NEW YORK—Devon Bartholomew had led mission trips before. But he had never seen a student association fund 20 students’ flights from their own budget—not until this year.
“The Student Association had a budget they wanted to use to invest in students going to serve in Puerto Rico,” said Bartholomew, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) endorsed chaplain at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel. “I approached them about promoting a Send Relief student trip for 10 or 15. They did one better by allocating from their budget … enough for 20 students’ flights! I was pretty awed by that response.”
Bartholomew had previously led relief trips both nationally and internationally. After Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, North Carolina, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, student groups did mud-outs, tear-downs and rebuilds. Last year, Bartholomew traveled with a group of Syracuse students to Nepal where they did disaster relief mission work with Baptist Global Response to combat the devastating earthquake damage and to provide hope to the survivors.
“A lot of our alumni and students actually come from hurricane-riddled countries like Puerto Rico,” he added.
Patri Suro, a senior advertising major who was born in Puerto Rico, told the Daily Orange News the five days after Hurricane Maria hit were some of the hardest of her life.
“I did not know anything about my grandparents,” she said. “I had no idea how they were doing. We heard nothing. We tried calling and calling and calling, and there was absolutely no information on them.”
“We will soon start the selection process for the December mission trip which begins with interviews,” Bartholomew said. “The university is really interested in supporting our students’ families and in participating in providing better lives post hurricanes.”
Bartholomew says that not all the students going to serve will be Christians.
“We are going so that any student may serve—not just believers,” Bartholomew said. “Though, they know they’ll be serving with a Christian organization, our aim is to serve Puerto Rico and to be lights and examples to those who don’t know Jesus. Many at this school who don’t believe have either had no experience with Christians or bad experiences with Christians. I’m looking at this trip as an awesome opportunity to change that.”
Bartholomew is asking that those who aren’t selected to go still donate to the trip for maximum hurricane relief efforts, and he’s maintaining the opportunities to serve throughout the year.
“This trip will be followed by our trip to Houston on spring break,” Bartholomew said. “Our mission in Houston will be the same as in Puerto Rico; we may be cleaning out homes and rebuilding structures. The only differences are the locations and the times.
“Collegiates have a lot to offer in disaster response!” Bartholomew added.
Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.