When Concordia University Wisconsin student John Karolus traveled to San Raymundo, Guatemala, in March of 2015 for a mission trip, he expected hard work, and upon arrival, he found his expectations came true. However, when recalling his trip, what John remembers most vividly is not the work he performed, but the relationship he formed with a man named Isaiah Bochus, the church representative at his team’s work site.
John, a philosophy student with plans to attend the seminary, made an easy connection with Isaiah. Throughout the week, the two men shared stories, exchanged addresses, and created a lasting friendship.
“It is always an amazing thing to see how God doesn’t let location or distance get in the way of His Church growing,” John said.
His visit was part of the University’s spring break mission trips, one of three annual opportunities for students on both the Mequon and Ann Arbor campuses to build or repair homes in either Guatemala, Kentucky, or Louisiana. The mission trips take place over undergraduates’ spring break week, March 12-20, which corresponds with Concordia’s Week of Service initiative.
In its inaugural year, Week of Service aims to raise awareness of students’ and others’ service─whether they be multiple-day efforts, like mission trips, or acts closer to home─in hopes that others might be inspired to also serve in the name of Jesus.
According to Kim Bueltmann, CUW director of Campus Ministry, serving others in the name of Christ is a key part of Concordia’s mission.
“Because of the way Christ loved and served us by giving Himself on the cross, we can reach out to others with His love,” said Bueltmann. “Remarkably, while we seek to impact others, we find our own lives deeply impacted as well.”
This year, John, along with 18 other students, faculty, and staff members from CUW, will be traveling back to San Raymundo. The team will work with Casas por Cristo, a non-profit organization that serves the people of Guatemala, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic by building safe and secure homes for families in need.
In addition to the 19 from CUW, 31 others from both CUW and CUAA will travel to Paintsville, Kentucky, in the Appalachian Mountains to partner with Diaconal Outreach Care and Services (DORCAS) to repair homes in an area stricken by poverty. Another 39 CUW and CUAA students, faculty, and staff members will head to New Orleans to work with Camp Restore, an organization that looks to help the thousands of families still displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by rebuilding homes.
Sara Koch, a CUAA student leader for the mission trips, is heading to New Orleans for her second year in a row.
During her first trip, Sara learned that mission work is not always fun and easy, but the people you serve make it worth it. For Sara, this lesson came while helping rebuild a house for a man who had spent many years putting others’ needs first by finding families displaced by the storm and connecting them with help.
“Leo helps so many people every year, but we got the chance to help him,” said Sara. “We put in insulation underneath his house, which wouldn’t have been my first choice of work, but Leo made it very bearable.”
While they worked, Leo played jazz music for the team and fed them food he cooked himself, making the experience that much more enjoyable for Sara.
“People like him inspire me to keep going on mission trips, which is why I’m returning again this year,” she said.
Like Sara, John is also readying himself for a return trip to his mission trip experience site. He said he’s excited to return to Guatemala, mainly to reunite with his friend, and he recommends others consider taking a mission trip as well.
“I strongly encourage anyone who can afford to give their time to the mission trips to go on at least one,” he said. “This is not an experience that is so readily available later in life and it will only yield positive effects on a person after returning home.”
For more information on the mission trips, contact Kim Bueltmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-4532.