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Dordt College News

100 Dordt students serve on PLIA mission teams

April 10, 2009

PLIA Group

This year during spring break at Dordt College, 100 students chose to serve on 11 PLIA (Putting Love Into Action) teams with the college’s student-run mission outreach program. This year’s sites included Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Camden, NJ; Cary, MS; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Inez, KY; Jackson and Mendenhall, MS; Shiprock, NM; and Toronto,ON, Canada. The PLIA trips took place March 12-21.

The goal of PLIA is to share Christ’s love with people in diverse communities; challenge participants to adopt a more service-oriented lifestyle; and to assist and encourage the growth of ministry centers with which they work.

Birmingham Team

The Birmingham PLIA team volunteered at The Center for Urban Missions and New City Church. They cleaned and painted stairwells, assisted a senior citizen computer class, and cleaned out “the boneyard,” a parking garage full of discarded items. Old computers, cinder blocks, cardboard, etc., were all moved into large dumpsters. The group also planted flowers and did yard work, as well as participate in a church service and Bible studies.

A highlight for Tasha Nikkel (Sully, IA) was the hospitality of their hosts, who showed them around Birmingham, including the Civil Rights Institute. “Our whole group really benefitted from learning about segregation, the tortures the blacks endured, and talking to people who actually experienced the Civil Rights Movement … PLIA is an awesome way to get to know not only people from Dordt, but people from different cultures with different views. The kindness and appreciation we received from the people in Birmingham was an awesome way to see God at work,” concluded Nikkel.

Camden Team

The Camden PLIA team volunteered in the school and after school programs of Urban Promise Ministries, a non-profit organization that serves inter-city kids in the poorest city in America. They also did some miscellaneous jobs at the facility including putting up basketball hoops, painting court lines, and installing wiring in the school and house.

“My experience at Camden has challenged me to think about where and how God is calling me serve,” said Sarah Franje (New Sharon, IA). She described Camden as the poorest city in the richest state. “One minute we would be in a run-down neighborhood, and not seconds later, we could be in a nice developed area. Dordt’s work group was encouraged to “think not how can the children of Camden beat the odds, but how can we change the odds.”

Franje said she enjoyed bonding with Dordt students she hadn’t gotten to know before the trip, as well as with three first grade girls she became attached to during the week. “It was hard to leave them at the end of the week.”

Cary Team

The Cary PLIA team served at the Cary Christian Center and at homes in Mayersville and Rolling Fork. They shingled a home, painted, gardened, built a small deck, sorted food, and assisted at the thrift store.

“This experience was a refreshing reboot in my faith life, and helped me to realize some things about myself and the people around me,” said Lucas Teeuwsen (St. Catharines, ON). “We were trying to help out and bless the people in Mississippi, but as the week went on we became more and more blessed by the very community we were trying to help out.” Teeuwsen found the spiritual strength and confident faith of the people at Cary Christian Center inspiring, and also appreciated the friendliness of the people.

“Some of the most memorable experiences were when our team would just be hanging out and God would open a door for a conversation or an opportunity to impact a child by playing or spending time with them,” remarked Carrie Goff (Crawford, NE). “There is something really amazing about seeing God work through every day things and people.” “During the trip there were times when we all were tired, or when things just didn’t go the way we thought that they should. Yet it is in those times that God let us see not only how to put love into action but also gave us love for the people around us.”

Chicago Team

The Chicago PLIA team volunteered at Roseland Christian Ministries Center, which consists of a drop-in center, a thrift store, and a women/children shelter. The church has remodeled and rented out six houses on their block, where the PLIA team helped install dry wall, painted, and cleaned. The Dordt students also helped children with homework, did crafts, played games with them, and shared Bible stories.

“The neighborhood in general was something that will always stick in my mind,” said Anna Slagter (Sibley, IA). “After seeing people who can carry all their belongings in a bag, I know that I can live with less stuff. I am thankful for the experience.”

Ephron Poyer (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) noted expressions of gratitude they received for the work they did, and a chance encounter on a train where a woman was boldly and loudly proclaiming her faith.

Denver Team

The Denver PLIA team volunteered with Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. (BRI), a company that renovates homes of low-income, elderly, and disabled people to enable them to continue living independently. The team painted five houses and built a wheelchair ramp.

“The woman who lived in one of the houses we painted had recently had a stroke. When she came home from the hospital she had a newly painted house,” noted Charis Hornor (Houston, TX). “I liked doing physical work for a change, and it was nice doing something for someone else. I would have stayed another week if I had the chance … I really felt like I was doing it not just for the people in Denver, but for God.”

Kaitlin Hoogendoorn (Sioux Falls, SD) said the mission trip opened her eyes to the world around, reminding her to live in a Christian way.

“Whether it was painting, doing the dishes, or fooling around, getting to know and working with my group was a fantastic experience,” said Trent Geleynse (Randolph, WI).

Atlanta Team

The Atlanta PLIA team worked with the Atlanta Youth Project God’s Farm, at Bright Futures, and at The Luke Project. The Dordt team cut down trees, did landscaping and general maintenance, as well as interact with the children. “I enjoyed ministering to the kids and the feeling of making a difference,” remarked James McCall (Hastings, MN).

Inez Team

The Inez PLIA team volunteered with Appalachia Reach Out (ARO), where they relocated a food pantry and layette ministry, and also worked and organized the thrift store. The team also volunteered at an Independent Baptist Church, where they put up wood siding, painted, and insulated a kitchen and storage addition. Team members painted in a home, and on their last afternoon had the opportunity to talk with kids at a middle school about their hopes and dreams for the future.

“ It was amazing to experience the drastically different lives people live within this one country,” said Laura Dykstra (Edmonton, AB). “So often we get wrapped up in our own world, forgetting about how others only hours away are lacking the basic things we take for granted.”

The group particularly enjoyed participating in worship on Sunday at both First Baptist Church in Inez and the Independent Baptist Church near ARO. Dykstra said, “I really enjoyed learning about the lives of the people in Inez and the Appalachia region. Our leaders at ARO were great about answering our questions and explaining to us the values and ideas of the people that differ from our own. Having the chance to be a part of the community for a week was a great opportunity to learn and begin to understand the lives of the people there.”

Jackson Team

The Jackson PLIA team did projects for Voice of Calvary Ministries, which is a nonprofit organization that seeks to “rebuild people by rebuilding communities through the gospel.” The team painted walls, houses, and garages, as well as spending some of the beautiful sunny days landscaping, trimming shrubs, mowing lawns, raking leaves, and cleaning up a park.

“We saw poverty, racism, and ultimately the need for hope,” said Steph Wiersma (Rock Valley, IA). “We considered how to put love into action in our school, work, home, church, or community, and not be afraid of building relationships with people who think or live differently than us.” Wiersma said the youth group of Voice of Calvary Fellowship was on spring break as well, so they had the opportunity to build relationships.

Janie Hoezee (Coopersville, MI) noted that driving, working, and walking in Jackson showed her how much poverty affects peoples’ lives. “Every day we would see many homeless people walking the streets, carrying all their belongings in a single bag. I realized how often I take for granted a safe house that doesn’t need a barbed wire fence and a security system around it to keep intruders out. Another huge issue that became more real to me was how racism is still happening today.”

Mendenhall Team

The Mendenhall PLIA team volunteered at the Mendenhall Ministries Farm and at homes in the community. At the farm Dordt students built a chicken coop, cleared fences, painted, trimmed goat hooves, put seed meters on the planter boxes, did spring maintenance on farm machinery, hung a field gate, and painted the farm office. Out in the community the team cleaned and painted homes, hung drywall, installed a door and handrail, and trimmed trees.

Fixing a Tractor

Kurt Franje (New Sharon, IA) recalls two additional tasks: pulling the group’s van out of the mud, and pulling a pickup back to the farm with the tractor “when two of my group members drove it out of gas while joy riding.” Franje adds there were many great experiences, stories, and laughs, and he’ll definitely remember the bonds with group members. “I definitely ate more sweet potatoes in one week than I usually do in a year,” adds Franje, who also appreciated late night Bible studies. “PLIA has challenged me to develop more patience, but I was primarily challenged to look at God's true calling in my life, what true sacrifice is, and how I am called to display it in everyday life.”

An experience that stood out to Rachel Werkhoven (Monroe, WA) was working with an African immigrant tagging, castrating, trimming hooves, and deworming his goats. Werkhoven had done similar work with calves back home, so enjoyed the experience with goats. The immigrant shared his story and “it made me realize that there are many people in the world that need our help. Some of them live just a days’ drive away: we don’t need to travel far to find people in need.”

Heather Enerson (Estherville, IA) recalls painting alongside a pastor’s wife: while they worked, Mrs. Fletcher talked about growing up as a black person in a racist state. “PLIA has impacted me by showing me a different culture. Since the people there don’t always have everything they need, they are always trusting and looking to God every day and every hour of their lives.”

Shiprock Team

The Shiprock PLIA team worked at Bethel Christian Reformed Church and in the community. They painted the sanctuary and pastor’s office, did spring cleaning of windows and walls, trimmed trees for church members, picked up trash, raked, hauled sand, and did additional yard work. Team members also typed hymns into the computer, and began setting up the church and parsonage for wireless internet.

“The experience of being on the reservation opened my eyes,” said Michelle Smith, (Cedar Rapids, IA). “We saw how God was at work as we talked to people in the church over Indian tacos, and heard some of the miracles God was doing among the people … It was just incredible to go alongside the ministry of bringing love and hope to the Navajo people, and I felt that our work empowered Pastor Jon to be able to continue the work that he is doing. His dedication and passion for the Lord, along with love for the Navajos, is what drives his ministry.”

Shiprock Team

The team was amazed that Pastor Jon is in charge of everything at this church: he’s the secretary, pastor, janitor, planner, and “anything else you could even imagine.” In Lauralee Alberda’s words, “It has shown me that you don’t have to go on a mission trip to put love into action. Pastor Jon was doing it from the place that he lives in, by caring for the people and listening to them.”

The group also had the opportunity to do some rock climbing at Shiprock, which the Navajos regard as a sacred rock. They appreciated both the beauty of the scenery and learning more about the Navajo people and their way of life.

Toronto Team

The Toronto PLIA team volunteered at Urban Promise, where they helped with day camps for underprivileged children on spring break.

“The kids at Camp Hope live in poverty, and are generally expected not to get very far in life,” said Jessica Harvie (Orleans, NE). “This camp gave them an opportunity to learn about Christ, who can really impact their lives.”

Harvie said PLIA was a chance to relax, get away from school, and see new places, while also helping others and growing in her relationship with Christ.

Breanna Schneidermann (Minneapolis, MN) sums up what many PLIA participants expressed, “I really appreciated getting to know a whole different group of people that are outside my friend group. It was also nice to serve and have fun at the same time. Those are experiences I will likely never forget, and I am very grateful for them.”

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