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Local Students Serve Around the World [Part 1]

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Written by Brandi Clement

As the summer wraps up, there’s no doubt that definitive memories have been made by local students. Some have played on summer sports teams, others have worked for local businesses, and some have even spent a few weeks serving on mission trips. In this two-part series, we will feature McKenna Friesen, Vanessa Hiebner, Brittany Quiring, and Paige and Elizabeth Mestl who all served on mission trips with different churches and organizations. Here is a summary of what McKenna Friesen and Vanessa Hiebner did on their mission trips:

McKenna Friesen – Mckenna Friesen had the opportunity to travel to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, with Citylight U-Omaha for eight weeks this summer. “This was the third time I have been to Guatemala, and this trip was a little bit different than anything I had ever done,” explained McKenna, “I traveled with six others from my college ministry and served with them for two weeks. After those first two weeks, the rest of my team returned home while I stayed another six weeks.” McKenna and those she worked with teamed up with a local church, Calvary Christian Church, to come alongside the ministry they were already doing in Guatemala. Each day, McKenna’s team did street evangelism, helped in an after-school program, served at a nearby orphanage, prayed for those in the public hospital, served alongside a church plant, and visited and encouraged families from the church. McKenna stated, “God has called me to serve long-term in Quetzaltenango in the near future, so this opportunity was given to me as a glimpse of what that would look like.” During her time in Guatemala, McKenna was able to teach in the church’s main school, Calvary Christian School. Since the school teaches 80% English and 20% Spanish, most days McKenna was able to teach preschool and elementary age students reading, math, science, art, and music all in English. She was also able to serve alongside the short-term mission teams that came and spent time with many families from Calvary Christian Church. 

When it was asked what the most impactful moment of her mission was, McKenna staed, “I witnessed the joy and love the students displayed despite their situation at home. Many of the students have gone through some kind of abuse or home-life struggle and they still came to school every day with a giant smile on their face and a goofy attitude. One moment they can feel defeated by your discipline, but the next moment they are running towards you for an embraced hug. The students love so well and with such purity in their heart.” Building a multitude of relationships was one of McKenna’s favorite parts, as well. She stated, “I was able to meet families from the church, students and teachers at the school, and community members. Since I was in Guatemala for a longer amount of time, I was able to not only meet people, but actually get to know them and build relationships with them. I can truly say I have met some of the most amazing people from this experience.”

In addition, one of the main truths God revealed to McKenna was the importance of being a servant. McKenna explained, “The Latino culture is all about serving one another and being selfless. In my season of life, being in college and very independent, it’s so easy for me to become extremely selfish. Through this trip, I was reminded that, that is not the way Jesus shows us in Matthew 20:28. Jesus is our example and everything we do should be to serve Him and one another. He served us by giving up His life so that we could be in a restored relationship with God. This is a beautiful example of how our live should serve and love one another.”  

Vanessa Hiebner – Vanessa Hiebner spent her time in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa from May 27-June 29 with Cru, a campus ministry at Wayne State College. Vanessa stated, “Our American team came alongside the national Cru staff, who has a campus ministry in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Our focus and vision was to love God, love others [Matthew 22:37-39], and go with the gospel [Matthew 28:18-20].” Specifically, Vanessa’s ministry was looking for key volunteers, which consisted of local students who are passionate about their mission of creating generations of disciples. “Our average day started with a devotional with our American team, then we went to campus with the national staff. When we were on campus, we would meet with students as follow-ups for discipleship training. If we didn’t have any follow-ups, we would go out to share the gospel with students around campus. During the early/mid-afternoon, my team and I would head back to our guest house where we would either hear a testimony of a national staff member or learn a bit of French,” explained Vanessa. She also stated that their evenings consisted of different activities that were designed to draw them near to the Lord, such as Bible studies, nights of reflection, discipleship, and/or vision casting. 

Vanessa’s favorite part of her mission trip in Africa was building relationships with the national Cru staff and students. Vanessa stated, “It’s so fun to be able to keep in touch with some of them and heat about how the ministry is continuing and seeing how the Lord is working each week. I love not just sharing the good news but seeing the students’ genuine hearts for the Lord and hearing them share that with other students.” Additionally, one of the most impactful things Vanessa witnessed while in Africa was the spiritual multiplication that happened. Vanessa explained, “We would be training a student and there were multiple times that student would bring a friend for the next follow-up that he had shared the gospel with or was wanting to share the gospel with. From there, we would watch them train the student on how to grow in their faith with the materials that we had just been using to train them in. It was so encouraging to see the students not keep what they were learning to themselves but to immediately turn around and be sharing it with their friends and fellow classmates – which is what our vision was.” 

Ultimately, Vanessa learned so much while serving with Cru in Africa. She stated, “The Lord is still continuing to reveal things from this summer, but one thing is how the vision we had and the command the Lord gives us for life – to love the Lord, others, and to go with the good news – is not complicated. Personally, I can sometimes make things so complex and try to figure out the most effective way to reach the most amount of people. The Lord showed me how I am not the hero of the story. Jesus is the hero, and I am simply His vessel. By loving Him first, I can love others and share the good news.” 

With a sense of adventure and a deep care for others, these two young women, originally from the Henderson area, stepped out to Guatemala and Africa. Be watching for a Part Two to see where Brittany Quiring and Paige and Elizabeth Mestl ventured.

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