Campus News

Students ‘on task’ in Cancun, Mexico

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Where did you spend your spring break? The beach? Here in wintry Indiana? What would have been your dream destination? How about Cancun, Mexico? Going to Cancun for spring break is usually a dream that a choice few get to live out. Last week, Bethel gave students an opportunity to jet off to our southern neighbors for spring break … but it might not be for the reason you think. A group of around 20 students headed to Cancun last week through a Bethel program called Task Force. Students worked with a missions organization called Back2Back in helping young children and widows in the more impoverished areas of Cancun. “Throughout the week we’ll be playing a lot with kids,” said Krissy Campbell, the leader of the group headed to Cancun, when asked about activities the week before the trip. “We’ll do, like, a VBS, we’ll simply hang out with them, maybe talk to some of the widows there.” Matt Damico, a senior criminal justice major on the Cancun team, said that the group jumped right in and began serving as soon as they arrived. “When we first landed, we dropped our bags off at the house we were staying at and then right away we went and bought groceries for a family in need,” said Damico, looking back on the trip. “That was when my eyes really opened to the severity of how poor they are and how much poverty there is.” Damico said the group “did a lot of construction work and concrete for the community centers and the neighborhoods and stuff and hung out with the kids too” throughout the week. The trip stretched from Monday, March 2, to the following Sunday, March 8. The week in between focused on the activities stated above: working with children and widows, doing construction work for various community centers and neighborhoods and, as Campbell put it, “(carrying) the kingdom of God to children and families as an extension of Back2Back.” Task Force and Semester Abroad director Laura Winningham described Task Force as an opportunity through which students can “move beyond their current cultural, spiritual, academic and relational contacts.” Reading from the online Task Force overview, Winningham added that “through short-term and semester-length trips, students encounter fresh cultural experiences and service opportunities designed to challenge them academically, stretch their global outlook and spur them on spiritually, all while growing in Christian community.” It sounds like a very comfortable missions trip—heading to Cancun, Mexico. But Winningham made it clear that Task Force is all about service. “I think a short-term mission team is the type of experience that you get out as much as you put in,” she said. “So if you’re really wanting to go and grow, and whether that’s with your team that you’re going with from Bethel, or with the people you get to serve alongside the organization or working with the people in the community that you’re serving alongside of, I think it’s the type of thing that you can grow in a lot of different ways and then in a lot of ways it’s not in the ways you expect to grow.” Campbell agreed. “I would say that this has a huge impact on everyone that goes,” said Campbell. “I think for students, it’s short, but it’s a great opportunity to even have a 1 degree change in their life, maybe even just one perspective that’s changed by seeing the lives of other people, by interacting with people that are different, but similar in so many ways.” Task Force is definitely a unique experience for students. When asked if he would recommend the trip to others, Damico said that he thinks it depends on the person. “I think you need to pray about it before you do make the decision and make sure that it’s something on your heart that maybe God wants you to go through and then experience,” he said. When asked about his thoughts now that he’s been on the trip, Damico had this to say: “If you just have a passion to love others I would definitely say this is a trip for sure you need to go on ... there’s a lot of families that are in need and there (are) a lot of kids that are struggling and are without fathers and mothers.” Task Force is a way for students to reach out to others, but it’s a way for students to be impacted as well. “I think one of the things that’s really beautiful about Task Force is you’re not getting anything out of it,” said Winningham. “You’re not getting any academic credit, you’re just going and you’re giving of your time and you’re giving of your resources and you’re doing that to serve a different community, whether that’s through orphan care, through sports ministry or through medical ministry … I think it’s a really cool way to give back and … also to see how God’s working in other countries.” Damico described the impact of seeing the need in Cancun as a slap in the face. “To just see how those people were living in poverty was huge for me. I think even in, not necessarily the Bethel bubble, but the American bubble, I got used to running water … and clean houses, and heat and air conditioning and food.” The cost for Task Force ranges widely depending on the trip. Local trips generally run about $300 and the range extends to about $2,000 for longer or farther trips. The Cancun trip ran about $1,100 to $1,500. Task Force helps students raise support for the trips by having fundraisers and encouraging students to send support letters out. Damico also said that there are pay periods to help students manage the cost. So as you think back on your spring break activities, give a thought to those students who spent their spring break a little differently: helping those in long need of a spring break of their own. “You will definitely work hard and God will use you for sure,” said Damico, “You’re going to give 110 percent every day but it is worth it.”

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