Embedded in the fabric of Southern Adventist University is the desire to serve. This burden can be seen in the institution’s mission statement: “Southern Adventist University as a learning community nurtures Christ-likeness and encourages the pursuit of truth, wholeness, and a life of service.” This is more than lip service. Spring break mission trips are just one way the university and students work together to live the gospel call.
For three consecutive spring breaks, 2004-2006, Southern’s Gym-Masters travelled to the Dominican Republic. They promoted an anti-drug message through various programs, and built relationships with the local community. After three years visiting other states and countries, the team returned to the Dominican Republic.
“They were requesting us to come back,” said Richard Schwarz, Gym-Masters coach.
The team arrived in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, March 2, and stayed for a week. There was no shortage of work to be done, and the Gym-Masters were involved in a variety of tasks during the trip. They collaborated with Fletcher Academy on their Maranatha building project one afternoon, and spent time at a children’s hospital on another afternoon. True to their mission, they provided workshops for 250 future physical education teachers and the Dominican Adventist University’s student-led gymnastics team.
“We learned the value of communicating with our eyes, motions, and touch,” Schwarz said. “The students never ran from an opportunity to help and interact with others!”
Both the School of Nursing and the Technology Department have been going on mission trips to Nicaragua for more than 20 years, and this spring break was no exception. The two teamed up to take 15 students to Nicaragua on a 12-day mission trip.
Last spring break, the School of Nursing sent a group to Haiti. That was the first time the school hadn’t gone to Nicaragua since 1997. The school was planning to return to Haiti this year, but couldn’t because of the country’s current unrest.
For Dale Walters, chair of the Technology Department, this was his 23rd trip to the east coast of the country, which is heavily populated by Miskito Indians. He took two technology students with him, and they worked on four vehicles while they were there. By the end of the trip, they were able to get a truck running that hadn’t run in three years.
The other trip’s sponsor was Brittany Ryder, graduate clinical coordinator for the School of Nursing. It was Ryder’s first medical mission trip and it became an eye-opening experience for her.
“The trip made me thankful for everything,” Ryder said. “Just the simple things in life, like washing my hands.”
Ryder and a team of 13 students worked at mobile clinics, treating about 70 patients a day.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you are able to use the technical skill you’re learning about in school in the mission field,” Walters said. “And it makes you realize more fully what else you need to learn.”
Early on February 28, a second group from the School of Nursing headed to the Amazon Lifesavers Ministry, located in the northern part of Brazil.
The Amazon Lifesavers Ministry is run by Southern alum Bradley Mills, ‘07. Maria Valenca, associate professor in the School of Nursing, and Melissa Tortal, Christian Service program director, went along as sponsors with the 11 students.
“It was the perfect combination of clinical work and spiritual work,” Valenca said. “We gave a copy of the Great Controversy to every patient we treated.”
Originally, the American Lifesavers Ministry was started in the 1930s by a Seventh-day Adventist missionary couple saw a need for medical service along the Amazon River in that area. The husband was an engineer and his wife was a nurse. He built a boat and they would travel up and down the river treating the villagers. In 2007, the ministry was revived.
The whole trip, the group slept in hammocks on a boat as they travelled to a different village each day and set up mobile clinics in the schools. They even spent one day constructing a church.
Seth Sutherland, sophomore nursing major, was deeply impacted by the entire experience.
“I was personally blessed to be able to go see how the Lord is working among the villages,” Seth said. “A simple smile, a simple medicinal treatment, and a simple story go far in the mission field.”