Last week, 34 students and staff from Concordia University Ann Arbor joined with 25 students from the Mequon campus for spring break mission trips to New Orleans, Louisiana and San Raymundo, Guatemala.
As a Lutheran higher education community committed to helping students develop in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the Church and the world, Concordia utilizes breaks in the academic calendar to offer immersive opportunities to serve alongside one another in communities near and far.
Spring break mission trips have become a highly anticipated time of year for many students at CUAA. In fact, the available slots to participate in the 2019 trips were filled within minutes of opening.
“Our students’ hearts for service truly demonstrates what it means to be a Concordian,” said Campus Pastor Randy Duncan. “We want to encourage them in any way we can to influence their communities, connect those not-yet-Christian with the saving Gospel of Jesus, and value their brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
On Friday, March 15, 22 students and staff members gathered in CUAA’s welcome center to launch their drive south to Camp Restore in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Concordia’s Ann Arbor campus joined CUW on this annual trip in 2014, and has sent a group every spring break since.
The mission team was divided into four work groups, serving in areas across the city including Concordia Lutheran School, Love in Action food bank, Giving Hope food pantry, and Miss Gloria’s community garden, as well as hands on labor in houses that were under restorative construction. Each morning at 8 a.m. they would receive their assignment for the day and return to Camp Restore for showers and dinner prepped by the beloved camp chef, Miss Lorraine.
The team spent their evenings exploring the city, worshiping in the Spanish plaza, grabbing dessert of gelato or beignets from Café du Monde, taking a ferry across the Mississippi or a trolley through downtown, debriefing and recapping the day in their small groups.
Julie Weinlander, staff member in CUAA’s school of education, has been a leader for the New Orleans mission trip for the last four years. Weinlander says she didn’t know what to expect for year four, but was blown away by another humbling and uplifting experience.
“The group was amazing, the weather was unbelievable, and to witness the students’ hearts of service just always gets me. I always have a blast working alongside the students and experiencing New Orleans,” said Weinlander, who said her favorite moment from the trip was singing “How He Loves Us” during evening worship one night at Camp Restore.
San Raymundo, Guatemala
On Sunday, March 17, 12 students and staff from Concordia University Ann Arbor met up with the other 8 members from CUW at the Atlanta airport to continue their trip south together to Guatemala City and then on to San Raymundo.
The Guatemala mission team partnered with a volunteer organization Casas por Cristo—meaning houses for Christ—to build a home for a family about 45 minutes into the mountains from San Raymundo, Guatemala.
Each morning, the team would head out to the worksite at 7 a.m. to work on the construction of a home that they built from the ground-up during their days in Guatemala.
“Before the trip, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how we were going to build a home that people could actually live in, so believing in ourselves was the first step,” said CUAA student Ross O’Brien who also participated in CUAA’s January mission trip to Panama City, Florida. “Seeing God work through us to do something most of us had no experience with was an amazing thing to witness.”
O’Brien said that because of the language barrier, he wasn’t able to communicate with their words to the family very much, but sharing a smile was enough to see the appreciation this family had for them being there each day to work on their new home.
On day one of building, the students mixed and poured the concrete for the foundation of the home and began working on the frame. On day two, the walls were built and the group began work on the siding. On day three, the siding was completed and the group added windows and a roof. The house was then complete and they held a home dedication for the family.
“After the second day, the family came to see the house and the mom couldn’t stop crying. It was so touching,” said O’Brien. “Then actually presenting the family with the house when it was finished was truly a blessing that I cannot put into words.”
The Concordia group was able to explore the city of Antigua before making their trip back to the United States.
O’Brien shared that mission trip experiences like this have not only impacted his faith in meaningful ways, they have also prepared him for his future by allowing him the chance to work with a team, pushing him beyond his comfort zone, showing him there are new skills to be learned, and helping him to see the world from a different perspective.
“My most memorable moment from the week in Guatemala was hearing the family pray. I’ve never heard someone pray like that before, with so much emotion. I don’t know exactly what they said, but I want to have that much emotion when I pray,” said O’Brien.
See more from the spring break mission trips by searching #CUserveNOLA and #CUserveGuatemala on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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