(April 1, 2008)
Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073
Students Forego Traditional Spring Break Activities for Mission Trip
SHREVEPORT, La.—Sitting on a well-worn wooden bench wiping the dirt and grit from her eyes caused by the constant blowing sand, studio art major Helen Feild sits back, takes a long drink of her bottled water, looks around at the other college students working in the hot sun, smiles and says, "This is how I really enjoy spending my spring break!"
Feild, a senior at Centenary College of Louisiana, donned boots, scrubs and work gloves, and joined 12 other fellow students in Reynosa, Mexico, March 14-19 digging trenches, scrapping and removing old flooring, and tearing down old buildings.
The mission trip was sponsored by the Christian Leadership Center and the Chaplain’s Office at Centenary and coordinated through the Louisiana and Mexico offices of Volunteers in Mission to help people in a very poor area of the country. The goal of this mission trip was to assist the people of the community by helping construction projects for a local Methodist church in the city, and provide medical assistance at a remote fishing village along the Gulf Coast.
"This is my first trip to Mexico, but not my first mission experience," said Betsy Eaves, Chaplain at Centenary College. "I hope to bring back a better understanding of how we fit into this world, how we all can help and benefit one another, and experience how much we have in common even though we live in different areas of the world."
The group witnessed first-hand on just how life is different almost immediately after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. To protect against the threat of drug wars by rival gangs, Mexican soldiers have been stationed along the border, some patrolling on foot armed with rifles, others stand watch from a machine gun turret in the back of a Humvee assault vehicle. Gone too was the green grass, replaced by dirt, rocks and plastic bags that blew wildly in the air, affectionately known as "Mexican tumbleweed."
Undaunted, the group pressed further into Reynosa and went about completing the task at hand…helping those less fortunate. On the first full day, half the group remained at the church compound to help in moving and cleaning areas so that a new Sunday school classroom could be built. The other half went to Matamoras, a small fishing village, to help establish medical records and provide medical assistance to the doctors also there volunteering their time. The students helped where needed, taking blood pressures from those who lined the entry, along with temperatures and heart rates.
"Working in Matamoras opened my eyes to intense poverty and the vast need for healthcare," said junior biology major Nicole Clifton. "When we arrived, the village church had been rearranged into a clinic and several children crowded outside the church doors. We played with the children, took vitals, worked in the pharmacy, and observed Dr. Elias and a volunteer pediatrician from Baton Rouge. One thing I found really interesting was the hospitality. The women of the church cooked us fish for lunch, and crab and oysters when we were done. I learned that people having the least to give sometimes show the greatest hospitality."
The last two days the group focused their efforts on the local Methodist Church in the city. Despite high temperatures, constant high winds and blowing sand, the flooring of the church Rectory was pulled up in preparation for a new floor, an old building torn down and the hardest of the jobs— digging a trench in rock-hoard soil so that a wall could be built.
"I never knew it would be so hard just digging a trench," said senior James King. "I had blisters and physically tired but it was a great feeling to be able to help others less fortunate."
Thirteen students made the trip and included: Helen Field, Nicole Clifton, Dane Chambers, Sam Timpa, Derek Fogleman, Rhagen Russell, James King, Sunny LaGrone, Matthew Keus, Taylor Tichenor, Amanda Fontenot, Jennifer Bouso and Jessica Cosenza. Four Centenary staff members also made the 11-hour road trip and included Betsy Eaves; Laura Canfield, Mission Coordinator of the Christian Leadership Center; Sherry Heflin, photographer and communication specialist; and Rick DelaHaya, Director of External Relations.
Scholarships were provided for each student. The funds were donated by the Centenary Muses and Student Government Association, as well as private donations.
For more information about upcoming mission trips, contact the Christian Leadership Center at 318.869.5280.
View the full Mission Trip slideshow.
About Centenary College of Louisiana
Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and is regularly rated as one of the top colleges in the South. In 2008 Centenary College celebrates 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.