Samford University students fanned out across the country during Spring Break week in late March.
Dozens gave up their cherished mid-semester respite from classes and exams to participate in mission efforts in four states and the District of Columbia.
While a group of 12 stayed in Alabama to do community ministry in Perry County, others traveled to Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia and the nation's capitol.
In the Show Me state, 15 Samford students undertook a variety of urban ministry efforts. Volunteer Landon Eckhardt had one word to describe the experience: "unfathomable."
"God's love was poured so lavishly on the people of St. Louis through us," reports Echardt, whose team worked in a Christian Activities Center (CAC), a battered women's shelter, a food bank and a retirement community.
At the CAC, they cleaned the facility and renovated part of it for use by an adult literacy program.
"Every day, we spent five hours building relationships with the kids who would come into the CAC," said Echardt, explaining that the facility gives East St. Louis inner-city youngsters a place to play and receive tutoring.
The students put muscle into mopping floors and cleaning the kitchen at the women's shelter, and put heart into building relationships with the staff. At the St. Louis Food Bank, they formed an assembly line to prepare food boxes to be taken to the poor and elderly.
"We made over 600 boxes that fed over 4,500 people," said Echardt, a freshman business major from Hurst, Texas.
At Our World Retirement Community, they cleaned buses and made friends with the elderly.
All in all, he said, the week was a long and hard one. "However, God taught us how to truly love each other, and the people we are in contact with every day," said Eckhardt.
One night was particularly special for the Samford volunteers. "We had a time of candlelight, and washed each other's feet as a remembrance of why we were in St. Louis," said Eckhardt, adding that they based that night and the entire mission trip on the scripture passage from John 13, in which Jesus washed the disciples' feet.
"God teaches that without love, salvation is impossible. What happened in St. Louis was indescribable as lives were forever changed."
The Samford spirit was also shared in March through the efforts of four other groups:
The dozen students who worked in community ministry in Perry County under a Samford in Mission grant.
- The dozen students who worked in community ministry in Perry County under a Samford in Mission grant.
- The five students who worked with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans in a project sponsored by a Samford in Mission grant.
- The 65-member Student Ministries Choir that sang and the 12-member In His Hands troupe that performed through sign language and interpretive dance in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C.
- The 10 Word Players who worked with Hurricane Katrina evacuees in New Orleans.