Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a group of college students from Carson-Newman University waived traditional spring break activities to travel to the island to help with rebuilding.
“After the storm hit, we knew that was a place that if at all possible, we wanted to go and help even if it was just to give encouragement but to be able to serve in any way we could,” said Chad Morris, the campus minister. “There is still a massive amount of damage and a massive amount of work to be done. Though we were only able to help a few people, to those people, it made all the difference."
Kayla Bishop, a sophomore at Carson-Newman, said she felt called to go to the island, and couldn't believe how generous the people were who had so little to give.
“They tried to give us everything even though they didn’t have anything. They made us breakfast in the morning and water and juice. They kept saying, 'this may be small to you guys, but it’s big to us,’” Bishop recalled.
“We went down as nine inexperienced college students, and we finished five projects in a week," she said. "Just to think, people who knew what to do could go down and finish things so quickly. That was a little frustrating, but it was nice to know volunteers are still going down and helping.”
For junior Melanie Rodriguez, the trip was also a homecoming.
“I consider it home because I'm a military child. I've traveled so many places so it's hard to say where home is. My mom was born and raised in Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said. “Any form of giving back to the island was such a good feeling to be there and help my people in their worst time of need.”
While the group was busy rebuilding houses in Puerto Rico, other students like junior Madison Mitchell were up north in Alaska ministering at the famous Iditarod sled dog race.
“I was up close and personal with the mushers and the dogs and taking them to the starting line of the race and wishing them good luck as they started their journey on the week-long race,” Mitchell said. “It was an amazing opportunity to also get to talk to those people, meet them, and all the other people there for the race, to talk to them about Christ.”
At the end of the day, whether freezing or sweltering, that was their mission, to share their faith with others.