HPU students involved in unique summer missions
BROWNWOOD – July 15, 2011 – Summer break is typically a time of cookouts, road trips and lounging by the pool. Six students from Howard Payne University, however, are using their summer vacation as a time to serve others while strengthening their relationship with Christ.
The students are serving in a variety of mission fields, both domestic and international, coordinated through the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Go Now Missions and HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry.
Students are interviewed at their local BSM and then go through a process called Discovery Weekend, in which they are interviewed in small groups by the Go Now Missions team. The weekend’s purpose is focusing on discovering what God is doing in their hearts to shed light on where He is leading them to serve.
“They are encouraged to really discover their relationship with God,” said Keith Platte, BSM director at HPU. “It is less about the field, and more about what God has been putting on their hearts. Each mission field is a unique opportunity for students to serve others.”
Julia Rodriguez, a sophomore from San Antonio, is working at the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
“Her goal as she works throughout the summer is to be a positive Christian influence on her fellow workers at the park,” Platte said. “She will be working day in and day out with people who need the love of God. Who is better equipped to share that with them than their peers?”
Alyssa Castle, a sophomore from Lampasas, is serving in different sports camps throughout the eastern United States.
“She will be using her sports background to conduct sports camps with various churches and organizations across several states to minister to children and youth,” Platte said. “Sports camps have the opportunity to impact children and youth who would never set foot into a church of any kind.”
Tim Marlin, a sophomore from Uvalde, and Mason Thornton, a sophomore from Kempner, are serving the needs of families in Alaska.
“Tim and Mason will have the opportunity to help at one of the neatest service projects in Alaska,” Platte said. “They will serve and help mobilize equipment for volunteers and families who come to the Kenai Peninsula to gather fish during the summer salmon frenzy. During this time more than 10,000 Alaska residents will visit the peninsula. Tim and Mason’s team will help serve and connect with these families as they offer a beach ministry with recreational games, children’s day camps and much more.”
Ashley Whitaker, a sophomore from Cypress, is in Fort Worth working with a large population of refugees from around the world.
“She is partnering with local churches to help in the social, economic and most importantly spiritual transformation of these people,” Platte said. “With so many new things to learn about a new country, these refugees need people who are honest and kind to help them in their transition to America. Ashley is one of those people as she shows the love of Christ to the many people who have been brought across the globe to our own doorstep.”
A final student is serving in an undisclosed foreign location.
“She is primarily teaching in a refugee camp,” Platte said. “She has a wonderful opportunity to develop relationships with people who want to learn her language and share their experiences of their local culture. As she establishes friendships and engages in dialogue, she has the opportunity to share truth with those who may have distorted perceptions of her belief.”
Though they are working to serve others, Platte said that most students on mission trips say they gain more from the experience than they give.
“The purpose of missions is really two-fold,” he said. “First, the students serve a need on the mission field, whether it is a physical need or an evangelical need.”
Secondly, he said, students learn that “missions” can happen every day, no matter where they are.
“The students cultivate a heart and passion for what can be done when they get back to school,” he said.