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ETBU students spend vacation time in service

By Special to the News-Journal
March 25, 2017 at 1 a.m.

East Texas Baptist University students meet the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break College Challenge by helping build a home for a family in Slidell, Louisiana.

East Texas Baptist University students spent their spring break serving others with the love of Christ in a jungle of Belize, St. Tammany Parish of Louisiana, and on South Padre Island in Texas.

Ten ETBU students led by Lisa Seeley, director of global education and the Great Commission Center, recovered water wells and shared their faith in Otoxha, Belize, a remote jungle village without electricity or running water.

"Seeing how different our cultures are was eye-opening," ETBU sophomore Abbey Sturdivant said. "Even though we are so different, we are all equal in the eyes of God."

ETBU partnered with Hope Springs Water to support the organization's mission of drilling and reclaiming water wells and teaching public health and hygiene-related practices. The ETBU students were grateful for this unique opportunity to learn about another culture and help provide essential needs for an entire community. The group slept in a thatch building in hammocks while they stayed in the jungle. The students were impressed by the generosity of the families in the region.

"The families in the Belize jungles have so little, yet they were so willing to share with us," ETBU freshman Cristal Monzon-Hernandez said. "We were blessed beyond belief by the people of Otoxha as we sought to be a blessing. God is truly at work in the hearts of the people of Belize."

In Slidell, Louisiana, ETBU students participated in Habitat for Humanity's Collegiate Challenge. The group worked on a new home build with the East St. Tammany Parish Habitat chapter. The ETBU students hung floor joists, decked flooring, and framed walls on an elevated pier and beam home that will be above flood level once complete.

Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the East St. Tammany Parish Habitat for Humanity built only one or two houses a year. Due to an increase in volunteers and financial support, the chapter has been busy building homes in Slidell for families in need of quality housing, with about 50 and 60 houses a year.

"Overall, this experience has been challenging, but it's worth all the hard work," ETBU sophomore Jake Williams said. "It's awesome how our work this week will impact a family we've never even met before and to provide them with a quality home."

On South Padre Island, 40 ETBU students ministered to other college students in conjunction with the Texas Baptist Student Ministry's "Beach Reach" spring break mission. The ETBU students worked into the early hours of the morning, giving rides and feeding pancakes to spring breakers, who excessively indulged in alcohol.

ETBU students began their days at 8 a.m. with half the team serving pancakes at Island Baptist Church and the other half giving rides. In the afternoon part of the team engaged spring breakers in conversations on the beach, while the other mission students gave rides to and from the beach. The days each ended with an 11 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. shift transporting students who needed assistance getting to their holiday residences.

While ETBU students returned with many stories to tell from "Beach Reach," junior Kelsey Dagle shared a small encounter she had while there.

"A group of six people got on our van, and immediately the conversations were spiritual. We didn't do anything; God was already doing a work in them." Dagle said. "By the end of the ride, which was well over an hour, four of the students rededicated their life to the Lord."

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