UCA Students Travel the Globe for Three Separate Missions
In keeping with annual tradition, nearly 80 Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) students and a dozen staff spent their spring vacations sharing Christ's love in three very different parts of the world.
One group traveled to Iquitos, Peru, on the Amazon River. Some students assisted four dentists with pulling or fluoridating teeth. Since virtually all of the local people had parasites, the teams also distributed parasite medicine everywhere they went.
Other students got acquainted with as many as 200 children by playing volleyball, jumping rope, singing songs and telling stories. They encouraged the children to bring their parents back at night, when they put on puppet shows and did more music, and when Mariano de Oro, UCA Bible and language teacher, preached in Spanish.
After the evening meetings, many of the students went back to the main plaza to feed “the shoeshine boys," a group of 20–25 boys whose only source of income is shining shoes.
For two of their days, the students traveled up the Amazon River into the jungle and stayed overnight. This was supposed to be the “vacation” part of their trip, but the needs of the people were so great that they continued helping the people however they could, giving away parasite medication, treating wounds and even fluoridating the teeth of another 75 people!
Another group headed to the island of Borneo. They flew into Kuching, took a 200-mile bus ride and a two-hour boat ride up the Ankara River to the Ukom longhouse. All the surrounding villages had heard that “SDA UCA” was coming and together rounded up 15 little boats to transport the group for that last leg of their journey.
Their primary goal was to build a church. In order to do so, several things had to be done by hand, such as excavating the site, sifting the sand and mixing the cement. The cement had been hauled to the longhouse by boat and carried up a steep hill. In addition, several boat trips were made up the river every day to get the necessary rocks.
With funds that the group took over with them, the Sarawak mission (similar to a local conference) was able to purchase land for the church. Out of 150 people living in this longhouse, about 20 have converted to Christ and become Adventists over the last two years. They are very excited about having a building in which to worship.
In addition to building the brick church with beautifully arched windows, the group set up medical clinics every day with students assisting the doctors. In the evenings, meetings were held for the adults, and Vacation Bible School was held for the children.
On their final Sabbath, the students entered the completed church to enjoy a memorable worship and dedication service that included eight baptisms—some from a longhouse where UCA had built a church a couple of years ago, some from this longhouse and one from the UCA senior class.
Mike Martling, UCA history teacher, has a special love for New York after growing up on Staten Island and after visiting the ruins of the World Trade Center while it was still smoking and bodies were still being carried off the premises. He took a group of students to work in the city two years ago and was delighted to take another group back this year.
Students worked with Mission NYC, an interdenominational ministry. They did all kinds of things out of their comfort zones and gave the Holy Spirit a chance to show Himself as powerful. They manned prayer tables on subways, witnessed on ferries, served breakfast in soup kitchens, prayed with firemen in 10 different fire departments (and traded T-shirts from fire departments in Spokane), and distributed Bibles and brochures. On a Staten Island bus, an entire family gave their hearts to the Lord!
Many of their activities were similar to the kinds of things they regularly do for UCA’s community service program, HOPE Task Force. That experience resulted in an ability and confidence that did not go unnoticed by those they served. The Yorkville Common Pantry, where students unloaded and organized a truckload of food and prepared emergency food bags, said the UCA group was the best group they’d ever had.