Jamaica Trip 2015

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Trip Cost $2200.00/student

This May, I co-lead a team of 9 Gordon students and one adviser to Caribbean Island of Jamaica for a two-week stay partnering with CCCD (Caribbean Christian Center for Deaf) in Kingston. CCCD one of three schools that gives the deaf in Jamaica an education; and a Christian one at that. It’s been a part of this region for a long time and has partnered with many schools, churches, and other organizations over the years and this was Gordon’s first year to work in the Kingston Campus.

We arrived the first day, moved in and had an Orientation with the team coordinator and on site CCCD missionary, Blake Widmer. One of the first things we discussed was a book called When Helping Hurts (WHH), and our mutual goals for what the service-learning trip was to look like. In short, relationships with the children was stressed, and not looking on ourselves as greater and them lesser, but as equals; hearing or not. We learned during and after the trip that we are to encourage each other (fellow Christians and people) and help others to see their own innate worth and value, and that it rests solely in Jesus Christ.

Over the next two weeks we moved in to various work projects, from painting the students’ kitchen and installing a TV mount, to painting tables, and building a dog house. Everyone had a part and felt useful. What is more though, is that the children were released from school everyday around 330 and we were given the opportunity to play with them. The children ranged in ages from 5-21 and were in grades from 1-11. The cool thing was, was that all the children who didn’t immediately go home, (which were usually the ones who lived on campus) stuck around, and we were able to games, crafts, and learn about their lives and sign language! Seeing them communicate so proficiently and simultaneously learn English (for writing) was a treat, and we couldn’t help but compare our experiences to theirs. Looking at them and seeing motion but hearing nothing except the grunts and excited squeals and laughter was a beautiful thing. I had to imagine if that’s what they saw of us.

A lot was learned on the trip, however one of the biggest things I think for myself was that communication and relationship with people is so important in life, especially if you want to make any difference in this world or hold strong relationships. Constant comms with God is a must and a comms with others is necessary. However, communication and relationship doesn’t have to be audible. The deaf speak with their hands; and read body language. We speak in voice. As a deaf person you learn to read a person by watching them, you learn them in deeper perhaps more real way. The amazing thing is that God speaks all of these languages and more. He is the ultimate Communicator and Friend. Just as we need to build relationships with each other by community, so do we need to do that with God. We need to spend time with God, both alone and in groups. We need to support each other and hold each other accountable. We need to intercede for each other in prayer and to encourage each other daily. (1 Kings 13:6) – “Intercede with the LORD your God and pray…”

We learned a better reason for short-term missions, and we need to stop seeing ourselves as the heroes; that’s His job. We are to be His hands and feet. We are to go and evangelize yes, but that must also include relationship and a communion with other believers.

God showed Himself faithful yet again on this trip, so I want to take a moment to Praise Him for it. It was all of His doing. Not mine, the teams, or Blake’s. God had everything to do with it. It was because of God that all of the money came in on time and that each student was covered fully. It was God’s doing that enabled our team (despite troubles putting a team together) to get along so well the whole two-weeks. God brought together a really diverse team which ended up being a blessing for CCCD, and He brought together motivated and loving students with so many various gifts and a mutual desire to learn sign. God gave us safe travel and literally no hitches in all of the moving parts. The only thing we had issue-wise was a missing bag on the way back, but God figured that out to. We’ve been immensely blessed, and we will not forget His faithfulness. God, I love You and thank You. Picture is the link Below.
Jamaica Team 2015

Swaziland, Africa

Bulembu Ministries Swaziland – Summer Mission Trip 2015
Cost: $4,000/student

Having been to Bulembu the year prior, I began this summer’s trip with excitement and anticipation to see the faces of those I already knew and others I was soon to meet. In 2014, I was a member of Gordon’s team to Swaziland and then stayed to volunteer for an additional month with the organization as the team returned to the States. During that time, I gained a better understanding of what is poured into the ministry and how things work behind the scenes of this complex non-profit orphanage and set of enterprises. Learning stories of the individual children, as well as the bigger crisis and picture at hand, I grew to be an even stronger advocate for Bulembu.

When the opportunity came to lead this year’s team, I was hesitant to return in a leadership position, fearing the unknown of what it would bring. After lots of prayer and counsel, I co-led the trip trusting God would use me in different capacities.

I was encouraged my team members that my genuine love for Bulembu inspired them to learn more about the culture and history of the Swazi people. As leaders, we pushed the team to dig deeper in interactions with Swazis, as they have incredible wisdom and joy of the Lord. We traveled into rural Swaziland to see and try to understand the affect of poverty and sickness on the nation. Many of the children we knew and loved in Bulembu came from these broken homesteads and it was important for us to try and grasp a piece of the overall picture.

It’s easy for us to judge and assume we know what these people have been through and how to fix their problems but we as Americans, westerners, will never fully understand the lifestyle and cultural impact nor how to go about adjusting the faulty systems in place. An incredible pastor and founder of Bulembu shared with us the complexities of Swazi culture and how the country has gotten to where it is today. We can only love and support those we meet, as they will be empowered to bring change in their own nation.

One of our team’s greatest attributes was a willingness to serve openheartedly, but our daily work projects felt monotonous and frustrating at times – How could painting a few houses really bring change to someone’s life? We were challenged to trust that we were placed where the organization most needed our labor, instead of where we thought we would make the most impact.

Our time with the children was always the greatest highlight. These children have seen and experienced far more than anyone ever should yet they radiate the love of Christ. Continually sharing scripture and prayers, they were often the ones ministering to us. It’s incredible to see how God has transformed each and every person affected by Bulembu’s mission. Words cannot describe the joy this opportunity brought me, as it allowed me to grow and strengthen past relationships as well as share the beauty of Swaziland with a new team.

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God in my Insufficiencies

Location: Bulembu, Swaziland
Organization: Bulembu Ministries
Cost per Student: $4,000

Recap:

Bulembu Ministries is a not for profit organization serving Christ through community enterprise and community care with a vision to raise the future leaders of Swaziland. They do this by providing their children a Christ-centered education with the long-term goal of transforming the Kingdom of Swaziland. The heart of the organization is its orphanage and school with the rest of the connected enterprises designed to eventually grow into a healthy, self-sustainable organization.

Gordon College has a strong relationship with Bulembu Ministries having sent volunteer teams there every summer for the last seven years. This was my second consecutive summer spent in Bulembu, where each year we help them meet the physical needs of renovating a once abandoned and decaying town as well as interacting with the kids of the orphanage in various capacities. Despite being a part of two similar trips, the impact and value differed greatly between the two.

As a team member two summers ago, it was very easy for me to be a passenger and passively slide in and out of the nation of Swaziland largely unchanged given my laid back personality. Taking on the trip this past summer was much more impactful when placed in a leadership capacity. Suddenly being responsible for the experience of others, I was praying with my co-leader over the course of the year leading up to the trip, and constantly having to be aware of what we did, why we did it, and how it would shape the team’s experience as a result. This intentional thought process and prayer had a profound impact on me and cultivated a more intimate relationship with Christ.

The truth, however, is that I realized the experience of the team was never in my hands to begin with. Early on I recognized my insufficiencies as a leader and began to lean heavily on God trusting him to come through in my inevitable failures. I trusted him to make the trip what he desired as I sought to simply serve as best I knew how, but towards the end of the trip I began to worry that I had let this trust go too far and turn into negligence. I had set my expectations and desires for the trip aside in the hopes of allowing God to truly work through it and impact the team, but as our time in Bulembu began to wind down I realized it had all been very easy. I realized that nothing had really happened and feared that our group was going to leave Bulembu the way I had just one year prior: filled with the contentment of a nice, comfortable cultural experience, but empty without the true earth shattering, awe inspiring realization of a personal encounter with God.

This standard does not constitute a successful trip, and an experience isn’t lessened by the absence of an impactful encounter with God, but I wanted that for our team and began to fear that I had somehow become an inhibitor. In reality, God always had our trip in his control and always had our team in his had. In the final few days of the trip He came through in a big way reaching many members of the team through prophetic words spoken directly into their lives as well as through conversations had amongst one another afterwards.

God always had a plan for our team; I was simply there to witness it. I will always be insufficient, and will continually allow my expectations to cloud my judgment despite my best efforts to set them to the side. But what this trip afforded me is an unbelievable opportunity to grow in leadership, relationship, faith and understanding of God and what he can do through me despite my failures. This I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

-Gaines MintonTeam Photo

Sri Lanka Summer Missions Trip

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The Sri Lanka Missions trip team was made up of 8 of us including the advisor. Having been born and raised in Sri Lanka it was an honor and privilege to lead a team from Gordon to my country. We spent our time mostly at the ‘Ape Kedalla’ (Our Nest) orphanage 2 hours away from the capital. The total cost for each team member was 2,800. The time at the orphanage was truly rewarding. It only took a matter of hours for the kids to become comfortable with the team. Each of the team members were specifically skilled in something maybe it be art, elementary education or music. This was extremely helpful when planning activities for the kids. Each day we held English lessons, which were carefully planned by one of our team members who is preparing to get her certification in teaching and has had many experiences of volunteer teaching at some Lynn Schools in Massachusetts. The team was asked by our hosts not to learn too much Sinhalese and this in turn encouraged the children to learn more English in order to communicate with the team. We also held art lessons every other day. These were prepared by some of the art majors in the team. These lessons comprised of both art therapy sessions and more structured lessons for the more skilled older girls and boys.  On other days we would play music with the kids and teach them how to make musical instruments out of what they could find in their surroundings. During our time here the orphanage was facing challenges on the donor front and we were privileged to be able to help make profiles for each of the 35 kids at the orphanage and also video interviews to be shared and circulated to secure new donors. Some of the team members who were in charge of this put a lot of thought and effort in to this and it also allowed for the team to get to know the children more intimately.

We were also able to attend and be part of the Global Unites Conference. Global Unites was founded and led by Prashan De Visser an alumni of Gordon College. At this Conference more than 18 countries in conflict zones were represented. This was an extremely enriching experience as we were able to meet peace builders from across the globe and be part of some incredible conversations. The theme of the conference right through was to counter the radicalization of youth by building stronger and more powerful networks of peace that can counter extremist rhetoric and actions. We especially helped with the artistic needs of the conference. The time at the conference also gave us the opportunity to see a different side of Sri Lanka. A side that hosted guests from across the world and led the conversation on conflict transformation. For a nation that is coming out of a civil war this was a great step in the right direction.

After the conference we returned to the orphanage for our final week.  We were also able to help design an interactive playground for the kids. One of our team members, a desing student here at Gordon. led this    and we were fortunate enough to see it completed during our stay there. It was such a joy to see the kids play on it and take ownership of it.

Goodbyes   are always difficult but there was joy in having gotten to know so many wonderful children and the comfort of knowing that they are in great hands. We are so grateful and thankful   for the opportunity to have spent a month at Ape Kedalla orphanage. We ended our trip by spending a couple of days in Sigiriya and Anuradhapura which were ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka still preserving ruins that are more 2500 years old. This side of Sri Lanka truly showed the ingenuity and industrious nature of our ancestors and the rich heritage and culture our nation is steeped in. It was a joy to have had this experience with a team of dynamic individuals who fully embraced the culture and people of Sri Lanka and strived everyday to give of their best to the people they met.

 

Michelle Waduacharige

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Art work done by the team for the Global Unites Summit

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 The team at an ancient ruin in Sri Lanka