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ACROSS ARKANSAS–When Christian college students go on spring break trips, it usually means they drive to a semi-close location to minister at a local church. This past March, college ministers across Arkansas offered their students a different kind of spring break.

University of Arkansas sophomore Julia DenHerder went to Puerto Rico with her Baptist College Minister Cole Penick, and 5 other students from 4 Arkansas universities.

“‘Why are you doing disaster relief in Puerto Rico?’ my friends asked me before the trip,” DenHerder said.  “Wasn’t that hurricane awhile ago?”

Even though the hurricane was six months prior, DenHerder called the need “eye-opening.

Her team served 2592 meals and worked 38 hours per team member for a total of 266 hours. DenHerder called the need “eye-opening.

“Arkansas Disaster Relief helped us significantly cover the cost,” said Penick. The Baptist College Ministry statewide under the umbrella of the College + Young Leaders Team and the North American Mission Board Send Relief Project made the trip possible too, he said.

The group shared the gospel 31 times, distributed 12 Bibles, distributed 30 tracts and made 34 contacts for the local Baptist church–Metro Vineyard in San Juan.  “This was not Habitat for Humanity, but a Gospel mission,” Penick said.

Thirteen students students and 2 staff members from Ouachita Baptist University partnered with a refugee ministry based in Anaheim, Cal., called Voice of the Refugees.

Students passed out food and helped people from countries like Iraq, Egypt and Syria with their English. “They come as refugees because their life is in danger or they’ve lost their homes or out of political and religious persecution, both Christians and Muslims,” said Ouachita Baptist Campus Minister James Taylor.

The team met people from different backgrounds they might not get to meet in Arkansas, said Taylor. “Students come back understanding how difficult it is for refugees to lose their home. They have a face to put with it.”

Michael Clayton, campus minister at National Park College, took 7 of his students and 3 from Northwest Arkansas Community College on an educational apologetics experience in Kentucky. “They’re hearing the, ‘Why do you believe Christianity?’ questions earlier through public schools or through friends,” said Clayton. “The last thing students want to give is an ‘I don’t know’ answer.”

Apologetics leader Chris Kohlman taught 6-7 hours about how to defend your faith. In addition, the group visited the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.

“One of our students has a really good friend who is an atheist,” said Clayton. “He said he wanted to be better prepared when his friend asks questions about his Christian faith.”

Every other spring break he’s taken with students, First Baptist Church College Pastor Josh Mauldin said were based around mission trips. This year, University of Arkansas sophomore Jeffery Kutter said Mauldin “wanted to give us a different experience: to learn a lot and have fun.”

Mauldin took eleven from his church and five from the Baptist Campus Ministry at the University of Arkansas in Ft. Smith to Louisville, Kentucky. The team visited the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Creation Museum and Southern Seminary.

Mauldin said they visited the seminary because he wanted students like Kutter to know where their (Southern Baptist) cooperative dollars went, where their Southern Baptist pastors come from and how ministers train.

“I learned how seminary works in general,” Kutter said. “We toured the campus and visited classes, went to chapel and had lunch with a professor who graduated from the University of Arkansas.”

Mauldin said this spring break worked for his group. “We wanted to grow in an understanding of God’s world and grow in relationship with others,” he said. “ We hit both goals.”

Lisa Falknor is a writer for the College + Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and a northwest correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News 

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