Chowan University Mission Trip Teaches Students Perception is not Reality
MURFREESBORO, NC – Fourteen Chowan University students began the week either not knowing what to expect, or with expectations shaped by pre-existing stereotypes. What they learned, however, is that perception in not reality.
The students, accompanied by Drew Phillips, Associate Minister to the University, and Mari Wiles, Minister to the University and Associate Dean of Students, visited Atlanta, Georgia on a spring break mission trip. The students served at Gateway Center, homework hotspots, and visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Their combined experiences all pointed to one underlying theme, perception.
The Gateway Center serves more than 5,000 people annually. The mission is to end homelessness in Metro Atlanta through therapeutic programs and community collaboration. At the center, the students engaged with those currently experiencing homelessness. Students were shocked to learn that many people in this situation were very much like them, opposed to the preconceived misconceptions they held. They were surprised to learn that many of the residents hold college degrees. The encounters led them to reflect on their own lives with more gratitude.
The students also visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a humbling experience that students described as a tool to better help them serve. They learned about genocide in Ethiopia, and sex trafficking in Rwanda, among other topics. Junior Qeashaunda Johnson shared that the experience encouraged her to “fight for other people who don’t have what I have.”
Senior Shawn Janey learned more about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was surprised to find that Reverend Dr. King utilized some of the teachings of Ghandi. Reflecting on this new information, he shared, “As Christians, we are supposed to engage culture, not just separate what is Godly and what is not.”
Sophomore Amber Cunningham discovered how the abiding presence of god intersects with the call to service. “You can’t bring God anywhere,” she said. He’s already there no matter where you go. Our job is to make sure people can see his love, his compassion, and his works through the light He has put in us.”
Regardless of what each individual found the most valuable from the trip, they all had one thing in common. They realized that mission trips are not only about the people they are serving. Evelyn Walker stated, “I realized everything that I did for others ultimately changed me.” The mission trip was a gift, not only to those who were served, but to the students who were called to serve.
While many of their peers were sunning on beaches or relaxing with Netflix, these 14 students learned about themselves by helping others. They set aside preconceived notions, previously held perceptions, and misconceptions. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable with each other- and with complete strangers- and it reshaped their realities.