“It actually began with a little boy who kept tugging at my clothes. I had given him a shirt and some pants but he needed some shoes. I looked around and this one boy, who already had shoes, had got another pair. I felt badly that I did not have an extra pair for the little boy, so when I saw this girl, who was about 12 or 13, without shoes, it was a chance to make up for it.”
Bower, an aspiring dentist, was one of 17 WAU students who sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas for the 9 days and 10 nights trip, led by Chaplain Kaneil Williams, and sponsored by Zack Plantak, Ph.D., chair of the religion department.
While they thoroughly enjoyed life aboard the cruise liner and the adventure of travel, it was the opportunity to serve that beckoned and fulfilled them most.
“As an active member of the United States Air force National Guards, I have said the words, “service before self…” many times before. This trip brought new meaning to these words, as I went on my first mission ever; only that I was a soldier in the Lord’s army,” said Chenelle Chichester “The experience really changed my life and I look forward to Cruise 2014. “
The La Perla community in Puerto Rico, known as one of the islands most notorious neighborhoods for violence and drug trafficking, was the first stop for the group. Undeterred, the group played a friendly basketball match with residents before moving to the local community center for worship and distribution of clothing, toys, and health and food supplies, all donated by the students.
On their second stop, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, the group led devotion and played volleyball with students from St. John St. Thomas Seventh-day Adventist Academy, handed out bags of toys and supplies to students at Nanna Baby Care, a state funded orphanage and played games with troubled young people at Sea View Adolescent Center and encouraged them to make the right choices for their future.
The last stop was Samana, Dominican Republic. Students led worship with members of the community in Downtown Wilmore and painted a local church.
“The distribution in Wilmore was the highlight of our mission trip,” said Chaplain Williams. “ In the midst of rain showers, students passed out pain medicines, vitamins, and supplies to residents. None complained and everyone worked together to make sure that everyone got something”
It was here that Bower gave away the shoes off her feet and gave real meaning to Jesus’ teaching: “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
“That experience was worth the whole trip,” Williams said.
“Cruise with a Mission 2013” has helped to redefine what mission work looks like in a post-modern context, he added.
“Cruise ships can me more that floating resorts if we let them. Though we could not omit the pleasures of the setting, we found a way to make that experience peripheral to our purpose, which was to serve those whom we met,” he said.