An atmosphere of tense excitement palpitated throughout the foyer of Brown Chapel last Thursday night as students searched for chairs labeled with their names and LoveWorks placements.
Brian Becker, director of International Ministries, calmed the crowd, eager to jumpstart the first meeting of the 2014 short-term mission programs. Sending 143 students in 15 teams to 14 locations around the globe, the International Ministries staff is beginning a new season of busy planning for the upcoming summer.
Before tackling fundraising and immunization concerns, Becker explored the heart of the mission behind the LoveWorks program with the students and team leaders. He attributed the success of the program throughout the past 26 years to its three central features: sending teams only where they are invited, using team leaders who model servant leadership and focusing on an extensive training program designed to honor Christ by setting up a venue for feedback and learning between hosts, students and leaders.
Two individuals who exemplify these features of the LoveWorks program are team leaders Rachel Mellby and Glen Laster, who will be leaving for Indianapolis directly after school ends in early May. Rachel Mellby is a recent PLNU grad from the class of 2012 working in San Diego as an accountant at a missions organization. Glen Laster, the assistant director of Public Safety, is a familiar face around campus. The Point Weekly spoke with them about the challenges and rewards of leading missions trips.
The Point Weekly: The two of you are co-leaders on the Indianapolis trip—what type of work will you be doing there?
Glen Laster: We’re going to an inter-city community center that focuses largely on mentoring the youth. We’ll probably be doing a lot of work with them, opening up to them with our testimonies, and helping in Vacation Bible School.
PW: Have either of you led trips before?
GL: I’ve led eight LoveWorks teams on trips to Africa, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, and a few other places, most recently to Canada.
PW: Rachel, this being your first time as a LoveWorks leader, what are your feelings on it?
RM: Oh I’m super stoked! I think it’s a gift to partake in ministry and to have the opportunity to seek the Lord together. Some of the best memories are made on these missions.
PW: What are some of the challenges of leading teams to places around the world?
GL: Mostly medical. I’ve been to a lot of infirmaries. Kids get ill. They get homesick and don’t wanna eat. They’re usually not serious problems, but that’s the drag of it when you have to deal with health issues.
PW: How about the responsibility of student safety—is that a major concern in planning?
GL: Oh yes. The important thing to remember is that things can happen anywhere. Something could happen in Point Loma. This is why we are already praying now. We’ve had close calls before in the past with some scary situations: I’ve seen AK47s in Africa, drug dealers in Canada, people trying to get money from you.We must always be vigilant and be aware.
PW: What are you most looking forward to about leading a team together this year?
RM: I love that we get to walk with students and experience God together and grow with them as they work through challenges. It’s a privilege to come alongside the students.
PW: What’s going to be different with your trip as you stay in the U.S. as opposed to the international trips?
GL: Our team has to worry less about learning how different cultures dress or getting immunizations since we are staying in the U.S. Every trip is different. Always. But it doesn’t matter where you go, the same issues exist that all the teams face.
RM: One difference is that our team will have a much easier time staying connected to the kids that they meet, and that is such a privilege. [Other than that], God has vast amounts of work to be done everywhere.