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by Alicia Bush

While most students would prefer to spend their spring break tanning on the beach somewhere, a group comprised of current students, one faculty and one staff member chose to embark on a week-long mission trip to the nation’s capital.

The group is assembled by Dr. Mike Sanders, professor of Christian formation as well as arts and science division chair at Warner University.  Sanders began working with the Center for Student Missions in 1996, after hearing about the organization while at a conference. 

“At the time CSM was working out of 3rd Street Church of God, which is our sister congregation,” said Sanders. “It was amazing to me that they had so many connections to resources and agencies in DC.”

The trip is advertised around campus and is open to those who are dedicated to raising money for the trip and giving up their spring break.  Once the group reaches the CSM site in DC, they are given an itinerary of various activities they will take part in during the week.

Each day the groups engage in two service projects with different ministries around the city.  Tasks ranged from boxing canned goods at Capital Area Food Bank to trimming grass and bushes with Seabury Age-In-Place.

“One day we helped serve breakfast to the homeless and another day we sang hymns to senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at a nursing home,” said student Jirah Ligon.

Projects, however, are not just about going through the motions.  Students are encouraged to engage those they come in contact with.  While making beds at a homeless shelter, students took the time to pray over each bed and room that would house someone in need.

“I appreciated how we were actually given time to connect with the homeless we were serving,” said student Jermaine Clark.  “I was amazed by how little they had, but how much they trusted God to provide for them.  It was such an encouragement and we have so much to be grateful for.”

Washington DC is a melting pot of diverse cultures and CSM is committed to broadening student perspectives.  Each night students are taken to a restaurant in the city where they get to experience food from different cultures.  CSM also arranges a prayer tour of the city as well as an “urban plunge” scavenger hunt.

“We were expected to complete various tasks and were only given two dollars to do it,” said Clark.  “We had to use the two dollars to buy a meal for ourselves and a homeless person.  The idea is to find agencies and churches around the city who help the homeless and experience what life would be like for them.”

The trip was eye opening for those students who attended.  “I would encourage my fellow students to join the DC trip by telling them it’s a great personal growth experience,” said student Mycah Richardson.  “You learn a lot about where you are spiritually and it helps you see ways you can make a difference in your own community.”

The decision to take a group of students on a mission trip to Washington DC for the past 11 years was never a difficult one for Dr. Sanders.  “Not everyone will go to a foreign country but everyone lives in a town or city,” said Sanders.  “I want students to realize that wherever they are there is great need and they can find ways to get connected and make a difference.”