Judson teaches students empathy through global service missions
Nearly 80 Judson University students will help with Bible studies, building projects, and after-school programs among other service projects this year as part of the Elgin college's global mission trips.
Teams of students, faculty and staff members will visit seven countries -- Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and Ukraine -- and two in-state locations, starting in December. A majority of the service trips will take place during spring break, and at the end of the school year.
Judson's Global Outreach Ministry establishes partnerships with Christian groups abroad and helps with their local ministries, said Betsy Carr, program coordinator and a 2013 Judson graduate.
"A lot of our trips have some sort of community development aspect to them," Carr said. "We do whatever the partner needs ... painting, construction projects ... no matter what we are doing, we are serving alongside the people in the community."
Judson students get to learn from global church leaders, meet people from different cultures, and help transform their communities building relationships over several years of mission trips.
Mexico and Ukraine were added this year. A team will travel to Amealco, a town three hours north of Mexico City, to work with the missionary group Camino Global on leadership and community development in partnership with a new church.
"We're going to get to work in the city's community center, teaching English, doing crafts, music," Carr said.
In Ukraine, students will travel to Uzhgorod, a college town on the western side of the country, to minister to fellow students for International Teams USA. "We will also get to work with the Radvanka community gypsy village nearby," said Carr, who is coleading the trip.
Sometimes the students' role simply is to show kindness and empathy. On the Peru trip, students will work with Paz y Esperanza, a shelter for victims of physical and sexual abuse.
"The men who go on the trip are asked to just play and be with kids because a lot of the kids have very fearful views of male figures," said Chris Lash, director of University Ministries. "That actually helps (the women) in their growth and development, and healing to see men playing with the kids."
Helping people in abject poverty, whether overseas or domestically, also can be an eye-opening experience for Judson students, who typically come from wealthy suburban communities.
"Some of them are exposed to poverty for the first time," Lash said.
On two trips planned to the Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, Illinois, and Sunshine Gospel Ministries in Chicago, Judson students will help with after-school programs for underprivileged children helping them write resumes, apply for colleges and jobs, and serve the homeless, respectively.
"A lot of them will come back and say, 'I had no idea this was in our backyard,'" Lash said. "Some of them have to think through the benefits and drawbacks of a ministry and what it is (like) to serve the under-resourced for the first time. It gives students an understanding of the privileges they come from. Millennials are social justice focused. They love to participate and see ways in which justice is being enacted."
Judson's mission trips are open to all students, including non-Christians. To sponsor an upcoming service trip, visit judsonu.edu.