Summer break offers welcome gifts of new activities and a change of pace to Pacific Union College students. For junior Rebekah Widmer, summer vacation 2011 brought a new chance to give of herself to others. Whether laying bricks or teaching kids how to brush their teeth, Rebekah Widmer is on a mission—or leading one.
This summer, Rebekah led over 20 college-age peers on a unique mission trip to Chiapas, Mexico. For two weeks in July, the Collegiate Project team worked to build a church, offer a dental clinic, and conduct vacation bible school in the rural community of El Retiro. Sponsored by Maranatha Volunteers International, the project is the organization’s newest option for young adults, who are the trip’s leaders and participants.
Rebekah was the trip’s first project coordinator. “Being the project coordinator helps you learn how everyone is part of the team; how the pastor impacts the cook,” she says. As a four-time veteran of Maranatha’s Ultimate Workout, a mission trip for high school age teens, Rebekah is very familiar with a mission team’s many roles.
This service-driven student may be new to the Collegiate Project, but she’s no stranger to missions. At age 15, Rebekah felt a passion for service ignite on her trip to Rwanda with ShareHim, a Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic organization.
“I got hooked on missions!” Rebekah says. In high school, she kicked off her Ultimate Workout career with Maranatha. During her first year on the project, staff recognized Rebekah’s leadership skills, and asked her to return as the construction superintendent. More years brought more roles: outreach leader, co-leader, then leader. Along with her new hats came a variety of new skills: working with children, turning bricks into buildings, and even learning how to cut hair for a community event.
Rebekah’s commitment to missions didn’t end with high school. This Antioch, California, resident first chose to attend PUC because of its aviation program; she wanted to be an aviation major to extend her mission outreach. Now a business administration major and Spanish minor, Rebekah has found new ways to minister. But she isn’t waiting until graduation to start.
“We want to help students grow into their own experience with God,” Rebekah says about her work with Maranatha. A glance at her missions career at PUC shows that this aim is more than a summer goal. With several students and then-PUC chaplain Roy Ice, she established a PUC chapter of Invisible Children, which raises awareness about war-torn northern Uganda and helps build schools. Rebekah also volunteered at the Angwin Teen Center, making and selling cookies to outlets such as the PUC College Market and the gourmet grocery Dean & Deluca as a fundraiser.
Last year, Rebekah learned yet another skill: how to combine her local and international ministries. At the Universidad Adventista del Plata in Argentina, she practiced classroom Spanish by participating in the community health ministry on Sabbath afternoons. Helping with a popular community health fair and giving Bible studies benefited others, and also added new words to Rebekah’s growing vocabulary.
As a PUC student, Maranatha leader, and sometimes barber, Rebekah has worn many hats, not just a construction cap. What was different about being the Collegiate Project coordinator? Rebekah says she gained a new experience of what is means to serve others. “On a mission trip, you serve not only staff members, but also kids and the community. That’s the goal—it’s all about service in different aspects.”
Now Rebekah has found yet another way to serve others: she has dedicated a year to helping others in Honduras. With Reach International, another mission organization that cares for children in developing countries, she’s extending her short-term mission experience for even more long-term returns. In the process, Rebekah is exploring a whole new level of what it means to be a student missionary.
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