More than 360 Hope College students will spend their spring break helping others.
The students will be participating in 24 service projects that will take them throughout the United States as well as to Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. The college's spring break runs Friday-Sunday, March 15-24.
Approximately 320 students will be participating in 22 mission trips organized by the college's Campus Ministries Office. In addition, 26 students will be traveling with associate professor of kinesiology Dr. Steven Smith to Jamaica, and 23 students will be going to Oklahoma with the college's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
The mission trips are a decades-long tradition at Hope, but it is in recent years that interest in them has exploded. Eight years ago, the Campus Ministries Office organized seven trips. This year there are 22.
Six of the Campus Ministries trips will involve urban ministry. The Center for Student Missions in Washington, D.C., will be the home for Hope students as they work in soup kitchens, serve in shelters and interact with local residents. In Nashville, Tenn., student opportunities include working with kids, the elderly and the homeless, and at a food bank.
In Memphis, Tenn., students will help renovate homes of economically disadvantaged homeowners. Those going to Newark, N.J., will be involved with serving the urban poor by leading Bible clubs, tutoring children, renovation projects and assisting with retail training. Traveling across the country to Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., students will be working with "The Way Out Ministries," distributing flyers, working with youth, performing street dramas and helping with after-school programs. Queens, N.Y., will be home to students as they experience many facets of urban ministry, including evangelism, social justice and physical labor.
Another six of the trips will focus on ministry in a rural area. Gap Mills, W.Va., home of the Psalm 23 Camp, will allow participants to perform maintenance and repair work on the camp property as well as low-income and elderly homes in the community. Working with houses and children will be a focus for the students going to Annville, Ky. In Dungannon, Va., students will work with community members on home repair and maintenance. For those going to Walker, Ky., farm project operation awaits. A farm that provides shelter and rehabilitation for recovering substance abuse victims will become home for Hope students participating in the trip to Loysville, Pa. The students traveling to Nora, Va., will be helping the McClure River Valley Community Development in Dickenson County.
A third type of domestic trip enables students to interact with those of a different culture. In Apache, Okla., participants will interact with Native Americans of every age, and will use drama, music, construction, crafts and group dynamics. Refugees to the United States make their home at Jubilee Partners in Comer, Ga., and students traveling there will paint, garden, teach English and learn about the refugees. In Toronto, Canada, students will encounter some of the city's 80 different ethnic groups while helping in settings such as a soup kitchen or a food bank, as a language helper or with a church.
Seven groups of Hope students will head to Latin America this year. Students will be working with La Rocca (The Rock) in Tijuana, Mexico, assisting and interacting with the urban poor. The cultural experience of Chiapas, Mexico, will absorb Hope students into the lives of the indigenous people. In Aqua Prieta, Mexico, the group will help build a school through Worldwide Christian Schools. Hope students who are members of the Young Life ministry in Holland will spend time with the Young Life family in the Dominican Republic, assisting with projects and working with children and young adults. Another group traveling to the Dominican Republic will spend time on school construction. Students interested in a career in medicine will travel to Nicaragua to work with the Council of Evangelical Churches of Nicaragua. Students traveling to Honduras will work with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
The students involved in Hope's chapter of Habitat for Humanity will travel to Oklahoma City, Okla., to work through the "Collegiate Challenge" program of Habitat for Humanity International. They will join with the Central Oklahoma Habitat affiliate to help construct one or two of the more than 100 houses that the affiliate builds each year. The chapter has participated in several trips since its founding in 1993, including to assist with disaster relief in Tarboro, N.C., last year.
For the sixth straight year, a group of Hope students and Dr. Smith will be working on buildings on the campus of the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf in Montego Bay, Jamaica.