No "School" is an Island
By TJ McCloud, Missions Coordinator on 3/14/2014
"No man is an island" is a famous quote from John Donne, meaning none of us can survive without being connected to others. From the air, the vast emerald green of the Atlantic Ocean between the United States and the Dominican Republic can seem like it could never be crossed. But this coming week, one small team of students and staff from Lipscomb Academy will make that distance seem a lot closer.
For years, Lipscomb Academy High School students have actively participated in local and international missions and service, partnering with churches and ministries for various opportunities. But, this year, an exciting milestone has been reached. On Saturday, March 13th, eight Academy students will embark on the High School’s first-ever in-house mission trip, coordinated through the University’s Missions Program.
The team is headed to the Dominican Republic to serve with Manna Global Ministries, working and learning alongside Dominican high school students at the Manna Christian School, a private Christian school started by the missions group several years ago. The team will serve in rural missions and evangelism, urban street-kid outreach, ministry at the local hospital, as well as spending lots of time with the children at Manna Global Ministries’ Childrens’ Homes. The trip is being organized and led by the Academy’s Director of Spiritual Formation, Greg Perry, and Julia Denney, Chemistry/Science teacher and Middle School Soccer Coach.
This is Greg and Julia’s first time to lead a team from the Academy, but these two are definitely no strangers to missions. Greg is the founder and former Executive Director of Youth Reach International, a global missions organization that has mobilized projects in dozens of countries and currently focuses in Russia and Ukraine. Julia is a long-time volunteer with Lipscomb Missions at the University level, with years of short-term experience in Mexico at the City of Children and in 2013, she co-led a medical mission team to southern Honduras.
The partnership between the Academy and the University is a new one, and is an exciting development. Lanny Witt, the Academy’s High School Principal, is very glad to see the connection. "One of the distinctions we have here at Lipscomb Academy is our strong relationship with the University. Having a system such as the centralized (missions) mobilization program gives us the peace of mind of knowing that the trips are being done by experienced professionals,” says Witt. “Parents want to know that their child is going to have a rich experience, but also be safe. It is so encouraging to know that our students are teaming up with an established program, which provides the infrastructure and organization to maximize the experience. We are excited about this initial mission trip and look forward to future combined efforts." Lipscomb Board of Trustees member Jerry Cover is also excited about the great potential the new partnership poses. "Lipscomb Academy is expanding in areas of both Global Learning and World Missions, and the ability to partner with Lipscomb University Missions is unparalleled in secondary education in Middle Tennessee. In our efforts to move from "competitive" to "compelling", when compared to other schools in this area, this really bring us closer to that goal. Additionally, this will provide our Academy students the opportunity to serve side by side with Lipscomb University students as they show the love of Jesus Christ to those in need."
In a year of firsts, this will also be the first interaction between the Academy and host partner, Manna Global Missions. Manna has a long history of work in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and southern Africa, and when asked why Manna Global Ministries was a good choice for a partner, Perry replied, “We really needed a ministry partner who was well established and understood how to utilize the skills our high schoolers bring to the table. Manna does great work in their community, with a great track record for hosting teams and it will be such a blessing for our team to experience working alongside them in ministry.”
The excitement is high for the students and the faculty leadership, for many reasons. “We really want to see our involvement in this trip be a blessing to the students Manna works with in the Dominican Republic, but we also know that this experience can help to develop leadership skills within our own group, too. I’d really love to see the idea of Academy Missions become something that grows into other teams and opportunities - these students are laying a foundation for what I hope will be an even deeper excitement for global missions on our campus”, says Perry. Co-leader Julia Denney echoes those thoughts when asked about her confidence in this small group of student missionaries. “I’m so proud of these students for stepping out and being part of something that’s new - they’re trailblazers, and I can say they are really excited to serve well and set the bar high for anyone who participates in years to come!”
Cory Lamb, DR Director for Manna Global says that “really, for us, the opportunity for our Manna Christian School students to build a great relationship with a sister school, like the Academy, is priceless. There’s so much ministry opportunity potential, on both sides”.
And, as part of the Lipscomb Missions Program, after next week’s trip, the relationship between the Academy and Manna Global is sure to continue. Most of Lipscomb’s many host-partners have been receiving teams for five years or longer, for the express purpose that the relationships grow over time and the effectiveness of ministry can deepen. “I hope that a long-term friendship is formed between Lipscomb Academy and the Manna Christian School- we’ll surely learn as much or more from them as they will from us, and it would be amazing to see that continue, year after year”, says Julia Denney.
These Academy students will come back with stories and pictures and maybe a sunburn or two, but more than that, they’re sure to come back with lifelong Dominican friends and hearts bursting at the seams for what God is doing around the world.