Helping others while growing in faith
Channa James, 20, fondly remembers her first mission trip.
It was 2016 and she went to Haiti, with a group of volunteers, to complete a building project.
The children in the Caribbean nation greeted them with such excitement; she couldn’t believe how much love and appreciation they were shown for doing something so basic to help out.
The experience was so positive she signed up to travel to Panama with her alma mater, Bermuda Institute.
She’s one of 22 people affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist school returning from the Central American country on Monday, having left the island on March 29.
The group partnered on the trip with Maranatha International, an Christian-based volunteer organisation operating around the world.
The journey came about after Frigga Simmons of the Bermuda Institute had a life-changing experience volunteering in the Dominican Republic about a year ago.
She felt that exposing students to something similar would help them to mature in their faith and develop their character.
Despite the unlucky coincidence of having it fall at the same time as a school trip to Europe, 16 students signed up.
“Having the option to pick between spending their school break in Europe having fun or on a mission trip serving others in Panama, I thought it would be a no-brainer which one the students would pick,” she said.
“However, I was pleasantly surprised that several of our students, past and present, opted to join in and go on the mission trip.”
Maranatha is a non-profit whose aim is to spread the gospel throughout the world through short-term mission trips.
Volunteers are encouraged to raise their own funds for travel and lodging.
In return for their effort, they get to take part in a life-changing service activity.
Each year, the charity organises more than two dozen building projects; since their inception in 1969, they have worked in more than 80 countries around the world.
Pastor Cyril Millet joined the trip as a spiritual adviser and chaperon for the students. His hope was that they used the opportunity to become more aware of other people in less developed parts of the world and how they live.
“We also hope there is some faith development where they can look at their own lives and reflect on their relationship with God and the importance of loving and reaching others and serving other people in other cultural environments,” he said.
“It would be good for them to leave Panama with a sense of how God’s spirit is at work in their lives and how they can be used by God to minister to and help other people, while at the same time growing in the faith themselves.”
Ms James’s 15-year-old sister Brianna, also travelled to Panama. “I’ve never experienced this before so it’s all new,” the teenager said before she left.
“I want to learn about the culture and how the people live, but I also want to teach them what I know about God and for them to keep growing in their faith even after we leave.”
Kijani Burgess, 14, was also extremely excited about the experience.
“I want to show and tell people about how God has impacted my life by bringing me to a Christian school,” he said. “Since I’ve been at Bermuda Institute, I’ve had the opportunity to worship God every day. It’s taught me to love God and other people.
“Hopefully the children will sense the change that’s happened in me and want to get to know God for themselves.
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