Giving Their Christmas Away – Grace College Students Serve Others Over Winter Break
While many college students were taking a break from their studies and relaxing at home, several Grace College students spent their time volunteering. Karris Siegler and Anna Huggins spent a week of their break serving in the Dominican Republic. Katie Parks, Alexis Bergman, Olivia Bergman and Isaiah Herbster went to Florida with Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief, and Izabela Duran gathered a group of friends to assemble food packages with Feed My Starving Children.
“It’s been so encouraging to hear about how our students used their time off to ‘Know Christ and Make Him Known,’” said Grace College President, Dr. Drew Flamm. “This institutional vision is something we’ve talked about at length over the past semester, and it’s encouraging to hear of the ways students are eagerly living it out – both on campus and off.”
Anna Huggins, a first-year elementary education and Spanish double major, had spent her previous summer at ANIJA School in Jaracaboa, Dominican Republic. When she decided to go back over Christmas break this year, she invited Karris Siegler to come with her.
“I had been really impacted by the Conference on Missions at Grace, and knew I wanted to volunteer at an orphanage this summer,” said Siegler. “But I prayed about it for a while, and I really felt the Lord calling me to go sooner. I thought, “Well, what does Christmas look like?” It was kind of a shuffle because I wanted to see family and spend time with my friends, but the more I prayed about it, the more clear it became that I should go.”
The pair spent a week in Jaracaboa serving at ANIJA School and Ark Orphanage – both part of Kids Alive International, a missions organization that plants schools and foster home living situations all over the world so that children receive holistic care. Siegler and Huggins helped wherever needed – listening to kids read, playing soccer during recess and baking cookies for the Christmas party.
“When I’m at ANIJA, I often get the feeling that I am in the exact place I’m meant to be,” said Huggins. “I don’t have any postgraduate plans quite yet, but my heart is certainly in Latin America.”
While Siegler and Huggins spent their break abroad, Katie Parks, Alexis Bergman, Olivia Bergman and Isaiah Herbster got to work in Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, Florida, to help with Hurricane Ian clean-up. The unlikely crew came together through mutual friends, but what they shared in common was the desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
“All five of us were on fire for God and ready to be used by Him. We were able to help so many people because of this,” said Parks.
Over the course of the week, the group tarped roofs, gutted homes, removed damaged belongings and moved tree limbs to get the properties ready for contractors.
“The jobs weren’t the most glamorous, but we definitely had an amazing opportunity to help others who didn’t have the means to help themselves,” said Herbster. “I believe that we should be doing anything we can to make Christ known. Sometimes that means taking the quiet servant role that is not ‘fun’ or glamorous.”
Before the group got to work, they gathered to pray with the homeowners, and once the work was finished, they would leave them with a Bible signed by each of the crew members.
“The most impactful part of the trip was seeing people go from hopeless to hopeful in a matter of hours,” said Alexis Bergman. “By working hard and serving in the name of Jesus, and most importantly, sharing the gospel message to every homeowner and giving them a Bible, we saw lives changed.”
The Grace students were an anomaly among the group of volunteers. While the average volunteer was 60 years old, they were determined to take the words of 1 Timothy to heart and set an example for other believers.
“College-age kids have so much to offer, and this week away could be used well by going and serving,” said Olivia Bergman. “I know that my time is God’s, and I’m thankful the Lord led us to use this time to serve with Samaritan’s Purse.”
Meanwhile, Chicago native Izabela Duran found an opportunity to serve even closer to home.
“I was really excited for winter break because I knew I would have a lot of free time,” said Duran. “With that said, the holidays were approaching, and I wanted to help those who may not have access to a lot of things we take for granted.”
Duran had volunteered in the past with Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit that provides nutritionally complete meals for starving, malnourished and hungry people. She knew that it was a great way to help children in need. Altogether, Duran’s volunteer group packed 216 boxes with 46,656 meals, which will feed 128 kids in Cambodia and Eswatini for a year.
“This experience made me appreciate the things God has blessed me with, especially access to food and clean water, and to make an effort to give back what I have been graciously blessed with,” said Duran.
Learn more about Grace College, where students seek to know Christ and make Him known, at www.grace.edu.
Photos attached: Karris Siegler (top left) and Anna Huggins (bottom left) spent a week of their break serving in the Dominican Republic. Katie Parks, Alexis Bergman, Olivia Bergman and Isaiah Herbster (top right) went to Florida with Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief, and Izabela Duran (bottom right) gathered a group of friends to assemble food packages with Feed My Starving Children