During a week in March, homes were repaired, hearts mended and eyes opened, thanks to the efforts of Samford University students who spent their spring break on mission trips.
"It opened my eyes to a lot of new things," said Lauren Gossett of her trip to New Orleans, La., where she said her most meaningful experiences were visiting a nursing home and AIDS clinic. "It was nice to connect to the people there on a personal level."
She and 12 other Samford students also worked with the youth department at a predominately black Baptist Church, and helped a church family with a home sheetrock project. The Word Players drama team performed Bible-based skits for various audiences.
Gossett was struck by the gratitude expressed by the homeowners. "It was really touching," said Gossett, who also appreciated the enthusiasm she felt during a worship service at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
"If that is what heaven is going to be like, I am excited," said Gossett, a junior sociology major from Fredericksburg, Va.
Traveling and serving together gave the New Orleans team members new appreciation for each other.
"Seeing their passion for the Lord really impressed me," Gossett said of her cohorts. "I loved Word Players and their performances. They really do have a special gift in how they share the message."
Lyord Watson, 2001 Samford graduate who is now enrolled in Samford's Beeson Divinity School, was team leader.
While Watson's team worked the Big Easy, other Samford groups went east to South Carolina and north to New York City.
Nine students worked with Go Forth Alliance ministry in the Big Apple and Brooklyn Tabernacle, an inner city church.
Building on relationships made during prior spring break trips, the group led by senior management major Landon Eckhardt engaged in street evangelism, adult tutoring, prayer meetings and other ministries.
"God really opened my eyes to see how big He is," said Meagan Sloan, a junior sports medicine major from Oneonta, Ala. "I was amazed to see the Christian ministries already taking place in New York City."
In South Carolina, the 32-member Samford Ministries Choir performed at East Cooper Baptist Church in Charleston and at a retirement community in Laurens. In Spartanburg, they helped clean and make repairs at First Baptist Church.
According to trip leader Stephen Moss, a highlight was the day spent at Spartanburg's Miracle Hill Rescue Mission, where they visited with clients and assisted with meals and other projects. That night, the choir treated the mission's clients to a full concert..
"It was a truly worshipful experience, and we as a choir were moved just as much as those attending," said Moss, a junior journalism and mass communication major from Panama City, Fla.
Choir members commented on how the performance caused them to really think about the words in the songs, said Moss.
"It was so encouraging to us to see the feedback from the mission's clients."