SERVE ABROAD TRIPS OFFER LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES
Spring and summer breaks often take on deeper meaning for Palm Beach Atlantic University students as they travel to unfamiliar or far-flung destinations to serve and share their Christian faith.
This year dozens of PBA students will participate in a series of “Serve Abroad” or global project trips in underserved communities across around the globe in fulfillment of the University’s founding tradition of service. Others still will opt for “Study Abroad” semesters and "Class Abroad" experiences in diverse cultural settings to expand their educational horizons.
Among the recent spring trips was a School of Nursing group of 15 students who traveled to El Salvador on a medical mission to work with partner organization, King’s Castle Ministries. Duties included packing and distributing food bags, conducting healthcare home visits and basic healthcare training in schools in the rural communities they visited.
“It was life-changing for the students and for many of the Salvadorans whom they served as we saw God meet us in so many ways,” said Nancy Peifer, coordinator of SON’s undergraduate program, who accompanied the nursing students on the trip.
In a post-trip report Peifer described some of the challenging circumstances the students faced and rose above in the execution of their duties.
“They rode in a cattle truck up steep, dusty roads in the mountains and walked miles further in the hot sun on rocky dirt roads and paths to visit homes that the local pastors identified for us,” she said.
The nursing students shared many special moments during the “mind-expanding, heart-expanding, horizon-broadening,” week-long trip spent serving the healthcare and spiritual needs of the Salvadorans, Peifer added.
She recalled how humbling it was for students to accept simple gifts of fruit or flowers from grateful locals with little worldly possessions who wanted to show their appreciation. The students also enjoyed learning about El Salvador's culture, eating the traditional dish of pupusas (a savory-filled corn tortilla) and won’t soon forget taking a bath in a volcanic lake because there was no more water in the showers.
For nursing student Dani Dell’Isola, the trip was priceless.
“I don’t feel like I sacrificed my spring break… I feel like it was a great gift,” she told Peifer.
In another spring group, 20 PBA students served abroad in Antigua, Guatemala working with local ministries in after-school programs and on building projects. Among the participants were business management majors Shannon Hunihan and Daniel Sepulveda, biblical and theological studies major Nick Hart and ministry major Noah Haislah.
In a video chronicling the “Guatemala Global Project,” trip, Hunihan who graduated earlier this month, shared some reflections from the experience.
“Prayer ministry in a foreign country is one of the most humbling experiences that you will ever have and it really shows you a lot about what prayer is at its core,” she said. “I really loved how open the Guatemalan people were to prayer of any kind, no matter what the language you spoke, they just knew that prayer works, prayer matters.”
Other trip participants were equally impacted.
“I didn’t think this trip was going to have this huge effect on my life or anything major,” Sepulveda said. “As I went there and I started working with people, as I started seeing the need, it just kind of started confirming what God has called me to do.”
Spring trips typically last a week while summer trips tend to last longer as students travel farther distances, often to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Another five spring trips this year were organized by Campus Ministries to Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Haiti and Panama.
In all more than 100 students participated on the spring trips, said Danielle Hawk, coordinator for the university’s David and Leighan Rinker Center for Experiential Learning (RCEL).
The Rinker Center for Experiential Learning as it’s commonly known, helps to coordinate and oversee student and faculty/staff overseas trips under four guiding pillars: Study Abroad, Serve Abroad, Class Abroad and Faculty/Staff Abroad. Since its launch in 2011, RCEL has sent nearly 2,000 members of the PBA community overseas.
The robust summer schedule includes seven Campus Ministries global project trips to Thailand, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Greece, Cambodia and Belgium/Macedonia. There is also an Africa Trek program where participants will serve for three months in four southern Africa countries: Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Malawi.
Altogether, more than 200 participants from the PBA community will travel on a variety of RCEL-endorsed trips between May and August, Hawk noted.
“We normally have twice as many trips during the summer break than in spring semester,” she said.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, the University sent 337 students, faculty, staff and other members of the PBA community to 30 countries, Hawk added.