MOBILE, Ala. – As many college students headed to the beach during class breaks, a group of University of Mobile students took a break of a different kind and used their mid-semester vacation to share the message and love of Jesus Christ.
The annual event, called “The Bridge,” gives students at the Baptist university a hands-on ministry experience that serves to build a bridge between the university and the ministries with whom the students partner, and between those ministries and the communities they serve.
“The objective of this trip is to take a group of students out of the ‘Bible Belt’ and expose them to a different culture within our own country,” said Hannah Stokes, student life coordinator for university ministries at University of Mobile. “Bridge trips typically go to bigger cities, working with church planters and Christian ministries, to serve alongside them and learn how they approach ministry in a context much different than ours.”
Over the years, students have visited places like Seattle, New York City, Las Vegas and more. This spring break, one group visited Miami while others served in Washington, D.C.; New York, and Portland, Ore.
Students on the Miami team included Anna Caroline Scales and Zac Moore, who served as student leaders; Madison Verkouille, Sierra Dillenschneider, Wayne Tolbert and Noah Whittington. They were accompanied by Chase Alford, director of university ministries.
The Bridge is also a learning experience, as students learn to serve and to lead.
“I learned a lot about patience and flexibility. You’re trying to befriend everyone and serve these ministries, but you’re still leading. That’s a hard balance,” said Anna Caroline.
“I learned you don’t have to go to a third-world country to be effective in ministry,” said Zac. “There are people, communities and cities (in the United States) that need to hear the voice of the local church, the voice of believers and the word of God.”
While the team was in Miami, they partnered with several different organizations. One organization, Catalyst, is a ministry for youth in Miami who participate in the four elements of hip-hop: breaking (or break-dancing), graffiti, emceeing and DJ’ing. The organization has been meeting on Saturday nights since Sept. 8, 2001, missing only two nights due to inclement weather.
“Getting to work with Catalyst was great. They are so intent on reaching people through their hobbies and what they like to do. From there, it’s easy to build discipleship-relationships,” noted Anna Caroline.
The group also worked with Redemption Church Miami, a church plant in the community of “Little Haiti,” so-called for the large population of Haitian immigrants residing there. The church is pastored by Jeremiah Taylor, through the North American Mission Board. It meets at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, where the group also attended church on Sunday.
University of Mobile students Sierra Dillenschneider, left, and Anna Caroline Scales spent their spring break on “The Bridge,” an inner-city mission trip that sends UM students to volunteer in cities across the United States each year.
The Monday following, students helped Jeremiah deliver invitations for Redemption’s Easter service. They went from home to home, meeting people on their front porches and learning about their lives in Little Haiti.
“People were so welcoming. Many were simply curious about what we were doing in Little Haiti,” reflected Anna Caroline.
The students also served at the Miami Rescue Mission, who reaches out to the homeless community of Miami. Students helped prepare dinner, then served food for three hours. The first hour, they served to those who live at the mission itself; the next two hours, they served others who do not live in the mission.
When the students had spare time in their afternoons or evenings, they explored the different parts of the city. They visited the beach, attended a Miami Heat basketball game and shopped –all the while, they spent time in fellowship with one another.
“Our trip to Miami was well-balanced between ministry and downtime, which allowed us to get to know each other. My favorite part was getting to know the people on my team. It’s amazing how much you can learn about people in a short amount of time,” said Zac.
For their last ministry experience, the students met with the Krisi House Child Advocacy Center, a mission that focuses on removing children from situations of sexual abuse as well as human and sex trafficking. They learned about the seriousness of trafficking in Miami.
About University of Mobile:
University of Mobile is a Christ-centered liberal arts and sciences institution with a vision of higher education for a higher purpose, founded to honor God by equipping students for their future professions through rigorous academic preparation and spiritual transformation. Core values are: Christ-Centered, Academically-Focused, Student-Devoted and Distinctively-Driven. The university offers on-campus and online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in over 40 areas of study. Founded in 1961, University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.
For more information about University of Mobile, visit the website at www.umobile.edu or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.