dropped out. At one point, she actually thought the trip would be cancelled. But now, Distefano is co-leading a group of 11 students to New Hampshire and Maine.

“I’m very interested in why God is sending me to New England,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what God is going to lead us to do and what other opportunities he is going to show us to further his kingdom [there].”

After going on her first mission trip in high school, Distefano always thought she would participate in mission work throughout her life.

“Since I started getting involved in the church in high school, my first time really getting involved was going on a mission trip,” she said. “I just fell in love with meeting new people and going to new places. I love traveling, and so I always thought I would do mission work.”

The group will attend a youth rally and work with several different churches in the area. Distefano said that she would view the trip a success if even one student learns something and develops a new perspective.

“I believe that God designed us to spread the gospel in order to get to know him better,” she said. “We’re here to plant the seeds, and I know God is there to water them, but I think we need to help them grow, too.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media



Senior Trey Savage spent his spring break in 2015 as a participant on the University’s mission trip to Fort Worth, Texas. He knew both of the leaders, so he decided to go when he found out more people were needed.

“We didn’t know what to expect because there were a very small number of us who knew each other,” he said. “It ended up working really well. It turned out to be an amazing experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.”

Savage is now co-leading a group of 15 students to Fort Worth where they will work with a program called Fortress.

“Their main goal is to cater to at-risk kids and provide study sessions with them after school and during the summer,” he said. “They help foster further development, and they also provide mentorship for kids who otherwise don’t have those role models in their lives.”

Students will spend time with children in the program, getting to know them and encouraging and mentoring to them. Savage hopes the group can have a big impact on the people they with whom they interact and return from the experience as closer friends.

“I want us to get that sense of our knowing that we have each other even outside of this one week,” he said. “Also, just that we can be that light and servants to those who needed us when we were there.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media