In a year where “distance” was mentioned more often than anyone wished to hear, Grace Christian University students celebrated unity as they were able to once again serve off campus as one body. Director of Field Operations for Grace Ministries International (www.gracem.org) Don Ten Hoeve, recently joined a group of Grace Christian students as they served in Puerto Rico. The gift of serving together, off-campus, was a long-awaited blessing. The group was led by student Justin McMaster, who shares thoughts from this experience.
“Our week in Puerto Rico started with a long day of travel. Day 1 consisted of eating DELICIOUS food and getting acclimated to our living situation at Camp Caribe. The next morning, we went to church at Iglesia Biblica de Juana Diaz, where Pastor Jose Juan preached about unity within the body of Christ. His message set the tone for the week, as we would eventually find out that unity is important for any team to be successful. This same day we also went cliff jumping in the rainforest.
Monday we started work; first at a sheep farm on the west side of the island in the city of Sabana Grande, next at Camp Caribe. On the farm we cleaned stables, worked with the animals and clipped their hooves and built fences. Camp Caribe involved scraping paint, cleaning buildings, painting and yard work.
One highlight was the quality time spent with the owner of the farm, Pastor Leonard Torres. Pastor Leonard (Leo) explained to us how our team was such a blessing to his farm, and our help came at just the right time for him. God clearly had a hand in guiding us to his farm to serve them. We went to the tropical rainforest on the east side of the island where we spent the day cliff jumping, rope swinging, and swimming in the crystal-clear water. In the capital city of San Juan we tried delicious coffee and went sightseeing. Friday we attended youth group at the church in Juana Diaz and made lasting relationships with the kids there.
The week was tough both physically and emotionally for everyone. The theme of “unity” helped guide us through the week and by the end of the trip, all 13 members of our team became close like a family. The biggest takeaway from the trip was the fact that each person was pushed to the edge of comfortability, whether it was during daily devotions, working through the extreme heat, or persevering through the mental exhaustion of a week’s worth of ministry and manual labor. We watched our teammates during cliff jumping off a 40-foot cliff, and this image reminded us of our walk with Christ – sometimes we hesitate to take that leap of faith. We need to be obedient and take the leap by giving our life to Him.”
Grace Christian University student groups have often traveled with Grace Ministry International leaders, though this became impossible due to travel restrictions and the importance of overall campus safety remaining a top priority. Uniting to serve others is foundational for these organizations, and reengaging in this way brings much excitement of things to come.
Written By Statia Smith