by Public Relations

On June 2, Cedarville University students and faculty returned from a trip to Liberia, a trip that radically changed their lives.

Jon Purple, dean for student life programs, traveled with four Cedarville students to Liberia to distribute thousands of shoes with a group led by Palmer Chinchen, pastor of The Grove Bible Church in Chandler, Arizona. The group consisted of a medical team that included two Cedarville nursing students, an orphanage team that Cedarville students also participated in, a construction team, and a motorbike team, which Purple was on.

The group stayed at African Bible College University (ABCU) in Yekepa, Liberia, and ABCU students also served with the team.

Cedarville's involvement in the trip began on September 8, 2011, when Cedarville University students held a Barefoot Thursday on the campus in order to collect shoes to send to Liberia with Chinchen and his team. On that date Chinchen came and spoke at Cedarville and invited students to join him and his church on the trip to Liberia to distribute the thousands of shoes, and a few students joined him in this incredible opportunity to serve.

"The trip was amazing in many ways," Purple said. "It was hard to see the poverty but so encouraging to see the desire of African believers to share the Gospel in their country, the receptivity and friendliness of the Liberian people, and their thankfulness for the gift of these shoes."

One of the highlights for Purple was having a chance to serve and worship alongside fellow African believers.

"It was a blessing to experience Christianity from a non-white, non-western, non-middle class perspective and to see people who have so little materially, but yet are filled with such joy," Purple said. "It was a blessing to serve with them as well. It's their country, and they know the culture. We were blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus there, led by our African brothers and sisters in Christ."

Erica Graham, a sophomore student at Cedarville, said that the trip revealed to her so much about the power of God and the power of faith and prayer.

"Missions trips like this show us how to be the hands-and-feet of Jesus and remind us that it is possible through prayer and the power of God to accomplish more than we could ever plan," Graham said. "Every moment of our lives we make choices, and those choices can either further or advance the kingdom of God. This trip reminded me of how we can actively choose each day of our lives to advance the kingdom."

Rebekah Hoesterey, a junior student at Cedarville, discovered during the trip the fulfillment that comes with serving others and how our comfortable American culture can often hinder us from a life of service.

"God showed me that He doesn't care where I serve, as long as I'm serving!" Hoesterey said.

She shared that the trip also showed her the true meaning of joy.

"I know for a fact that I have never been so joyful as I was in Africa, despite being hungry, sweaty, and dirty, far away from home, air conditioning, or running water to brush your teeth in. Joy is giving yourself away, and God re-lit the passion in my heart to do that full-fledged, whether it be here in America or across the world in a little orphanage in Yekepa, Liberia."

Hoesterey also shared that even though not every student at Cedarville can move to Africa, students can still keep giving themselves away in the surrounding communities.

"Trips like this encourage students to pour their life into other people, and what we always find is that the more you pour out, the more you are poured into. The more you give away, the more God is faithful to give back to you, and it is truly a fulfilling experience."