A Last-Minute Blessing
Elizabeth Duke, senior
On Friday morning before spring break I sat in my dorm and prayed a prayer asking God to provide me with an evident opportunity to live more radically for Him... He definitely provided- going above and beyond my expectations. Less than five hours after that prayer, I was presented with a last minute opportunity to go serve with the Lipscomb Cozumel mission team over Spring Break. Next thing I know, 14 hours later I am walking out to meet my team and to head to the airport.
It is now Tuesday of spring break, and as I look back to that whirlwind of 14 hours of prep time, I couldn’t feel more blessed to be here. We got to meet the kids Saturday night and they were absolutely wonderful. As we walked onto their campus, the first few moments were honestly a little awkward. However, once one of the little kids grabbed my hand to go play, I quickly forgot the awkwardness and was reminded of why God brought me on this trip.
I am without a doubt supposed to be here. I could not have asked for a better team or more precious children to spend the week with. I am truly in awe of the God we serve. Gary Gardner, the founder of the orphanage, is an amazing man of God who is truly living out a life of sacrifice for God’s Kingdom. Also, after hearing some of the kids’ stories and seeing them still have joy and laughter, I am encouraged beyond words.
Though I cannot speak Spanish, it is amazing how laughing, playing, and loving communicates to any child of any language. It is only our third day with the kids, and I have already seen God move so much in my own life as well as the team’s. I am excited for what God has in store for the rest of the week. I am praying that this week not only changes my life, but changes the way I live my life.
Joined a Team, Became a Family
Sydney Shannon, freshman
When you sign up for a mission trip that you feel God is leading you to, it may be on a team of your best friends or a team of complete strangers. Either way the transformation of individuals into a true unit is one that continually blows my mind. When I first signed up for the trip to Cozumel, there were other trips I was considering and thought may be better suited for my personality or talents. After it was all said and done, Cozumel was the only spring break trip that I was interested in and none of the other trips worked with my schedule. This was when I knew there was a reason God had placed me on the team. Now that our trip is over, it is much easier to see what I was able to do and how God worked within the dynamics of our team.
The first meeting came and it was awkward, yet exciting. I was placed on a team with two of my best friends and many people I knew of. The first impressions of our team were interesting and during that first meeting I felt myself being drawn to certain people that were within my comfort zone. I gravitated toward my best friends, but knew that for the sake of the trip there was no way we could cut ourselves off from the team and still remain unified during the trip. That night I told myself that I would choose to befriend those who I wasn’t sure of and had a desire to know those team members as well as I knew my best friends. I knew that we all would come to love each other because we had the same goal and mission for Ciudad de Angeles, the walls just had to be broken between our separate lives in order for them to be united.
As we began meeting on a regular basis it was easier to remember everyone’s names and slowly we got to know each other’s stories from the team speed dates we had once a week. I felt the major breakthrough of walls when we spent a weekend together at our team retreat though. In the middle of the woods, 22 people began weaving their stories together. On the retreat the team was able to spend more than a couple of hours together, making it possible to see true personalities shine through. There were moments of serious thought and spiritual insight as well as times of laughter and fun. These two extremes caused some team members to connect on a surface level, while others connected on a deeper level. The team retreat provided a halfway point where our team felt a sense of trust and was willing to help knock down the walls of division together.
When the time finally came, all the speed dates were concluded and we were boarding a plane to Cozumel missing 3 members of our team we had spent 5 months preparing with and adding 3 members to the team we had never met. In the air the team bonded over the children we would be meeting and the interactions that would be shared between us all. Although it was strange at first, the 3 new members picked up as if they were part of the team the whole time. The original walls had already be broken down and trust was built up in its place, so welcoming in 3 new strangers was something the team was willing to experience together. Throughout the course of the week there were a multitude of opportunities to better hear each other’s stories and the stories of the children whom we were there to serve. Unexpected friendships were formed and the people I was intimidated by in the very first meeting are now some of the closest friendships I left Cozumel with. Although the team dynamics completely altered 17 hours before we left, God knew exactly what He was doing and how well the team would be able to mesh.
On any trip you take, there are almost always people who end up on the fringes of the group, doing their job and never truly interacting with the team. The miracle of this trip to Cozumel is that we didn’t have any fringes. We didn’t have anyone who disconnected from the group. We didn’t have a single person who drifted away from us during the week. It is incredible to me to see how perfectly God handpicked our team to Cozumel and how every broken story that went to Cozumel came home a little bit healed by the love and joy we were able to share and receive at Ciudad de Angeles. There is no doubt in my mind that the friendships that were able to blossom over a span of 5 months from this team will become some of my most treasured friendships. All because of a common goal and a Savior who intertwined our stories.
Jordan Taylor, sophomore
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 12:13
Before leaving for Cozumel, I prayed for God to work in and through our team to love on the kids at Ciudad de Angeles. What I didn’t think about, however, was God working through the kids we’d been called to love on, or how God would use the kids to reveal himself to us.
It was a surreal moment stepping onto Ciudad de Angeles’ campus for the first time Saturday. After meeting with our team every other week since late November, it was a beautiful moment to be able to see this place we’d been learning, thinking, and praying about the past 5 months. It was even more surreal to see the faces of the sweet kids we’d only seen in photographs. It was a little awkward, but the team and the kids both just jumped in and started getting to know each other.
Over the course of our 5 months preparation, we were given “prayer angels” to pray about, prayer cards with a picture of an angel and their story. I was given 2 of the new angels that had just arrived at Ciudad that November- sisters Cristina (2), and Conny (8). I was at SmoresFest, our first event with the kids; I was sitting down with Marce, my new sweet angel, when a little girl ran up to me. She looked up, hugged me, and asked me, “Como te llamas?” (“what’s your name?”) She then proceeded to tell me, “me llamo Conny!” I looked up and recognized her sweet face- it was the face of the angel on my prayer angel card, the sweet face I’d seen every night before going to bed and would pray over. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had not gone looking for my prayer angel- she found me.
She knew nothing about her being my prayer angel or the fact that I already knew her name and face by heart. She just sought me out from the crowd, and latched on. She and I continually found each other over the course of the week, spending a lot of our time together. Her sweet little voice and infectious smile are etched in my brain for a lifetime. The last night she stayed glued to my side. She left for a few minutes to return with a present- a cute little necklace and bracelet that she wrapped around my neck and hand. It broke my heart to leave her and the other friends I’d made that week, but with a promise of “proximo año” (next year), I tearfully said my goodbyes.
God taught me a lot through the kids at Ciudad this week. He taught me through Marce that love and laughter transcends language, and to seek joy in everything; through Carlos that it’s okay to be silly sometimes; through our older kids that we all have a story to tell. But through Conny, most of all, he taught me that He’s constantly seeking us - His children - and that He is always right in front of us. We just have to look up and latch on.
Rocky Goodall, friend of LU
For those of you who don't know much about me, I was born without both of my legs making me a bilateral below-knee amputee. I'm a certified and state licensed Orhotist and Prosthetist. I make custom orthotic bracings, and artificial limbs. About a year ago I met a physical therapist, Aaron Hall, who asked if I have any orthotic bracings to donate to a misson. Here in the states kids get new orthotics about every 6 months an they discard their old ones. The company I work for began asking parents to save the outgrown braces so that we could start donating them to David Lipscomb University's mission group. A few months later, they asked me if I would be part of their medical brigade to Honduras. I prayed and talked with my family. I also met with Pastor Martin who told me this would be a great opportunity to help a community and to be able to spread Gods word. I decided to go and Metro Baptist sponsored me with well over half the money that I needed. I then met with my employer who sponsored the rest of the money for the trip, along with orthotic bracings, shoes and tools. My family each gave donations to purchase tools to leave in Honduras so that modifications and adjustments can continue to be made. It was amazing to see how doors began opening everywhere. Gods plan was unfolding right in front of my eyes.
From the time we arrived I got to watch Gods love through peoples actions. We had 2 dentists, 2 physical therapists, a nurse practitioner, a physician's assistant, 2 nurses, 2 pharmacists, a David Lipscomb teacher, an 32 college kids, most of them studying medicine. We were able to give over 700 people medical consults and over 120 dental consults. We had over $5000 worth of medicine we passed out, over 1500 toothbrushes given out, and fit over 100 kids with new socks and shoes. We had numerous bibles that were in Spanish that we were able to give. We were able to use our time with the people to spread God's word and to show these communities that they are valuable, that their life has purpose that we are all brothers and sisters who serve the same God. I witnessed so many souls getting saved and was able to watch a lady get baptized in the ocean right then because she didn't want to wait until time to go to church. I was a part of numerous church services which were similar to how we do things over here. I felt so blessed to be a part of this. I stepped out of my comfort zone and let the Lord lead me. He used me to be a blessing to so many people.
While there I got to meet a little girl named Cindy. A pastor approached me and Aaron and asked if we would ride with him to see this little girl. He wasn't sure where she was and began driving and stopping to ask people. Not sure that we would find her and a little frustrated when we thought we had left the brigade for so long and had not found her and didn't know what we were seeing her for. It became a two hour trip to locate her, but when we pulled up, I knew God was at work once again. I get out of the truck to see a little girl sitting on a rock wall, missing both of her legs, just like me. She was born with club feet and because she walked on her deformed feet for so long, she had done so much damage that she had to have them amputated. I was able to adjust her prosthetics and to help with the issues she was having. We gave her a pair of shoes, but best of all we got a way to donate an get her all the supplies she will need in the future. God led us over 2 hours away from the group to be able to meet this girl. It feels so good to be led by the Lord. It shows me that my trials are not in vain, God made me this way for a reason. I could easily sit around and complain an feel sorry for myself but instead I have chosen to be a servant of my Lord. I learned to be thankful for what I do have and that God has blessed me.
Matt Ellington, team leader
Our first job site has seen quite a change! Roofing and framing of the doors and windows took place today! We have been blessed to have the help of local Jamaicans on the site in both building and conversation. We should be able to paint the home tomorrow as well as add the doors and Jamaican style windows! The second job site was completed today. Framework was done and the roofing was completed. This site is home to a family with several children, which makes the day seem to go faster! We were very blessed to be able to get to know the story of this family and help in an area they are so desperately needing. Since there was no street meeting or church service tonight we were able to take part in a Lipscomb Mission trip tradition…Jamaican Game Night! Some of the church members came and taught us how to play several Jamaican games. This night is always one of the favorites! The true competiveness of people come out on this night! Atoms, Fruit Basket, and Goal remain games that we that return always look forward to!
Samuel Montoya, team leader
Here we are back again. It is unbelievable how much love and appreciation we get down here, It is almost like we are part of the family here in Back2back. Yesterday and Today were really long and crazy days. The staff decided to send us on a two days adventure. We visited another of the houses supported by B2B. We were happy to see them as they were to see us as well. House Bethany used to be a school in the community that was transformed to a children home. The people there were as always really nice and always smiling. They have a tortilla factory that they used to make income and supported themselves. They are a big help for the community. We played with the kids, cooked with the ladies and after a long day we went to river to swim with the kids. Nothing better than spending the rest of the afternoon jumping in really cold water. A great way to end a long hot day. After that we went to a second home about 30 minutes from House Bethany. The place is call ERJ. A farm with a lot of space where they have a plantation of orange trees, goats, two cows, chicken coops and open fields to run around. We spent the night there camping in the middle of a soccer field. It was cold and not so comfortable night. We woke up super early and we got to see the sunrise shining up the mountains in the Allende area. We got to chance to do some work in their new dorm restrooms and do some other things around the place. Went on a tour of the place during the afternoon and like always got to spent time with amazing people and great kids. God is always showing us his love through the eyes of little kids.
TJ McCloud, team leader
The opportunity to see Nashville as a mission field is so exciting to me, and one of the reasons I got involved in the Spring Break: Nashville trip. We had an amazing week last week, and it was so eye-opening to spend the week focused on our community of immigrants and refugees, just a few miles from Lipscomb’s campus. For me, the most amazing day of the Nashville trip was Tuesday, during a field day at a low-income apartment complex in Southeast Nashville. Seeing kids from all over the world; immigrants and refugees from wars and horrible conditions- all coming together and playing freeze tag, balloon pop or even just coloring and learning basic English with another member of our mission team- it was really beautiful. The whole world seemed like it converged on that little lawn- with English, Swahili, Burmese, Spanish and Arabic languages being shouted in joy over an impromptu game of kickball and a few Capri Suns. God was there in that interaction, breaking down walls and barriers, bringing people together, making the "alien among us" feel welcome and valued... I'll never forget it, and can’t wait to do it again!
Roxanne Spielvogel, senior
I just returned from an amazing trip to Nevis in the Caribbean. Currently on my heart is a sweet boy I met named Rodney. We visited 5 different schools throughout the week were in Nevis and on Thursday, we went to the special education school on the island. There were only about 20 students of all ages with a variety of special needs. I was very hesitant before we went just because I don’t have much experience with disabilities and wasn’t sure what to expect. In that day, I was touched in a way I have never been touched before.
We were blowing bubbles with some of the kids when there was a boy who wanted to blow bubbles, but physically could not do it. Somehow, I ended up hanging out with him and blowing bubbles and letting him dip it into the water and we would blow them together. After about 10 minutes of play time, this sweet boy went all in for the hug. I immediately melted and he hopped up into my arms and we just stood there. Rodney isn’t a tiny little boy, but in that moment he felt like a feather and I was beyond thrilled to be hanging out with him. He couldn’t talk so there was no communication except for just knowing he wanted to be loved and held. In that moment I just felt God like I’ve never felt him before. I saw him take me from a place of fear and concern and make me instantly fall in love with a child I couldn’t even talk to.
Rodney, I pray that God blesses you abundantly and you can feel his love at all times. No matter where life takes you, just know you touched one woman’s heart more than you will ever know.
We left Patterson at 5am on Tuesday morning and drove to San Francisco. Once we arrived at San Francisco we went to the building of the ministry that we would be serving alongside, which is called City Impact. We went in and met the leader of the ministry, Shaun. He led a devo and then gave us some information on what we would be doing. He informed us that the place the ministry is located in is called the Tenderloin, which is just an area of San Francisco. He told us how broken and neglected the Tenderloin is. We learned how it was one of the roughest parts of San Francisco because of the drug use and the violence. It is also densely populated, with 37,000 people in 35 blocks. One thing that is absolutely crazy is that the ministry of City Impact is located literally next door to a building labeled Power Exchange. Shaun informed us that the Power Exchange used to be a strip club, and has now converted to a sex club. It is where people go to pay for sex. Shaun said they pray over that place every day and that there are efforts to get it shut down. That is just a small glimpse of what the Tenderloin is like. It also has one of the highest population of homeless people in San Francisco. We then talked about what we were going to be doing that day and how we were going to be serving the homeless and the neglected of the Tenderloin. One thing that we talked about that really stuck out to me was how we need to have a heart for the poor and the homeless. Sometimes I think we tend to put the homeless and poor in categories of other type of people and how we need to go and serve them, but those are our brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves them just as much and he calls us to love them. It is not an option for us to not care for our brothers and sisters. If we are followers of Christ, it is our calling to care for those around us, and in the Tenderloin those brothers and sisters just happen to be homeless. So after praying and getting our hearts prepared and aligned with God’s we set out for the day. We split into teams and did different tasks. Some of us went to a school that the ministry sponsors, some to a rescue mission, some to a thrift shop owned by the ministry, and Jenna and I went to help in the kitchen.
There Jenna and I spent 3 hours cutting meat and vegetables for a big event the ministry was having on the weekend. I probably cut 35 pounds of meat into little strips and Jenna cut so many vegetables. It was nice to be able to help out in such a unique way and to be able to bless the people in the kitchen by giving them a helping hand. Then we ate lunch and prepared to go do some meal deliveries.
Meal deliveries is a time when hundreds of meals are packed into bowls and we take them to SRO’s and hand them out to people and just talk to them. SRO’s are Single Room Occupancies. They are places that usually only one person lives in and are usually government funded. They are one step up from being homeless. On the walls we saw where they had sharps containers where people could put their drug needles so they wouldn’t be in the rooms. They were definitely rough places, but filled with people who needed love. We just just knock on people’s doors, give them food, and then ask them how their day was going. From those conversations we would try to ask them if there was anything we could pray about for them or lead those conversations in a spiritual direction. Some people just took the food and closed the door on us, but a few people really opened up to us, and you could tell they were just looking for someone to talk to. Even if we just showed one person some love that really needed it that day, it was worth it. We did meet a lot of people that we were able to pray with and that we were able to share the love of Jesus with.
One guy, Kevin, who we met as we passed out our very last meal really opened up to us. He broke down and cried in front of our whole group and you could tell he was in a rough place and really overwhelmed by Gods love in that moment. He told us about how he was addicted to alcohol and how he was addicted to heroin. He said that he needed a lot of prayer and a lot of help. We all laid our hands on him and prayed for him. You could tell how much God was speaking to him in those moments.
We then headed back to the ministry building and had dinner. After dinner we prepared for Street Ministry. This was a time when we went out to the people on the streets and gave them some Cheetos and some Corn Flakes and just prayed and talked with people. These people were in much worse shape, being outside and homeless, but we served them and showed them love in ways they don’t receive it often. We got to talk with a lot of awesome people and God really had some pre-ordained meetings that occurred. Even though some people were so out of their minds they didn’t know what planet they were on, we still showed them love and gave them some Flamin Hot Cheetos. There were some sketchy moments where we saw a guy shooting up cocaine in his leg and then walking around us and a drunk guy calling all the girls in our group vulgar names and calling the guys out to fight him and circling our group, but everybody was safe. “There is no where safer you can be, than in the will of God doing what he calls us to do.”
We then, as a group, went in front of city hall and prayed for the city and for all the people that we talked to that night. It was really powerful, and so evident that God was right there with us.
“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” - Francis Chan
“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.” - Francis Chan
Shelton Brewer, senior
After three years of going to Saba, you would think I have it all figured out. Through God’s awesome power, he has kept me on my toes. If you would have told me at a younger age that I would be spending my spring breaks with mission trips, I probably would have said you are crazy. After the past three years of going to Saba, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I have seen God’s work first hand on the island, and the past three years has changed my life forever. Saba is a place that doesn’t really lack in shelter, food, or other luxuries. Saba is a place that does somewhat lack in moral integrity and a love for Jesus. Over my first two years, I really connected to student name Lekwan Smith. We shared our struggles and stories which allowed the two of us to connect to each other, but most importantly to connect to God. This year though, I was humbled and amazed when Lekwan asked if I would baptize him earlier in the week. I had never baptized anyone and could not believe that this young man was coming to me to begin his walk with Christ. When it got later in the week, I grew more eager and excited to accept a new brother into God’s family. The time finally came to baptize Lekwan, and it was a moment I will never forget. Lekwan may think I changed his life, but he has no idea what he has done for mine. Through Lekwan my hunger and fire for God is at another level that it has never been on. I had always gone to Saba with the motto of “You can’t change everybody, but even changing the life one person is making a difference.” Since I am graduating this year, I don’t know if I will return next spring to Saba. If this is the final chapter in an amazing story, I want to think I hopefully changed the life of that young man through God’s awesome power.
Erin Gupton, senior
Trying to put the experience of a Saba mission trip into words is a difficult feat. There are so many thoughts and experiences involving this Dutch-Caribbean island that it's almost overwhelming to talk about. One thing is definite though: God is good and God working.
Saba is a 5-square mile island of about 1,600 people. The island is under Dutch government, but it's Caribbean influence is certainly to be recognized. The culture is very accepting, lively and easy-going, and one cannot visit this area of the world without noticing the beauty. I could spend this entire summary speaking just of the island's majestic views and the people's innate spirit of joy. Saba was formed by volcano, creating massive mountains and steep cliffs. There are no natural sand beaches, but the surrounding ocean is a deep and vivid blue, and the salty breezes follow you wherever you are on the island. The Sabans have be ability to warm your heart with just one smile, and our team is immediately welcomed by hugs from natives waiting for us at the airport. Upon arrival Saba catches your heart, and believe me when I say it doesn't let go even when you depart.
Our team stays busy during every moment of the trip. The events and classes and murals that we have been planning months in advance come to life quickly, bringing with them miracles of heart-changing conversations and the beginnings of long lasting friendships.
Our mornings start bright and early as the team wakes up in Sunny Valley Youth Center and travels each day from The Bottom to St. John's in order to get to the one and only school on the island. We love on the kids in grade school by giving piggy back rides, jump roping, playing kickball or basketball, and being "it" in a game of tag. We then split into grades and spend 45 minutes in the classrooms telling the children a bible story and teaching them a song and dance that they will perform at the Island Wide Finale at the end of the week.
After our time at the grade school, we walk up to their high school and host a girls and guys class. This class has been one of the most effective and important parts of our trips since we began, and this year was no expection.Team members were transparent and loving as they shared their testimonies and Bible lessons, and the girls and guys both grew closer to our team through this boldness.
Each night and most afternoons we hold events for the people of the island. These including a Kickoff Bingo night, a NBA night, a Dodgeball night, an Easter egg hunt, a scavenger hunt across the island, and many more. After all these events we hold a devotional in the Governor's gazebo where we worship together and listen to team members sharing what's on their hearts.
Through all the classes, all the little hands we hold, all the hugs we give and receive, through all the basketballs dunked and dodge balls thrown and food eaten, and through all the songs sang and hearts spilled and tears shed, God worked His miracles in the way that only He can. He changed lives and brought people close to Him, both Sabans and team members alike. This year we were blessed in getting to partake in the baptism of three teenagers in the Caribbean Sea. One of the most moving parts of that is that we got to witness the girl that got baptized last year, the first baptism that has occurred on the island as a result of our time there, minister to her new sisters and brother in Christ.
The mission trip to Saba does not leave you unchanged. The cool winds and the tree frogs sing you to sleep at night, and when your back in your room in the states something seems to be missing. The views and the people and the warmth of the sun fill you up with joy, and you miss them when you leave. The hard cots and cold showers and early mornings become a welcomed friend, and their absence is bittersweet. The memories and experiences of this island are treasured ones, and I speak for all the current and past teammates when I say that Saba will always been on our minds and hearts and that we are counting the days until we can step foot on the majestic mountain again.