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And We’re Off

March 11, 2016
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Each year during the week before Spring break, Indian Rocks Christian High School undertakes a Ministry-mester. During this week all normal classes are set aside and the focus for the students is placed on serving. Service opportunities may be local, in the state, in the USA, or international. The purpose of this is threefold:

1. It transmits the Gospel to people who need to hear it and empowers students to be the vehicle God uses to tell his message. Their faith becomes real and practical.

2. It transforms and expands a student’s worldview by exposing them to new thoughts, ideas, and appreciations for the world in which we live. They begin to understand the blessing they have of being born in the United States.

3. It transposes preexisting social barriers. Student travel assimilates diverse groups of people for a specific event, creating new friend clusters and relationships. Friendships are formed with others that they may have had little interaction with previously.

4. It transcends our normal ability to impact a student for Christ. Students that travel develop an openness and vulnerability that if acted upon, can be life changing. Each leader is asked to implement regularly scheduled devotions. These times reveal God’s Truth, help students understand all they have seen and experienced, as well as grasp how God is the “Artist” of the big picture.

In addition to students who will serve right here on the property as either an aide or on a work crew for facilities, we have a street ministry team, and a team going to Shepherd’s Village (a housing unit for families in crisis). Mission trips out of the area include rural Alabama, inner-city Chicago, Northern Georgia, inner-city New York, two teams to Puerto Rico (one is all service the other baseball with service), Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. These are life changing experiences that have not only impacted the lives of the students that participate but have changed the spiritual climate of our school as a whole.

This year 192 students and 30 adults will be traveling on the out of area trips. The 192 students represent 73% of our high schoolers. Over the past 15 years we have sent 2244 students and 321 adults to 22 different countries and 11 different states. Our students are already changing the world!

One senior put it this way: “The mini-mester has changed my outlook on life. I have realized how incredibly blessed I really am, despite my shortcomings. God has used these trips to open my eyes and soften my heart. Every time I go on a trip, my heart breaks for the people there. God has used me in different ways every time I went, even if I went to the same place.” Another said, “Mini-mester is one of the greatest things schools can do for their students. It creates good memories, new friendships, and gets you closer to God. I love the feeling of helping and serving people.” One of our juniors put it this way, “When you go to a different culture and you see all of these faces and meet all these new people that you didn’t know existed, you are humbled and amazed by God’s greatness and grace. He has such a big plan and I am privileged to be a part of it every year.”

People ask, “Isn’t it a big risk?” Anytime you have that many students traveling to so many different locations there is risk involved. For us, the benefits far outweigh the risks. In the business world (please understand I am not saying this is a business) the adage is that you get bigger results from bigger risks. We believe the results gained by this program over the years are phenomenal. Make no mistake, the success of these trips could not happen without the dedication, preparation, and commitment of our staff. Our teachers devote hours and hours to the training required to prepare to go. They receive no extra pay for their time. We have an outstanding staff that truly serves the best interest of our students.

Please consider praying for our teams as they go out next week. A good way to remember what to pray for would be to remember the acronym F.I.S.H.

                  F is for Focus – pray they will remember the purpose of their trip and function as a team

                  I is for Impact – whether or not the team sees immediate results, their impact would be felt

                  S is for Safety – pray for safety in travel and protection wherever they are

                 H is for Health – pray our teams and the missionaries would stay healthy throughout

Outside of school, a student’s future is shaped by the places they go, books they read, and people they meet. Mission trips directly impact two of these three areas and have greatly influenced our students’ spiritual, educational, and emotional growth.