This summer APU sent student and staff action teams to 19 different countries on mission trips. The Center for Student Action helps prepare and mobilize students to serve locally and globally, in hopes that they not only make a difference but come home transformed as well.
CSA’s motto says it all: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!” quoting James 1:22 from The Message.
The center has a longtime desire to make APU students “difference makers.” Each year its work continues to grow with more and more willing students eager to go out in the world and discover new things about themselves and God’s people.
Senior liberal studies major Stephanie De Wyn made a life-changing decision to go to Kolkata, India, last summer with five other women and three men. They worked with an organization called Good News Children’s Ministry as well as five Mother Teresa homes.
De Wyn explained that she worked at Shanti Dan with girls and women age 15-30 who were mentally challenged, and at Daya Dan with kids 5-18 with similar disabilities.
“Both of those experiences were really rewarding for me because I want to go into special education, and it definitely just reaffirmed that that’s what I want to do with my life,” De Wyn said. “It’s going to benefit me for the rest of my life. I learned so much from it and have things that I can apply to my life later in my career.”
She said that the hardest part about being in a place with so much poverty was seeing the vastness of it all.
“You can’t even think of a solution because it’s so crazy,” she said.
In India, women often are looked down upon and are seen but not necessarily heard.
“It was hard to acclimate to that,” De Wyn said. “We had to be quiet when we were in public and not look men in the eye. Here in America, we are very much focused on equality and it’s not like that at all there.”
De Wyn said Christians often go on missions trips to have a life-changing experience, which she said is not the right mindset.
“But putting that all aside and going because God called you to be there makes you die to yourself and do it for him and not for yourself, making it a better experience overall,” De Wyn said.
De Wyn hopes to go back to India sometime in the next few years and said because of her experience this year, her heart will always be there.
Senior liberal studies major Michaela Grocott went to Cambodia this summer. She went there as a junior, and returned this year as a team leader, which she said was a very different and rewarding experience.
“The first time I was more worried about myself and the experience I got out of it, but then this time as a leader it was a lot different,” Grocott said. “I wasn’t totally focusing on me and my experience, but I had to make sure everyone else got what they wanted out of the trip.”
This summer Grocott and her team worked at an international school, Eli School, which is run by Filipino missionaries. It was hard for Grocott to see the suffering around her and know there was not much that she could physically do to help right then and there.
Grocott said her favorite part of the trip was getting to know all the people she met.
“I don’t think I have ever met as faithful of people in the United States as I have met there. They are just good, kind-hearted people who are genuine and willing to help you,” Grocott said. “Those relationships will last forever.”
Senior psychology major Leslie Darmanian went to Uganda along with five other students and Woody Morwood and his family. Darmanian had never been out of the country before, so she came into the trip not knowing what to expect.
“It was a really good overall experience, and it was almost better coming in with an open mind and no expectations because I didn’t have anything that I was hoping would be a certain way. I just let it happen,” Darmanian said.
It was hard for Darmanian and her team to see the struggles around them in the third-world country. She explained that it was a good reminder that poverty happens in America too, even though it is more prevalent in certain areas.
“It was hard, but cool to see the kids in the schools and how much they value the littlest things like pens and pencils; it was so sacred to them,” Darmanian said. “We got the opportunity to share pens with an art class, and it was really cool because we got to see them get so excited about something we take for granted.”
Darmanian takes joy in sharing about her experience in Uganda and about the African culture.
“For someone who has never gone on a missions trip before, it was a great experience and I wish I had done it earlier,” Darmanian said.
These are just some of the many students who made a difference in the world this summer. They and CSA believe the world can never be too big and people can never be too small for God’s work to be done.