Nineteen students from Morningside College’s Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team, along with two staff members, spent their spring break in the Lake Charles, La., area helping survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The trip took place March 3-10.
The VIM team gained new perspectives and experienced Southern hospitality at its finest while completing their service project. While in Louisiana, they tore off and replaced the roof of one house, removed moldy drywall, carpeting, and linoleum, and laid wood laminate flooring in other houses.
| This group photo was taken in front of the University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, La. Participants in the mission trip include: front row, seated Brad Mallet, Katie McGuire, Erin Freml; second row, Nicole Branstetter, Megan Walding; third row, Beau Kildow, Yuichi Ichinose, Michaela Anderson, Brooke Pottorff, Mina Depuydt, Kathy Olson, Brenda Chord, Laura Andersen; fourth row, Robbie Rohlena, Missy Keiper, Lindsey Mohr, Andy Cunningham, Justin Moser; fifth row, Amanda Plemel, Russ Heine, and Tanya Anderson (photo courtesy of Laura Andersen).
The mission team included Kathy Olson, campus pastor and director of church relations, and Robbie Rohlena, dean of students at Morningside, who worked right alongside students at each location. Olson organized the trip through the Volunteers in Mission program of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
“These people had lost so much,” said Olson, “but they persevered. They had been living in these conditions for 18 months. In one women’s house the drywall was molded and the carpet and linoleum had severe water damage, but the house was as neat as a pin. She was making the most of what she had and was so hospitable to our team.”
On March 4, the Morningside College Choir arrived at University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles to give a special tribute performance in honor of former Morningside student Lance Cpl. Donald Champlin, a Marine from Natchitoches, La., who died in August 2006 from wounds received while on patrol in Anbar Province, Iraq. The performance was part of the choir's 2007 tour through the deep south. The VIM Team had the opportunity to listen to the choir before beginning their week's work.
The mission trip taught students more important lessons than how to use a nail gun or shingle a roof.
"I have never been so inspired by people in my life. These people have lost everything, yet they were incredibly strong and so helpful to our team," said Katie McGuire, a sophomore from Des Moines, Iowa.
Tanya Anderson, a junior from Piedmont, S.D., said, "My experience in Louisiana definitely changed my perspective on life as a whole. I had no idea I could be so comfortable outside of my comfort zone. Before the trip my everyday life was filled with my wants and needs, but by the end of the week those wants and needs were completely different."
Since returning to Sioux City, students are taking their story of service on the road, sharing personal reflections, slide shows, and videos of the trip to church groups and service organizations in the area.
Funding for the mission trip came from grants from Morningside’s office of Academic Affairs, Student Government, fundraising efforts, donations from churches and individuals, and through personal contributions from each participant.
In addition to McGuire and Anderson, other students who participated in the trip, along with their hometowns, included:
Iowa: Nicole Branstetter, Avoca; Andrew Cunningham, Durant; Erin Freml, Harlan; Bradley Mallett, Salix; Lindsey Mohr, Ocheyedan; Amanda Plemel, Northboro; Brooke Pottorff, Corning; Megan Walding, Sioux City.
Nebraska: Laura Andersen, Michaela Anderson, and Beau Kildow, Omaha; Russell Heine, York.
South Dakota: Brenda Chord, Edgemont; Melissa Keiper, Lennox.
Other states and countries: Mina Depuydt, Eagle Lake, Minn.; Justin Moser, Morris, Minn.; Yuichi Ichinose, Tokyo, Japan.