BY SHELLY BARSUHN
On a gray March afternoon during spring break 2010, the snowbanks had receded, revealing lost gloves and garbage on south Minneapolis sidewalks and streets. Pedestrians hopped across muddy puddles. Drivers swerved to avoid deep potholes.
But a group of University of Northwestern students who had purposely missed the planes to warmer climates were experiencing firsthand missions, diversity and outreach in their own backyard. Three men, seven women, they represented a host of interests and academic majors, but they shared a passion to learn from and serve people in their community.
The University of Northwestern Antioch Covenant Community co-hosted this mission trip with Source Ministries, a local nonprofit located in urban Minneapolis. “We wanted to partner with a local ministry for a short-term service-learning opportunity,” said David Fenrick, director for the Center for Global Reconciliation and Cultural Education, “in order to help students understand that opportunities for participating in God’s mission are right here in our own community.
“You don’t need a passport or a plane ticket to be engaged in cross-cultural mission and ministry. Not everyone can afford to go to Mexico or San Diego, and missions should not be just another travel option to check off on one’s to-do list or places-to-visit list.”
Source is a diverse organization that runs an urban art center, outreach to homeless youth, transitional housing and a church plant. With the guidance of Director Peter Wohler ’87, students went on a week-long journey of service in the city. Whether inside homeless shelters or on the street, they nurtured relationships with “the least of these,” leaving the comfortable surroundings of their familiar spaces and facing their own anxieties about missions in the city.
UNW Resident Director Andrew Kim, one of the co-leaders of the trip, said that it was an intense experience for everyone. From 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, participants confronted the reality of hunger, poverty and spiritual need. Students worked, toured, talked, met people and wrestled with a new understanding of the Christian’s role in the world.
Ryan Schreck ’10, an accounting major, said that after three years working as a downtown valet, he had been “exposed to how people treat each other, whether wealthy business professionals, the homeless, celebrity entertainers or people on the street. It made me realize the Church needed to help.” Someday he hopes to be involved in the development process for low income transitional housing.
Koobmong Kong ’11, an intercultural studies major with a minor in urban studies, wants to “do something for the Phillips neighborhood.” On the trip he took out trash, ate food with homeless people and communed with them. He admitted that he would need time to digest all he had seen and experienced, but was encouraged. “We’re seeing homeless people as part of the family rather than just ‘different.’”
Stephanie Morgan ’11, who is working toward a degree in English as a second language (ESL) education, said the urban trip was “powerful.” She had expected that she would eventually work overseas but, after the urban trip, was more comfortable with the idea of staying in the city. She saw how even simple outreach could make a difference.
This opportunity to partner with a local ministry brought Northwestern students face-to-face with people in need. It tore down barriers, providing an opening for ongoing contact, service and friendship.
For more information, visit sourcemn.org.