For some Freed-Hardeman University students, a spring break mission trip becomes more than a one-week trip with friends doing good. For them, it is the spark that ignites a “fire within their bones.”
For a dozen years now, Sigma Rho Social Club has gone to the Dominican Republic on a spring break trip. Today, five FHU alumni are working with Manna Global Ministries in Bobita, Dominican Republic. Some of them trace their interest to a spring break mission.
Jill Rhodes Mynatt (2010) went on three spring break campaigns to the island nation. “I fell in love with the people of the Dominican,” she said. “They were so kind and hospitable and open to our presence. It was so very different from the culture I had grown up in. I finally was witnessing people who had time for relationships and meaningful time spent together.”
Jill then spent the 2010 summer as an intern with Manna. “During that summer, Manna was moving away from some of the humanitarian efforts they had been involved in and was looking to grow their ministry and be more focused on making disciples of Christ,” she said. The group intended to start Manna Christian School, a high school that would emphasize mentoring its students. “I was intrigued by the idea of being able to use my ability to teach (even though she had been trained as an elementary school teacher) while also being able to mentor some of the girls at the school,” she said. She moved to the DR in January 2011. “I can say without a doubt, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” she said. “There truly is nothing better than growing God’s Kingdom.”
During her time in the Dominican Republic, Jill met and married Chad Mynatt. They continued to work together at Manna Christian School. This summer, they are leaving to return to the States. Their involvement with Manna, however, will not end. He will head a coalition comprised of Manna Global Ministries, Red Bank Church of Christ in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia. Chad will work with all three to help them share and strengthen their ministries.
“For us, this means frequent trips to the DR where we will coach and mentor those who are discipling the students,” Jill said. “Plus, it allows us to stay close with those Dominicans with whom we have formed close relationships.”
Glenn Weaver, a 2009 graduate, didn’t actually go on a spring break mission trip as a student. Nevertheless, he was influenced by those trips. After graduating from FHU, Weaver said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so I took a job teaching chemistry at a private high school in Tennessee.” In January of that year, he received a phone call from two friends, Evan (2008) and Rachel Gilmore Aldridge (2007, 2008). Both had been members of Sigma Rho and had taken multiple trips to the Dominican. They told Glenn they were moving to the DR and were looking for a summer intern. “Being a teacher and having the summer off, how could I say no?” he said. He interned and then moved to help start Manna Christian School.
Weaver stayed for a year before deciding he wanted to use his “biology degree to help others around the world with the gift of medicine.” He returned to the States and completed training as a physician’s assistant in 2014. He is now back in the DR and working with Manna. This fall, he will start a college/campus ministry in Santiago, working with the first graduates of Manna Christian School. He will also work as a physician’s assistant in the rural villages of the northwest area of the country.
“So,” he said, “even though I didn’t go on a spring break mission trip, God still used the Sigma Rho mission trip involvement to hook Evan and Rachel, who then hooked me.”
Tiffany Hale said she “fell in love with the people, the community, the missionaries, the simplicity” of the Dominican when she went on her first spring break mission trip as an FHU junior. She returned the following year as the student leader of the group. “It was a feeling of home for me,” she said. Hale found herself particularly drawn to the children’s home. One day, she inquired why there was no social worker at the home. She was told the home had recently decided they were, in fact, in need of one. Although she had not been looking for a job for herself, Hale found herself frequently thinking about moving to the DR. After praying and talking with friends and family, she decided to become a missionary there.
Hale has now completed her first year as the full-time social worker at the children’s home. She also teaches part-time at the school and mentors three girls who are students at the school. “It has definitely not been all sunshine and rainbows, “ she said, “but I have loved every second of it and I have grown so much.”
“I will forever be grateful to Blake Beckham (who has led the mission trip since 2004) and to Freed for giving me the opportunity to be a part of two amazing spring break mission trips to the place I now call home,” Hale said.
Other FHU alumni who have spent extended time in the Dominican Republic include Cory (2002, 2005) and Laura Beth Lamb (2003, 2007) who first went there on a 2005 spring break trip; Bonnie Smith (2007); and Keely Williams (2011). A 2014 graduate, Andrew Weaver is moving there this fall. In fact, the senior director of the work in the Dominican Republic, Norm Currington (1986), is also an FHU graduate.
This spring more than 200 Freed-Hardeman University students, faculty and staff spent their spring break doing good and spreading the good news. A total of nine groups, five representing various social clubs, campaigned in five states and four foreign countries during the week of March 21-29.
Will this year’s campaigns turn some to extended mission work? It’s too soon to tell, but there’s a good chance that spark will once again set someone’s heart aflame.