Bluefield, VA – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth,” says Ephesians 5:8-9 CSB, the theme Scripture for Bluefield University’s centennial academic year.
Members of Bluefield University’s Missions Club shared their light on international mission trips after the conclusion of the Spring 2022 semester. Students and alumni spread the Gospel—one group in Spain and another in Ecuador— May 9 – May 16.
Bluefield University’s Director of Vocation, Calling, and Mission, Dr. Henry Clary, went to Madrid, Spain with students John Balthaser, Elise Clary, Laurel Romano, Antowyne Shaw, and Hannah Shockley. They served with the International Mission Board to reach local college students.
“To reach university students, we did a prayer walk around the campus, met and talked to students in the cafeteria, hosted a game night at a cafe, and hosted a movie night at our Airbnb,” Shaw said.
“However, due to it being finals time at the university, we were not able to reach out to as many university students, so more of our efforts were spent prayer walking, and doing outreach in the community with the church plant,” Balthaser added.
“Right now, the missionaries (in Spain) are working on building relationships and small groups in order to open bigger doors,” Shockley explained. “While our team read English books to little children at a local bookshop, the missionaries were able to have conversations with the mothers and build relationships that will help them reach more and more people in the community.”
Students Ana Barros, Mark Clary, Abigail McComas, Isaiah Rife, Michaela Rose, and Michael Vichiola were joined by alumni Elishia Pena, Cameron West, and Mason West in Quito, Ecuador. They served with For His Children, a Christian ministry that cares for vulnerable children.
“These children have been through so much in such a short amount of lifetime that it is hard to fathom how happiness is even possible,” Rife said. “I have watched these children care for one another, scream laughs of happiness, share hugs of warmth, and provide hope for one another that only children can provide.”
“Every time I come to serve these children, I leave full of love and joy,” Cameron West shared. “There’s nothing like holding the hand of a sweet baby girl and feeling how much Jesus loves her. As I spent time with each child on this trip, the Father was showing me how much He loves them. It’s beautiful to see that these children are growing up in their true identity: a child of a heavenly Father.”
Their work included leading Bible lessons and related activities for the kids, cleaning and organizing classrooms, and moving and assembling furniture. They also played games with the children, hosted a pool party for them, and sang worship songs together.
On Sunday, part of the group led “a wrap up (session) which gave the kids an opportunity to describe Jesus for themselves, and really everyone did an amazing job!” Vichiola said.
The Missions Club spent most of the academic year preparing for these mission trips, which involved applying for passports, fundraising, studying cultures, and lots of prayers.
“Planning and fundraising for this trip were very detailed and well thought out,” Shockley shared. “We took every opportunity we could, from using the concession stands in both the Dome and the Sims Center during basketball and volleyball season to the telethon across the street in the Advancement House. God provided for our financial needs so that we were all able to go on the mission trip.”
“These were great experiences as they gave us firsthand experience into what full-time missionaries have to do before going on the field,” Balthaser said. “In the planning process, we not only figured out what activities/outreaches we would be doing while in Madrid, but we also spent time studying the culture and learning some relevant phrases of the culture we would be serving in.”
Additionally, these students encourage anyone interested in missions to get involved.
“I would say go for it if you have the opportunity,” Shaw said. “Be ready to adapt to the culture of wherever you are so that you can keep yourself safe and out of trouble. Also, they can be quite expensive, so you need to be willing to put in the hard work of fundraising when possible.”
“We are all called to missions whether it be in our community, in a different state, or even a different country,” Shockley explained. “God uses our situations to His advantage so that we may witness to others and grow in our own faith as well.”
Several members of the Missions Club said these trips allowed them to learn and grow in their faith, sharing hopes to be involved in future mission trips and asking for prayer for the communities they reached.
“I never thought that during this week, God would teach not just me, but everyone else everything that He knew we needed to know,” Vichiola said, “and as much as it was hard to say goodbye, I’m praying that God gives us another opportunity to come back.”
“No matter the beginnings that each child has had, the Lord has a beautiful, plentiful life ahead of each one of them,” Rife shared. “I pray that the love of Jesus will shine so bright into the lives of their future families that it starts a revival for a multitude of generations. These children are workers of the kingdom, and kingdom work is what they will do.”