Dozens of Samford University students spent their spring break week in March ministering to others, both singly and in groups, in Alabama and in South America.
While a student at Samford's Beeson divinity school student traveled to Venezuela for a second time, a group ventured only 70 miles from campus to rural Perry County, Alabama.
The days in the Perry County town of Marion were filled with activities as varied as sorting donated medical supplies to entertaining school children who were on spring break.
"We made bead necklaces, played basketball, blew bubbles and created pavement art with chalk," said leader Leah Shell, a junior interior design major from Raleigh, NC., who noted that the diversions were appreciated by the children as well as their mothers.
The seven Samford students also spent time learning local history by visiting historic sites and attending services at Berean Baptist Church in Marion.
It was one more opportunity for Samford to help the people who live in the area that first nurtured the school, which as founded as Howard College in Marion, in 1841. For several years, various academic components at Samford have connected with area residents to provide health and educational services.
In Florida, the Samford Ministries Choir shared music and themselves with residents of a nursing and independent care facility in Bradenton, where they gave four concerts and undertook five service projects.
The giving of themselves is not just a spring break phenomenon for the 50-member choir, which was accompanied to Florida by members of Samford's In His Hands sign language ministry.
"Ministry is who we are as a choir body," explains trip leader Amanda Williams, a senior biology major from Stone Mountain, Ga. "Sure, we love to sing, but touching people by something as simple as cleaning up a yard or going door to door in a nursing home to chat for a few minutes is who we really are as Samford Ministries Choir."
Choir member Rebecca Glenn was touched by the gratitude shown by the people they met.
"Not only were we able to serve them, but in return they ministered to us. That was a great part of the trip," said Glenn. "God used our encouraging others to encourage us as well."
In Louisville, Ky., 10 students worked in a church-sponsored facility that serves as a day shelter for homeless people and as transitional housing for men who have been dually diagnosed with mental illness and addiction.
Though most of their work entailed projects around the building, the Samford volunteers were urged to develop relationships with people. It was an eye-opening experience for group leader Kristen Lindsey and the others.
"We learned what regentrification looked like in the city of Louisville, what it was like to be homeless, and what it meant for a church to do urban ministry," said Lindsey, who won't soon forget one man who had battled homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction for years.
"In November, he came to the transitional housing program, and shortly thereafter accepted Christ, and now is a thriving Christian. Hearing his story and seeing how God was transforming his life was a beautiful testimony of God's grace," said Lindsey, a Beeson divinity student from Sheridan, Ark.
Sam Fielder spent his break in Venezuela, where he taught Old and New Testament scriptures to two Christians from Venezuela and Honduras.
The goal of the teaching sessions, explains Fielder, is for his pupils to take the lessons he has taught them and re-teach them, translated into Spanish, for hundreds, if not thousands, of their countrymen.
"This is a humbling thought and indeed re-teaching at its finest," said Fielder, a Beeson divinity student from West Palm Beach, Fla.
His time in Venezuela also included a visit to communities near Maracaibo, where he had been a spring break missionary in 2007. "It was really cool to return and see the continued work that has been done while I was away."
Samford also had a spring break presence in New York City, where 16 students and classics professor Doug Clapp worked with Brooklyn Tabernacle. Their agenda included tutoring at a learning center for people of varied nationalities and ages, assisting with a free HIV Aids testing project in Manhattan, cleaning up a day care center in Harlem and other hands-on ministry opportunities. Landon Eckhart, a junior business major from Hurst, Texas, led the group for the second year.
A high point of the trip, said Eckhardt, was working with the Tabernacle's evangelism ministry prayer stations in Brooklyn, where they distributed tracts and took prayer requests.
"We saw two salvations," said Eckhardt, who expects his group will continue the spirit of revival now that they're home.
Missions is not a trip, he says, "but an everyday experience where you are."