Students were transformed from the inside out as they served others in places such as Arizona, Brazil, El Salvador and Honduras over spring break.
Trips in Brazil and El Salvador involved medical missions locations, in the mountains and on a tributary of the Amazon River. In Honduras, the team partnered with Children’s Impact Network to love and encourage children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected. In Arizona, the team returned to a Navajo reservation with Love Missions, led by Tina Kadolph, to continue to build relationships and serve the church there.
The teams will share their experiences at Stories from the Field, 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 5 in the DeSantis Family Chapel.
Brandon Martin, a junior studying international business, was one of 15 students who helped with children’s and youth ministries, gardening, human trafficking awareness education and other work on a Navajo reservation. He returned after co-leading a CM Global trip there over the summer.
He was surprised by how many people remembered his name, even if he only had a conversation or two with them previously.
“Being back in that environment made me feel super loved,” he said.
One person who wasn’t there to greet him was a 100-year-old woman who passed away. Martin’s mind went straight to his memory of her praying for the PBA students in her native tongue on their last visit. He didn’t know what she was saying, but he knew it was impactful. He went to pay his respects at her grave on the Navajo side of the Grand Canyon.
One of the teenagers the PBA students connected with on their last visit is getting more involved in the church and taking a leadership role with the youth, thanks to the encouragement of the pastor there, Martin said.
“It’s definitely more impactful for the kids to see a Navajo teenager in that role,” Martin said.
Martin enjoys working with teens but struggles to connect with very young children, he said. But at one of the youth nights, he found himself at the drawing table helping a young boy make a picture of the church. Then someone handed him a baby.
He viewed it as God’s way of saying to him, “You’re not limited to your own understanding. You can do anything through me. As long as you’re showing love, there’s no limit.”
Eleven students, including two graduate students, partnered with IsleGo Missions to serve on a medical boat, visit homes and organize activities for children.
Each day, a Brazilian medical doctor, dentist and pharmacist traveled to different villages, where the PBA team went door-to-door and listened, talked and prayed with people, said co-leader Jason Williams, a student in the Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies.
“It allowed me to have a greater appreciation for people who have a different way of life,” he said. “They are very in tune with nature on the Amazon.”
Toward the end of the trip, Williams drew strength from reading John 15, where Jesus describes Himself as the vine and His followers as the branches; the branches bear fruit from abiding in the vine, Jesus explains.
Williams said he saw that play out when the missionary pastor shepherding the PBA team told them he saw an increased openness to the gospel message in one of the villages they visited where people had previously been resistant.
“If you are faithful, God will be faithful, and He will provide for you,” Williams said. “Seeds were being watered.”
For co-leader Mai Homrich, a nursing student, the experience confirmed her calling to medical missions. At the beginning of the trip, she shadowed the nurse who triaged people and the dentist – who pulled one patient’s tooth and made a new one on the spot.
The team spent the latter days of the trip organizing children’s ministry activities and going door-to-door, talking to people about their lives, families and Jesus.
“What stood out to me was the community-building,” said Homrich, who learned, “Just be there. Be open to talking. He will do what He wants.”
The group even celebrated the wedding of a Brazilian couple they worked alongside who legally married during COVID-19 but were unable to have a ceremony, Homrich said.
Nursing student Jessica Dennis had her sights set on going to El Salvador when she learned of the trip while touring PBA as a prospective student. Led by Assistant Professor Dr. Bri Andrassy, nursing students have been going to the Central American country in partnership with King’s Castle Ministries for close to a decade. Thirteen went this spring.
Dennis, a junior from Tequesta, Florida, said her courses emphasize caring for the whole person by attending to a patient’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health.
“This trip was a good embodiment of providing holistic care,” Dennis said.
The group set up a mobile clinic at a local church and divided into teams, going door-to-door in the village with El Salvadoran nationals and church leaders. They checked blood pressure and blood sugar, and if the readings were high or there was another health issue, the students gave people tickets to get treatment at the clinic, where they could get prescriptions filled and also see an eye doctor.
At each house, El Salvadoran church leaders spoke and prayed with patients. King’s Castle set up counseling and prayer stations at the clinic. While the nursing students prayed for their patients, the patients simultaneously prayed for their travels, Dennis said.
“During those moments, I saw God working and felt Him there,” she said.
She plans to take the lessons she learned in El Salvador and apply them to the patients she will care for in the U.S. For example, she has greater empathy for patients who may not be able to afford their medications. She wants to work with them to help them get the resources they need, she said.
Chelsey Alceme, a junior from West Palm Beach, said she went to get outside of her comfort zone – and that she did, over four days of going into the village. On the second day, going up the mountain on a cattle truck, “I was so scared I had to close my eyes.”
“We were so motivated on our mission that nothing else really mattered,” Alceme said.
In the beginning, she had been skeptical, scared and in serious culture shock, she said. But the warmth of the people began to change her.
“They’re really close to each other and really connected,” Alceme said. “They don’t care who you are or what you look like.”
She was humbled. She wants to return for a two-month internship this summer. “I have a different view of the world,” Alceme said. “It’s not about the luxuries. Just go out there and spread kindness in the world.”
In Honduras, a team of five PBA students joined with students from another school on spring break and the Children’s Impact Network to host Sidewalk Sunday School, construct a new Life Center for orphaned and abandoned children and visit families in need of prayer and sustenance.
The Life Center provides a home for abused, neglected and abandoned children who are raised by house parents. The team poured concrete for the construction of an additional home that can accommodate 40 more children, said co-leader Josiah Lange.
For co-leader Sarah Mae Rossman, an early elementary education major, the experience reaffirmed her calling to teach abroad. During Sidewalk Sunday School, the team put on a Bible skit, worship music and block party for the community. They danced and played soccer.
Although it was hard to say goodbye, “I got to see more of how God cares for His children,” Rossman said. “Sometimes we can’t comprehend how much God loves us individually.” She recognized that the care she was showing the kids reflected the care that God has had for them since before the foundation of the earth.
More sobering were the home visits to deliver food to families in need, Lange said. Two were raising children with special needs and one was a woman debilitated by a stroke. It underscored the need for prayer, Lange said.
“Prayer is really important. I’ve always run to God in prayer,” Lange said. “It was constant prayer.”
The language barrier also reminded Lange of the importance of serving with integrity.
“Even though you can’t necessarily speak the language, you can live in a Christ-like way,” Lange said.
The experience taught Rossman about approaching cross-cultural work with humility, she said.
“We can’t go in with the mindset that we’re there to impact them,” Rossman said. “They so greatly impacted us. The first step to ministering to someone is having a relationship with them and learning from them.”
Photo 1: PBA students helped with children's and youth ministries, gardening, human trafficking awareness education and other work on a Navajo reservation. They also appreciated the scenery.
Photo 2: Brandon Martin, a junior studying international business, got out of his comfort zone and held a baby at a children and youth night.
Photo 3: Students jump rope, blow bubbles and play games with children in Brazil.
Photo 4: Students on the Brazil team pray alongside Brazilian nationals.
Photo 5: Nursing student and Brazil co-team leader Mai Homrich, far left, and nursing student Israel Montero (center) pose for a photo with a team of Brazilian nurses and medical professionals they worked alongside.
Photo 6: Nursing students check blood pressure on a trip to El Salvador.
Photo 7: Nursing students pose for a photo in front of the mountains of El Salvador. The students hiked up and down the mountains to visit people in their homes and encourage them to visit a mobile clinic if they had high blood pressure, high blood sugar or other medical issues that needed attention.
Photo 8: The Honduras team poses for a photo in front of the Life Center, a home for oprhaned and abandoned children. They poured concrete for the construction of an additional home that can accommodate more children.
Photo 9: Sarah Mae Rossman, left, and another student enjoy a popsicle with a little girl in Honduras.