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SPRINGBREAK: Mo. students debate evolution, lead Bible Clubs in two states

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP)–Nearly 70 Hannibal-LaGrange College students spent their Spring Break serving others in Corpus Christi, Texas, Colorado, and Missouri.


For the fifth consecutive year, HLG teamed up with Global Encounter Ministries out of Springfield, Mo., for mission work in Corpus Christi. 24 HLG students, faculty and staff went with the purpose to evangelize the lost and encourage fellow Christians.

Many of the team members, including Jared Otte and Kelly Spicer, have returned to Corpus each year hoping to see the fruits of seeds planted from years past. Otte and Spicer helped lead youth services at Corpus Christi Baptist Church. The other groups worked with Morgan Avenue Baptist Church and Trinity Fellowship Baptist Church.

“For four years, I was able to invest in people. It’s neat to see that three years later, they’re still coming to the ministries,” said Spicer. “You pick right up where you left off. We already have a bond (with the people).” Spicer is a member of South County Baptist Church in St. Louis.

Otte, a member of First Baptist Church of Kahoka, said, “What better way to spend a week off than serving God? We got to be a good Christian influence on the youth. It was good for them to see college students who were for God-they really respected that.”

Jana Van Donselaar, a first-time missionary in Corpus Christi, said the highlight of her trip involved an encounter with a man whose life was vastly different from her own. A thirty-five year old man brought several children to the church, so many of the HLG students assumed he was a Christian.

Van Donselaar discovered, however, that the man had a life full of hurt and fear. He was a gang member who had been in jail several times. He told Van Donselaar how his rosary beads kept falling off as a sign that God didn’t want him.

“He said he could never become a Christian because he had been too bad,” said Van Donselaar. “He was afraid of giving up the gang and was having some marital problems, but he really wanted to know what faith was.”

“I shared with him how you could never out-sin God’s love and how God was knocking on his heart,” she continued.

The man seemed responsive, but was unwilling to completely accept God’s grace. Van Donselaar prayed with the man, and gave his name to the pastor for follow-up purposes. Though her own life was so different from that man’s, she felt she was able to connect with him by simply listening and sharing simple truths of God’s love.

In addition to leading youth and children’s programs at the churches, the Corpus team had the opportunity for evangelism on the campuses of Delmar University and Texas A & M-Corpus Christi. HLG students worked with the Baptist Student Ministries to conduct surveys that led to spiritual issues and to invite students to a free luncheon. During the luncheon, HLG students presented drama, music and shared personal testimonies.

Van Donselaar said the surveys opened her eyes to what society truly thinks about eternity. “Ninety percent of the people we talked to said you have to be a good person to get to Heaven. I didn’t realize there were so many out there who didn’t know the truth,” she said.

Otte said he was nervous about ministering to his peers, but knew that it was important to plant seeds for the student ministries on those campuses.

“It was amazing how receptive everyone was (to the surveys),” Otte commented. He had a discussion with two biology majors regarding evolution and creation. Otte said he was able to support creation by using facts learned during his biology course at HLG.


Two of Hannibal-LaGrange’s traveling ensembles left the Bible belt and headed to the Colorado Mountains over spring break. Praise Song, a contemporary Christian vocal and instrumental ensemble, and New Edition, HLG’s repertory theatre troupe, discovered their ministry was one of encouragement.

Praise Song traveled to the northern and central parts of Colorado, including the cities of Aurora, Fort Collins, Littleton and Denver. They had the opportunity to perform for about 250 staff members at a chapel service at the Focus on the Family James Dobson Institute in Denver.

The ensemble performed at several churches, but their most unique experience occurred at Church on the Outside in Denver. The pastor told Praise Song that ninety percent of the community struggled with some type of addiction, including drugs or alcohol. The church was located in the county with the highest population of ex-convicts. Murderers, sexual offenders and addicts were among the people that attended the church. They average a weekly offering of $20.

HLG’s group sang at the church Sunday morning and during the Monday night “Prayer and Bread” service.

“It was a very informal concert,” said student director Josh Moore, a member of First Baptist Church of Warrensburg. “The audience wanted upbeat songs.” During the concert, some of the team members would step off stage to talk or pray with those attending the service. Many came for the food charity, but most stayed for the concert because a college group with a creative ministry is a novelty to the people in that area.

Dwayne Snead, First Baptist Church of Kahoka, said the morale among the ministers and church ministers was extremely high in spite of such demoralizing surroundings. “They held something every night for the community-computer training, recovery groups, food hand-outs. Some of the pastors are there twelve hours a day,” explained Snead.

Like Praise Song, New Edition took creative ministry to areas where it was difficult to find thriving churches. New Edition performed at six different churches and one Christian school in the southwest corner of Colorado. Director John Katsion, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Hannibal, said the troupe’s program was aimed at pastors and church members.

“There’s a lot of struggling people out there,” said Katsion, referring to the numerous bi-vocational pastors and church members who minister each day in an area heavy into witchcraft, New Age and occult ideals.

“Our program was different for them because it was something they’ve never seen before-Christian theatre,” said Taylor Beller, a member of Calvary Baptist Church of Hannibal. “It was refreshing to them. It got them motivated.”


A group of 19 students focused their efforts at home, right in the heart of Hannibal. The first trip of its kind in recent years, HLG mission leaders felt it was time to reach people in the surrounding community.

“The Mission Office’s vision was to bridge the gap between HLG and Hannibal,” said trip coordinator Amy Jennings. “We felt that goal could be accomplished by serving the community.”

Cary Perrin, a Hannibal native and one of the team leaders, said the great commission is all about starting right at home. “It’s time HLG becomes a lighthouse to this community,” said Perrin, a freshman and member of Calvary Baptist Church of Hannibal.

Meghan Pfeiffer said she planned on returning to Corpus Christi this spring, but God changed her heart. Her love for road trips was overridden by God’s call to serve in Hannibal. An art education major, Pfeiffer has seen the spiritual need firsthand through her observation hours at local public schools.

Students spent the week leading a day camp for kids, assisting with a Habitat for Humanity project, working with a local food distribution outlet and other projects for a local church. To make the experience feel more like a “trip,” the students stayed at host homes instead of in the dorms. Most of the host families are members of Prince Avenue Baptist Church.

Perrin said the most important part of the camp was planting seeds and plans for further communication with those they reached. They began the camp with 46 youth, and approximately 70 children were in attendance by the end of the week.

“Missions is not crossing state lines or oceans, but stepping of your comfort zones,” said Perrin.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: MINISTRY IN RECREATION, MAKING CRAFTS.

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  • Erica Henry