NEWS & EVENTS
Dordt College News
Dordt students spent spring break on missions
March 31, 2011
This year 135 students from Dordt College spent their spring break serving others. Groups of seven to ten students participated in PLIA (Putting Love Into Action), traveling to one of 15 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Teams went to Denver, Colo.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Atlanta, Ga.; Neon, Ky.; New Orleans, La.; Cary, Miss.; Jackson, Miss.; Mendenhall, Miss.; Bozeman, Mont.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Camden, N.J.; Shiprock, N.M.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Ansted, W.Va.; and Toronto, Canada.
The goal of PLIA is to share Christ’s love with people in diverse communities; to challenge participants to adopt a more service-oriented lifestyle; and to assist and encourage the growth of ministry centers with which they work.
The Denver team spent the break painting two mobile homes, handing out fliers for a church, cleaning flower beds, and investing in the lives of others.
Kimberly Brinkerhoff, a Dordt College junior, summed up her feelings about the experience saying, “[PLIA] is one of the best ministries on campus for us to learn to see God through the eyes of others. We’re outside our comfortable friend groups and deepening our insights into the hearts of others. It’s an incredibly unique opportunity to see God at work on so many levels and humbling in spite of our pride and shortcomings.”
Grand Junction, Colo.
The Grand Junction team worked in a homeless shelter called Homeward Bound where they prepared and served meals, cleaned, hauled trash, and interacted with the children staying there.
“The beauty of Colorado’s landscape was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Grand Junction on PLIA. However, that beauty was nothing compared to the beauty seen in God’s people who we interacted with in Grand Junction,” said Kristin Janssen, a junior. The team saw that in spite of the poverty, pain, and despair of many in Grand Junction, residents were filled with happiness and reflected the light of Christ.
In Atlanta, the team dug ditches, helped build the sides of a house, sheared a sheep, and worked at an after school program with God’s Farm.
“The experience of working with the kids during this trip planted a strong desire in me to seek a child-like faith,” said Samuel Lee, a senior, about how this PLIA trip affected him.
Neon is located in the Appalachian Mountains. Students noted the contrast between the disrepair of much of the town and the quiet stillness of the amazing landscape. In Neon, the team helped make homes more safe and livable. They put insulation in a basement, stained a log home, and tore down a burnt house.
They met several grateful residents, one of whom appreciated their help in cleaning out his basement so much he gave each of them a handmade knife from his collection.
Sophmore Becca Van Dam said that the experience was difficult and physically challenging, but she felt renewed. “I feel rejuvenated both physically and spiritually. God definitely knew what he was doing and made this experience something I will remember and cherish.”
New Orleans, La.
“Even though Hurricane Katrina hit almost six years ago, a lot of work still needs to be done to help rebuild the city,” said Bekah Van Maanen, a senior.
The team worked with an organization called Touchglobal to help people rebuild their homes. Each day the group did a prayer walk around the community, praying and speaking with people they met. The students helped with roofing and construction, but they agreed that the most significant work they performed was serving the community in spiritual ways.
The Cary PLIA team did home repair work, roofing, dry-walling, flooring, and outdoor cleanup at the Cary Christian Center. But as importantly, the team worked with the organization to help break cycles of poverty by working to change people’s mindsets. “For me, the Cary Christian Center truly showed me how relationships can make an impact on people. You never know when a little conversation can change someone’s life,” said junior Jon Luetchens.
Railroad tracks are a visual divide marking the segregation that still exists in Mendenhall. PLIA students volunteered with Mendenhall Ministries, a mission that is working to break segregation and poverty while promoting reconciliation through the body of Christ. The teams’s responsibilities included extending the roof on a chicken coop, cleaning out pig pens, repairing holes in roofs, cleaning a storage shed, and painting fences.
Senior Abbie Ponstein describes one of the most memorable cleaning experiences. “One of the first jobs we did was to clean out a walk-in refrigerator. The only problem with this job was that many rats had taken up residence. In the midst of it all, rats were running out the doors, across people’s feet, trying their best to escape. Needless to say there was much screaming, yelling, and quite a lot of laughter. I can’t say it was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever done, but the rest of my team made it vastly entertaining, and now it’s one of my favorite memories of the trip.”
Snow-covered mountains surround the city of Bozeman, a welcome sight to the PLIA group. “While there, my team had the pleasure of viewing these mountains in the sun, the fog, and the snow. It is amazing to see how glorious God made the mountains,” said Holly Enerson, a freshman.
The group worked with an organization called Love in the Name of Christ (Love INC). They took inventory, organized warehouse space, delivered furniture, and chopped firewood. They also enjoyed some free time in Yellowstone National Park.
Las Vegas, Nev.
The Las Vegas you see on T.V. is not exactly the same city that the PLIA team encountered. In this desert land they saw a city that was dirty and rundown, where homelessness was far-reaching.
Students noted the images proclaiming sex, wealth, and eternal youth that permeated the city. “Some of the people we worked with are struggling to recover from believing the lies Las Vegas proclaims,” said Bjorn Vaagensmith, a Dordt College senior.
They worked at an after-school childcare center, a battered women’s shelter, a food shelter, and the Las Vegas Gospel Mission.
The Camden team seemed to have the most difficulty finding where they needed to go. “The amount of times we got lost was hilarious. We ended up circling a round-about at least five times and then got back on the same round-about and went around a few more,” Dordt College senior Laura Schrotenboer joked.
Once the team found where they needed to be, they worked for an afterschool program and helped with general upkeep of the facility. They did yard work, picked up trash, and painted.
“PLIA has humbled me. I have learned to have more of a servant attitude and not to judge, but rather be willing the serve anyone,” said Brett Leyendekker, a junior.
Shiprock is located on a Navajo Nation Reservation, the largest reservation in the U.S. Dordt PLIA team members were surprised by the variety of odd jobs the pastor of the local Christian Reformed church was responsible for each week including serving as the janitor, technician, driver, landscaper, and much more. They helped bear the load by cleaning up weeds and planting tomatoes. They also did some painting in the community and helped out in an elementary school.
While hiking a trail at the Grand Canyon, the Shiprock team had a frightening experience when a large rock fell only about six feet from the group. “God protected us that day,” said Katie Watt, a junior.
The overall experience at Shiprock left lasting impressions. Feije de Boer, a Dordt senior, said, “It gave me hope; hope that redemption is possible and that the church universal is alive.”
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City provided a unique challenge to students who experienced a very visible Mormon culture. They found that their greatest accomplishment, however, was not so visible. “Above all we were able to encourage the local ministers and church planters by being interested and involved in what they are doing,” said Geoffrey Stout, a freshman.
The Ansted PLIA team assisted West Virginia University in collecting the first health survey in the state. “It was a different kind of serving, but it is certainly both historical and very much needed in this place,” said Aleks Bosnjak, a senior.
“The survey will provide data comparing the health status of people who live in coal mining areas and those who don’t,” said Michelle Alkema, a sophomore. “We were involved in something that has the potential to effect policy that could change the circumstances of our brothers and sisters in West Virginia.”
The Toronto team not only served the homeless, they were housed in the church where many homeless people sleep and shower during the cold winters, giving the team a unique perspective on the work that they were doing.
They spent the majority of their time leading a camp for children who live in government housing. They decorated the space, acted in skits, played games, and helped with crafts.
“I enjoy having a fun experience with a group of people I don’t normally hang out with and serving in a city I am not familiar with,” Cara Slagter, a sophomore, said of her PLIA experience. “I am amazed at what God shows me through service trips like these.”