Spring Break trips leave lasting impact

Service projects and missions trips change lives.

Just seeing the after effects of Hurricane Katrina as the people of New Orleans continue to re-establish themselves, or witnessing how the work of a "medical brigade" makes a meaningful difference can leave an impact on a person.

This past Spring Break will leave a lasting impression on the hearts of not only 16 Huntington University students, but also the people whose lives were bettered by the services provided by these teams.

The Joe Mertz Center for Volunteer Service, a campus organization dedicated to volunteer projects and community service, sponsored two missions trips during the university's Spring Break in March - one to Honduras and another to New Orleans to help with the clean-up efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

Three HU students and one staff member traveled to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and teamed with World Gospel Outreach to offer dental services and medical screenings to local residents. The team shared the gospel with anyone willing to listen and learned why and how short-term missions trips make a difference. They also discovered a little more about themselves and the Honduran culture along the way.

"God gave me complete peace about being in the missions field after graduation," said Megan Verhasselt, a junior mathematics education major from Bartlett, Ill. "By the end of the week, I had zero desire to come back to Huntington. I could have stayed in Honduras."

Casey Overpeck, a senior recreation management major from Rockville, Ind., led a second team to New Orleans to help rebuild an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Overpeck said the team of 13 split up with one half of the team working at one family's home while the other half cleaned and laid concrete for a church parking lot.

The team at the family's house helped with dry walling, laying sheet rock and sanding. Not only did the team's efforts and time make a difference to the family, but the family told the team stories about what it was like when Hurricane Katrina hit.

"I took a walk with one of the locals, and he told me about this one guy who swam to this convenience store and took food so he could feed his family," Overpeck said. "When we got to the end of our walk, I turned and saw where students continue to learn in these trailers, and that just now, six years later, the government of New Orleans is starting to rebuild the schools."

The other half of the team polished a church's parking lot by painting the lines and blocks of the parking spaces and cleaning up the debris left over from Hurricane Katrina. The team spent time learning about Hurricane Katrina at a museum in the French Quarter and walking around the city to get a better understanding of the culture.

"It felt like we were almost in another country," Overpeck said. "I remember asking myself, 'This is America?'

"These missions trips are not about just building a house - you're rebuilding a home."