MIAMI, Fla. (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Education Agency) — Fast food offered a quick glimpse of God in Miami for several students.
Upon receiving the hamburger, one man spoke a blessing for the group, ending with the words, “Que Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). This blessing stuck with many students.
Each year, eighth-grade students at Sarasota Christian spend time in service, and for the last three years, the school has partnered with DOOR’s Discover program in Miami.
DOOR, one of Mennonite Mission Network’s Christian service programs, offers organized urban service experiences for groups and individuals.
“This trip is about two things. It’s about introducing the kids to a culture they don’t know – a culture where homelessness exists. And it gives them a chance to get dirty for God through service,” said Diane Denisar, social studies teacher at Sarasota who accompanied the group.
Steve Christner, Bible teacher at Sarasota planned the service trip.
“We just got through a unit on Acts, where we focused on how the first Christian church behaved. The focus on service here connects with that, and many of these kids haven’t had experiences with service yet,” Christner said.
DOOR helped to identify a variety of activities and service sites for the group. Students helped weed an urban community garden, serve lunch and clean up at a soup kitchen, and worked at a food pantry. They also spent time in worship, reflection and exploring the city. They tried Cuban coffee in Little Havana and participated in a survey where they needed to approach local people and ask questions about Miami’s history and attractions. And they learned more about their own ability to serve.
“I learned that God can use young people, and sometimes even more than adults. When we’re going through hard times, I want to remember that,” said student Zachary Lang.
They also had opportunities to hear other’s stories.
“This trip showed me a new way to experience God’s plan. I was able to open up to strangers and people I’ve never talked to and hear their stories,” said student Brittany Gamelin.
In Miami, students saw God at work in places they might not have expected.
“You can see people that are underprivileged, but you can still see God everywhere,” said student Lauren Henry.
And staff at DOOR and Sarasota Christian hope that these lessons will remain with the students.
“My hope is that groups are able to make the connection that God is working in the city in Miami and that they can connect that to God working at home and in their lives,” said Vanessa Silverman, DOOR Discover program director in Miami.