News - Students Engage in Service Learning on Urban Plunge Excursion

Students Engage in Service Learning on Urban Plunge Excursion

Urban Plunge GroupOn April 7, 22 Greenville College students traveled to St. Louis to take part in the rich tradition of service and learning known as Urban Plunge. The 24-hour experience transports GC students into St. Louis to learn about ministries in the city and partner with those ministries through prayer and service projects. This year, the experience brought Urban Plungers to two ministries: The Bridge in downtown St. Louis and Mercy Ministries in Fenton, MO. Both ministries provided learning opportunities through service projects, meaningful conversations and testimonies.

The Bridge

Students on The Walk through downtown St. LouisOn Friday night, the students arrived at The Bridge, a ministry located in the heart of St. Louis at a facility located in the historic Centenary United Methodist Church property. Over the past 9 years, The Bridge has created a legacy of serving homeless and at-risk people in St. Louis through their daily drop in center where visitors are provided with a place to escape the elements, receive a healthy meal. Students spent part of the night cleaning the dining area of The Bridge and reflecting upon the day and the activities ahead.

“Who are homeless people?” The question rang out across a room without an answer. After waiting a few seconds, a volunteer from The Bridge, Patrick, asked the question again, this time with an answer. “Who are homeless people? Homeless people are people, children of God.” Patrick proceeded with a talk about homelessness in St. Louis, his experience with homelessness and simple actions that each person can take to help the homeless. Students learned that helping homeless people starts with a change in mindset- seeing them as people who are homeless instead of homeless people. Patrick’s story, of going from one served by The Bridge to becoming one of their volunteers, was evidence of The Bridge’s life-changing impact on the lives of people who find themselves homeless in St. Louis.

Patrick’s challenge to change their mindset toward homelessness left a lasting impact on GC sophomore and Social Work major, Tyler Kohrs (pictured below with shovel), “Homeless people, no matter what their situation is, they are still people. You give them the same respect as you do everyone else.” Kohrs explains, “You look them in the eye. You don’t ask them why they are homeless, no one wants to hear that.”

After wrapping up his talk, Patrick led the students through “The Walk,” a tour that takes participants in the footsteps of people who are homeless, past organizations that provide food, shelter and opportunities. During the walk Patrick described some of the cyclical problems of homelessness in St. Louis but also provided the following actions as guidance to helping people who are homeless:

“If you want to help homeless people, remember they are people, people who are displaced. Don’t give them money, buy them a meal, bring them actual food or give money to an organization who knows how to help them. When donating to an organization, think outside of the box- don’t just give clothing. Shelters, for example, need feminine hygiene products, diapers and ethnic hair care and skin products. Give items that will serve a variety of needs.”

Mercy Ministries

Tyler KohrsThe second half of the Urban Plunge excursion took place at the Mercy Ministries house in Fenton, MO, located in the suburbs of St. Louis. Mercy Ministries provides free faith-based residential care to women between the ages of 13-28 who struggle with a variety of issues including drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders, self-harm and depression and those who are dealing with the aftermath of physical and sexual abuse. Their mission is “to provide opportunities for young women to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and life-transforming power.”

The visit started with an information video about the Mercy Ministries organization, followed by a tour of the facility. After the tour, students were commissioned to complete a variety of landscaping and gardening tasks to beautify the property. While tending to the property, some of residents of Mercy Ministries sparked conversations with the Urban Plunge students, thanking them for their hard work and sharing how much this place meant to them. Through their stories and conversations, Urban Plunge students were able to see how their landscaping work contributed to the Kingdom work carried at Mercy Ministries. By beautifying the grounds, they were providing an additional source of beauty inspire to the young women at Mercy Ministries, beauty to remind them of their own beauty as children of God. The afternoon ended with a fun-filled pick-up volleyball game of teams mixed with the young women from Mercy Ministries and the Urban Plunge students.  

GardeningDuring the first weekend of April, 22 students embarked on a journey that would change their understanding of poverty, homelessness, service and ministry. They lent their hands to scrubbing floors and tending gardens and lent their hearts to listening to stories and sharing laughter.

“After it was over, I felt a calling. It needs to be longer or I need to go back,” describes Kohrs. Though the trip was only 24 hours, it will leave an indelible change in the lives of the students who embarked on this excursion. 

To view more photos of the Spring 2014 Urban Plunge Trip, check out our photo album from the weekend on Greenville College's Flickr account

This story was published on June 05, 2014

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