While Spring Break for most college students is an opportunity to take a break from their studies and relax, five Ferris State University student-athletes approached the time off much differently by making a difference in the lives of under-priviledged Americans.
Freshman Amanda Foster (Byron Center/South Christian), sophomore Logan DeClercq (Lowell), and redshirt freshman Courtney Meharg (Clarkston) of the FSU women's soccer team along with football's redshirt frosh Jace Heneveld (Zeeland/East) spent March 4-11 in Port Gibson, Miss., for the 2011 Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)and Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) Mission Trip. The four along with Pastor Mike Wissink, who has worked in campus ministry at Ferris State since 1994, made the trip to southwest Mississippi.
They along with eight other Ferris State students were the first volunteer group of the 2011 'season' to visit Port Gibson, which is located 40 miles south of Vicksburg near the Mississippi River and is in the state's second poorest county (Claiborne). As part of the Christian Volunteer Services (CVS) organization, Wissink and the FSU students began work on Monday (March 7) and by Thursday (March 10), three wheel chair ramps and one deck had been built.
"What an exciting thing for these (FSU) students to witness," said Wissink, who has taken other groups to the Port Gibson community numerous times. "The genuine joy and gratitude from families and individuals who don't have the knowledge or financial means to do this sort of thing. Up until this time, these families have a very difficult time getting in and out of their homes if at all."
A set cost was incurred by each Ferris State student which covered food, lodging, and transportation expenses. The budget funds along with a portion of what the students paid resulted in a gift of $1,300 to cover materials costs for the construction projects.
"At the beginning of the trip, 13 strangers become friends by week's end," said Wissink. "It was especially neat in the sense that some of the other students (non-athletes) got to know the four student-athletes. We all worked hard and had to overcome a severe thunderstorm one night which left us with seven inches of rain, flash flooding, and a lot of mud and wet conditions to work with. Yet in the end, the jobs were completed!
The mission trip was a great learning tool for those who were fortunate enough to participate in and one in which most are already looking forward to returning back to Port Gibson for Spring Break 2012.
"I really enjoyed the trip, it was a fun and great experience," said Amanda Foster. "We were able to get first-hand glimpse of what life is really like for them and how much we should be appreciative of what we have here. I plan to go back as many times as I can and hope to sign up more students to help these unfortunate people who are appreciative of our kindness."
After all, no good deed goes unrewarded.