In the next two issues, Vanguard University leaders direct our attention to the changes in student mission trips. This month, Kayli Hillebrand, Vanguard’s Associate Director of Outreach, tells us about changes in motivation and preparation. In April, Greg Austring will list new concerns about what the students do once on the field. Both of these will be longer than usual but will help serve as a checklist for your own church’s trips.
When I was a student at Vanguard University just ten years ago, it was more about the experience of simply going and engaging. Today, we have students coming through the doors of the Vanguard University Outreach office wanting to serve in ways that are connected to their majors – from Biology to Religion and everything in between. Students want practical, hands on experience that makes their classroom education come to life, and will contribute to their long-term professional goals. And in the same way, future employers want to see that this generation has cross cultural experience in their particular field. Mobilization through local and global outreach has changed for this campus and it will continue to grow and evolve.
The face of missions is changing. This generation is highly engaged in a new era of global missions and local outreach. Diving deep into grassroots organizations, and buying products from companies committed to impacting the lives of those in need with every sale made, this generation of students is different.
At the same time, the training and preparation process for these students looks different than it did when I was at VU. The foundation is still there – cultural understanding, presentation of the Gospel, how to partner with the locals – and yet, we are finding we have to go back to the basics. Students are less prepared for the changed practicalities of international travel. During trainings now, we go through:
- how to obtain a passport
- how to navigate both large and small airports
- how to use public transportation
- extensive training on how to engage with the people around you without the use of text messaging and social media!
- very detailed emergency plans for each location traveled
- how to be aware of your surroundings during travel (danger wears a different face these days).
With fundraising still being a significant challenge to participation in missions, we have shifted the focus from a one-time fundraising effort to teaching students how to build a support network that is committed to praying and financially giving. In all we do, our desire is to set these students up for success and empower them to learn the skills and tools they will need not just for their time at VU, but that they can use for a lifetime. We want them to be “missions-minded and -hearted” so that no matter the professional field they walk into, they know how to see and meet the needs of their neighbors and this world for the Kingdom of God.
We are committed to train up this generation into to believing and understanding that Your Story Matters (the VU slogan) does not just refer to them, but to every person they meet. We are confident that students will walk in the truth that they genuinely can impact the world for the Kingdom of God right here, right now.
Kayli Hillebrand is the Associate Director of Outreach at Vanguard University. Having graduated from Vanguard in 2006 with her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, she went on to complete her Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management from Hope International University in 2013. Kayli has worked in several nonprofit arenas, focusing primarily on homelessness, addiction recover,y and mental health. Kayli has been on staff at Vanguard since January 2013.
For more information about Outreach, contact her at Kayli.Hillebrand@vanguard.edu.