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This item originally appeared in the Fall-2004 Bulldog Survival Guide issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

Many students take time out of their summers to go visit different countries with one goal in mind: minister to those less fortunate who may not have heard of Jesus Christ.

Students like Matt Hoffmann and Holly Pitre, who, instead of taking a break for the entire summer, decide to go to different countries and different cultures and witness to the people there while working to help them, as well.

Hoffmann, a junior biomedical engineering major, who has served as freshman council president in 2003 as well as being very active in other organizations on campus, recently returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica with the Wesley Foundation, located at 201 College St.

"I went down for two weeks in Costa Rica," Hoffmann said. "Two teams of us went, one for 14 days and the other for 30."

Most mission trips today involve people going to different locations to work while building relationships with area residents. Hoffmann said his trip was no different.

"While in Costa Rica, we worked at a local school that was a national school for disabled children," Hoffmann said. "We helped with blind and disabled children and others with cerebral palsy. The first building we worked at we scraped all the walls and re-plastered them and repainted them."

Hoffmann said his team also helped build walls around the school area which functioned as a center for the parents of disabled children to come and learn how to work with their kids.

"Everywhere we went in Costa Rica it seemed like every house or building we saw was fenced in with barbwire and top of fences and everything seemed chained," Hoffmann said. "There's not really a fear for personal safety, but a fear of theft and a fear of vandalism."

Hoffmann said that a fear of stolen property seemed to consume the people of Costa Rica.

"It's very sad to see their culture dominated by that fear of safety for their belongings," Hoffmann said. "We built a protection wall to keep strangers from getting in the school and to make the children and teachers feel safer."

Hoffmann said that it became obvious their presence was making a difference in the people's lives they were around.

"Some of the ladies that we worked with in the schools were becoming a little discouraged because we were working in facilities that were run down and just needed to be revamped," Hoffmann said.

"By our coming down there with graciousness in our hearts and following Christ's will we saw a new fire in their eyes that showed they were no longer discouraged and were determined to continue the renovation processes for the kids," Hoffmann said.

He also said they were able to build a petting zoo for children to visit.

"We built a coop for three ducks and four chickens," Hoffmann said. "That was definitely one of the highlights for the children."

Hoffmann said he believes his trip was worth-while just to see the faces of the people they helped.

"We showed the people the love of Christ as we built through our spirit and through our actions and demonstrated the way Christ lived," Hoffmann said.

"At the same time, we were telling people we worked with about Christ and his love for them. I brought back a great sense of accomplishment for being able to work for the Lord after all He has done for me."

Pitre, a senior in studio art, served the local people of the Turkana district of Kenya, perhaps the largest and poorest region in Africa.

"I went with eight other people from 'Share International, Inc.,'" Pitre said.

"We went to the northwest desert region of Kenya and worked with the people there for three weeks while distributing food to different churches in the area and food to the people of Monti."

Pitre said that they visited homestead to homestead in Monti while interacting with the locals.

"We presented the gospel to as many people we could," Pitre said. "We also conducted seminars to give the people a better understanding of how to live Christian lives."

The group also helped erect a building for the tribe to worship in.

"An American team and a Nairobian team, along with a group of translators, helped the men of Monti build a church with the capacity to hold over 200 people in the span of two to three days," Pitre said. "The walls were made of hardened mud with an aluminum roof with no seats. The people are free to stand or sit on the ground and worship."

Pitre said she enjoyed the overall experience but was fond of one particular thing: the kindness of the people.

"It was awesome to be among tribal people praising the same God as I do but in a different manner," Pitre said. "And the people there were so accepting. They talked and greeted us right away and treated us wonderfully for the entire time we were there. It was overwhelming."

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