Thirteen Shenandoah University students, faculty and staff members lent their hands and hearts in service to others during a weeklong mission trip to the Bahamas in January 2014. Working in partnership with the Office of Spiritual Life and Bahamas Methodist Habitat, the group repaired homes and visited the All Saints Camp, a refuge for individuals who are disabled, HIV-positive or cannot afford alternative housing. The team also worked with the Salvation Army, the Persis Rodgers Home for the Aging and the Bilney Lanes Children’s Home, one of six social outreaches of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church that addresses issues of abuse and child abandonment. The Bahamas Methodist Habitat works with the government to identify areas of highest need in order to make repairs and improve housing conditions.
Student team leaders Emily Howdyshell ’15 and Nicholas Ruxton ’14 worked with the university’s Office of Spiritual Life to develop a mission team that included Dean of Spiritual Life Justin Allen, Spiritual Life Coordinator Amanda Shenk and students Jess Brown ’16, Ryan Davis ’16, Kayla Fox ’16, Samantha Howlett ’17, Emily Menhorn ’15, Mary Miller ’15, Amy Robertson ’17, Cassie Scott ’15 and Victoria Stowell ’14. Several members of the team trained this fall to lead mission trips through the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.
Team members gained a new perspective on their own blessings, while helping others in need.
“Our goal was to truly represent Christ and His service to the Church, said Ruxton.
“On our first day, we worked at an area called Pit Road, where we repaired, scraped and painted houses,” said Ruxton. “Members of the community stopped by throughout the day to thank us for the work we were doing. At the end of the day, we talked to children about their families and what they loved to do after school. At the Salvation Army, we painted all-purpose rooms and sorted clothing in the thrift shop.
“We changed bedding and painted at the Persis Rodgers Home for the Aging, where we also spent time talking with the residents,” he said. “The home was understaffed and did not have enough hands to complete certain projects. So with high energy and positive attitudes, we completed several projects, relieving the staff to redirect their attention to the residents. Some prayed with us and sang songs. We shared our favorite scriptures with each other. Later, with the help of our local guide, we learned how to pick and open coconuts — a first for many of us!”
The team also visited with residents at the All Saints Camp. They prepared lunch and served children and workers at the Bilney Lanes Children home.
“We played games, sang and danced with the children,” said Ruxton. “The matriarch of this facility, Momma Kim, made sure we felt welcomed and comfortable. She introduced us as ‘the children’s aunties and uncles,’ and stressed that ‘whatever we said goes.’ When we arrived, she said, ‘Welcome home babies! I am glad that you decided to come back.’ For some, this was the highlight of the week.
“No matter where we went or what we did, we talked about how happy the people were,” Ruxton explained. “It didn’t matter if they had everything they wanted or had nothing. They were all making the best of their situations in life, and they said they were ‘blessed.’”
In addition to service, the mission team enjoyed some fun in the sun and made lasting memories and friendships. Plans are underway to return to the Bahamas next year. For more information or to get involved, contact the Office of Spiritual Life at firstname.lastname@example.org.