CSA and Mexico Outreach break Azusa borders

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These show the majority of the locations CSA’s action teams will be traveling to this summer. Photo credit: Kimberly Smith

The Center for Student Action is breaking through borders by sending 29 different action teams to partner with various organizations throughout the world this summer. According to CSA’s site, these short-term mission trips include, but are not limited to, visits to health care clinics and orphanages, as well as working in the fields of educational development, anti-human and sex trafficking and different prayer ministries.

Approximately 200 students will have the opportunity to minister in 28 different countries. Two teams will stay in the U.S. while the other teams will travel to various locations in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Action team applications closed Feb. 7, but students are still welcome to get involved. Students who feel called or have recently had summer plans fall through are encouraged to partner with CSA and other organizations this summer, according to Director of Mobilization Jenny Elsey.

Every team CSA sends out is responsible for providing its own finances. The office has set benchmark deadlines to help students stay on financial track. Overall, the finances have not seemed to be much of an issue, and the CSA office is always open to accommodate any problems that may arise, said Elsey. In the future, Elsey hopes to have a scholarship program for students.

The CSA office is looking to partner with Communiversity for the Last Bash, a party on Friday, April 25 to take a break from studying before finals, to help raise funds for action teams.

Elsey said students who go on these trips have transformational experiences, which is a view others in her office share.

Community doesn’t have to be just your next door neighbor,” Associate Director of Mobilization Karen Rouggly said. “The fact that we are opening [students’] eyes to the global community is really powerful.”

CSA staff tries to be intentional as it prepares students through retreats, including one recently from Feb. 14-16, and training programs before each team departs.

The CSA office has gone through many different changes over the years and, according to Elsey, is working to reestablish the structure of the office this summer. Elsey wanted to thank the students “for still being a part of programs and being patient with us as we figure it out,” she said.

Elsey and Rouggly are looking to better connect CSA with the student body by seeing what has and has not worked over the years.

“We understand and don’t want our action teams to act within a vacuum,” Rouggly said. “We want to incorporate it all together, so it truly is all one in the same, coming from one center.”

CSA does not limit itself to just action teams but is also affiliated with Mexico Outreach. The outreach’s main avenues are weekend brigades and two weeklong trips throughout the year to the city of Mexicali.

Sophomore liberal studies major Jordan Rice works in the Mexico Outreach office as the student ministry coordinator for Mexican relations. Rice partners with Mexican officials in Mexicali and arranges community service opportunities.

Brigades are quick weekend trips that usually send six different teams: public health, mental health, special needs, community service and two child ministry teams. The main point is to allow students another opportunity to give relief for residents living in Mexicali, said Rice.

Mexico Outreach recently took 42 students on the final brigade of the year from Feb. 21-22.

This year, the office was unable to partner with a special needs site, and instead went to a new shelter for pregnant teens called VIFAC (which translates as the Life and Family Association), according to senior applied exercise science major Katie Schlotzhauer, the student ministry coordinator for strategic alignment and development. She is also a ministry brigade coordinator.

“It was so great to reconnect with the women there and bring them the supplies they needed,” Schlotzhauer said. “You could tell they really appreciated just spending time with us and we also enjoyed it a lot.”

Mexico Outreach is currently working on finalizing details of the spring break trip that will take place March 8-13. During the weeklong trip, about 350 students will make up 30 teams that will work in different avenues for Mexicalians.

Students with valid passports have until March 5 to sign up for the trip, according to Rice.

Similar to action teams, Mexico teams are required to raise their own money. Cost ranges from $270-$375.

Rice is also a leader of a community service team called Stephen, which consists of seven other leaders who coordinate student teams for the spring break trip to work two-hour community service shifts.

“God put me in a position where I had to really challenge myself and listen to what He wanted instead of what I wanted,” Rice said. “I fell in love with the country of Mexico and the city of Mexicali. It was the last place I ever thought I would end up.”

Students need to be flexible when they sign up for Mexico programs because they may not know what they will be doing until they arrive, Rice said.

Rice explained that because of its repeat trips throughout the year, Mexico Outreach is unique and allows students to say “see you next month,” rather than “next year.”

“It really touches you in a way where you have to act, it’s contagious and you have to go back and do it again,” Rice said.

Team Kipkaren

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Arielle Olson. Photo credit: Kelyn Struiksma

After a long process of deliberation, freshman psychology major Arielle Olson decided to finally apply to join a CSA action team and was placed on team Kipkaren with six other female students.

“I am excited to see how God is at work there,” Olson said. “Every trip I have gone on in the past, God has made himself very evident to me. He has definitely helped me see that He is not only at work in my life but He is at work in other people’s lives, no matter how far away they are.”

The team will work in a children’s home and Christian school from May 14-27 in Kipkaren, Kenya. Members will help lead devotions, organize games, assist parents, cook, clean and work in the the community training center, according to the CSA trip description.

“[The Kenyans at the center] love God and who Jesus is and I have learned the purpose of me going is to encourage them in this time,” Olson said. “Paul writes to the churches and talks about how we are to encourage one another in our faith and in the calling God has given them. My purpose of going is to keep encouraging and feeding into the people in Kenya.”

For Olson, the CSA retreat was an opportunity to bond with her team and served as a training tool to prepare her heart for what is to come.

“Missions do not stop when your mission trip is done,” Olson said. “It becomes a lifestyle.”

Team South Africa: Out of Africa

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Vanessa Jensen. Photo credit: Kelyn Struiksma

Sophomore liberal studies major Vanessa Jensen was a member of the Young Life team that traveled to Peru for a six-week mission trip last summer through APU. After being pulled out of her comfort zone and learning more about the character of God, she wanted to go on another trip and learn more about what it means to serve, Jensen said.

Jensen is now leading the South Africa: Out of Africa action team from May 7-June 18.

After her experience in Peru, Jensen felt called to a bigger role and sees herself as a leader during this time of preparation, not only while her group is abroad.

“It’s a huge responsibility, and a lot goes into being a leader,” Jensen said. “I consider it a time to be able to mentor and build relationships.”

Jensen emphasized how these trips first help build personal relationships with Christ, then move to being a servant for Christ. Those going on Jensen’s team will work as a community development team. CSA describes its ministry as reaching out to the community by helping support various programs in George, South Africa.

According to Jensen, raising money is never the easy part of going on mission trips, but it is crucial to trust God’s provision. Jensen is looking forward to experiencing more of God while walking alongside her team, even though she does not have all the answers.

“Sometimes I feel like there is not a way you can prepare for these trips because you really don’t know what to expect, but that is the beauty,” Jensen said.

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