Service Above Self
Instead of playing in the sand and sun during spring break, twenty McKendree students
offered a helping hand by assembling swing sets for families affected by the November
2013 tornado in Washington, Ill.
As part of the annual McKendree Campus Ministries spring break mission trip, the students volunteered for "Hope Swings in Washington," a youth-based mission project sponsored by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church, Crossroads United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church of Peoria, and Washington Evangelical United Methodist Church. The group’s mission is to build and distribute 100 swing sets this summer.
“A lot of people think about the big picture ... the houses that are gone. But little
kids, they have nowhere to go, they have no refuge, nowhere fun. So I want to help
give that back to the kids.” ~ Kristin Junge '15
McKendree student and Washington native Andy Rettke '16 lost his home in the tornado. “The feeling I get seeing my fellow peers come down and help where I lived for a while makes me feel like they have my back,” said Andy. “There are people that have a couple of kids across the street and I think it would be a really great thing for them to get one of these swing sets.”
When they arrived in Washington, the students found themselves driving through neighborhoods where houses had been flattened and trees had been snapped by winds that peaked at over 200 mph during the EF4 tornado. They saw snapshots of lives disturbed; a daily devotional book laying among the rubble; a child’s sock soaked in mud; a house with only its dining room intact and Christmas decorations still flanking the mantle.
“I heard about the tornado and saw it on TV, but nothing could prepare me for the devastation until I was standing in the midst of it and looking at the work that still needed to be done,” said Rhoda Warner '16. “I know my part was small, but in the end my little part will hopefully bring hope and joy to families and children as they begin to rebuild.
In addition, students made a difference by cleaning debris and sorting clothing for the community. “For McKendree students, this mission trip presented the perfect opportunity for them to see that they do not need to travel far to find real need. Helping our neighbors is as important as traveling across the country or overseas. The trip was a reminder of how in a matter of seconds lives can change forever and that the smallest gesture can be a great encouragement to others as they rebuild their lives,” said Rev. Dr. Tim Harrison, McKendree chaplain and director of church relations.
Tim has accompanied students on the mission and service trips for more than 15 years. “Over the years, we’ve done construction in elementary schools in Mexico, delivered food to the poor in Brazil, helped with home repair on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma, and assisted with clean-up after Hurricane Katrina. The students always come back with a different perspective on their lives–how blessed they are, and the importance of serving others.”
McKendree volunteers included: Nicole Alwan '15, Jordan Barker '17, Neil Berkel '15, Tori Cook '16, Christine Cunningham '15, Jenna Davis '17, Merrilee Gibbs Davolt '17, Katie Herath '15, Sharon Herath '16, Kristin Junge '15, Ashtan Marucco '17, Bomi Park '15, Holly Petrie '17, Andy Rettke '17, Mary Roesch '17, Tiffany Tully '17, Rhoda Warner '16, Marissa Weiss '17, Jason Whitlock '17, and Andrew Zimmer '16.
Learn more about McKendree University and the Campus Ministries program.