Many Samford University students returned from Spring Break spiritually richer because of mission trips they undertook during their March hiatus from school work. One group, however, learned lessons about patience and God’s hand in the details before arriving at their destination.
Samford Ministries Choir president Rebecca Glenn is a veteran of several spring performance tours, but not one has begun like this year’s March 18 departure for New Orleans, La.
“I stayed behind to drive down with a choir member who needed an emergency trip to the dentist,” recalls Glenn. While waiting on campus for the dental patient, she learned that the bus, only 30 minutes down the highway, had a flat tire with complications that rendered it un-drivable. Frantically calling rental companies, she contacted one that luckily had a last-minute cancellation on a 15-passenger van. She arrived at the rental site 10 minutes before it closed.
“We were three hours late leaving and were in a 15-passenger van and three cars instead of our 30-passenger bus, but God provided. He worked it all out,” said Glenn, who later reasoned that things happened as they should have. “If the girl’s tooth hadn’t fallen out, I wouldn’t have been at Samford to rent the van. God knew what he was doing.”
Shaphan Helms and Nicole Roberts, like all 27 choir and In His Hands sign language ministry members on the tour, returned from the six-day Louisiana trip spiritually blessed.
Helms, a junior history major from Fayetteville, Ga., assisted with a health clinic sponsored by Church of the King and worked alongside local volunteers in a trash pick-up detail. “The organizers from the church encouraged us to take the opportunity to show the city the love of Christ,” said Helms.
“I think we all sensed the dual nature of our surroundings: the light of Christ shining through the choir and the locals who were volunteering their time, and the darkness that pervades much of the city,” said Helms. “It was great to be a part of what God is doing in New Orleans, and to come alongside those who are working to spread the gospel there year around.”
Roberts, a member of the sign language ministry, was inspired at a service in which they sang and signed for people with special needs at Williams Boulevard Baptist Church.
“In this particular service, the people worshipping with us tried to follow and sign along to the songs. It was very moving,” said Roberts, whose ensemble signed the words to the hymns “Be Unto Your Name” and “I Bless Your Name.”
The group also received special thanks following a service at New Orleans Mission. “A deaf man came up to talk to us and thank us for signing some songs so he could understand,” said Roberts, a senior family studies major from Cumming, Ga.
Despite the bumpy start, Glenn wouldn’t have spent her spring vacation any other way.
“For me, there is no other option for spring break,” said Glenn, a senior education major from Hillsboro, Ala., who joined SMC as a freshman. “SMC is a family, and what better way to spend spring break than by serving others and enjoying the fellowship of your brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The choir will tell more of their experiences and present a full concert Thursday, March 24, at 7 p.m. in Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel. The public is invited.
Twenty-one students traveled north with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Samford to minister in inner city Chicago. Volunteering through Bridge Builders ministry, the group experienced a broad scope of urban life through visits to different sites each day.
For Evan Musgraves, the trip that focused on bridging racial and economic barriers was a lesson in “moving from a self-centered gospel which views salvation as simply a ticket into heaven, to a gospel as a way of doing ministry.”
An unexpected re-assignment due to a third grade class undergoing state testing proved to be a blessing to Musgraves as well as to educators at the urban school where he volunteered.
“They needed help in the library organizing books and re-organizing 30 years worth of student files,” said Musgraves, who along with Samford junior biochemistry major Jordan Ross eagerly dug in to the challenge.
“It was quite the task, but both Jordan and I have worked in libraries, and I currently work in special collections at the Samford library, doing exactly what needed to be done at this school,” said Musgraves, a junior history major from Yucaipa, Calif.
Although it was a tedious and seemingly menial project, Musgraves and Ross felt helpful at relieving the school secretary of a chore that she would have had to tackle in her free time.
The trip was organized by Samford RUF campus minister Jason Sterling, a 1997 Samford graduate who well knows the impact that such trips can have on students.
“My college years were a huge time of spiritual growth for me. It is a crossroads for many people,” said Sterling, who credits experiences during that time with his decision to choose a career in campus ministry.
“The Chicago trip was born out of the fact that we believe the poor are close to God’s heart, and we wanted to expose our students to an inner city ministry that works with the poor,” he said.
The Samford wind and jazz ensembles toured parts of Alabama and Florida with concerts at various venues.
They inspired a Sunday morning, March 20, congregation at First Baptist Church in Winter Park, Fla., before helping with an afternoon service project at nearby West Orange High School. During the trip, they also performed at Alabama schools in Prattville and Daleville, and at First Academy in Orlando, Fla.