Global Partnerships Build Ongoing Relationships
CHICAGO, IL (July 27, 2007) – Nykki Thompson began what she hopes will be an ongoing relationship with the Zambian children she met in that African nation this summer while on a mission trip with her North Park University classmates.
"God willing, I'll go back," she says. "Getting to know the kids was great. I'd like to see them again."
Thompson was one of 132 undergraduate students, staff, and North Park Theological Seminary students who participated in 11 different trips last year as part of the newly created Global Partnerships program. University Ministries at the campus started the program last year to build ongoing relationships with people at the mission sites.
"It is so important for the integrity of our short-term missions program that we continue going to the same places," says Janelle Keller, the program’s coordinator. "This allows deep relationships to develop with the local leadership and indigenous people that we work alongside. It allows us to be invested and accountable instead of just taking a trip that will, in the end, only end up benefiting ourselves."
In the past, students would approach staff and say they would like to lead a mission trip to a location, asking if the University would help support the experience. The staff decided an organized program would be more advantageous.
"The idea was fully supported by all of the students and the organizations that we are partnering with," Keller says. "It was a great year to build a foundation and educate the campus about the direction we are now taking."
Many of the participants such as Thompson, who also worked in Oaxaca, Mexico, have told Keller they want to return to the same sites. "That has been one huge indication to me that we are headed in the right direction," she says. "Everyone thinks that they had the best trip and the best possible location."
Organizers expect the students to bring new understandings home with them. "With an emphasis on education, relationship, and collaboration, we hope students grasp how much we have to learn from our sisters and brothers around the world," says Rich Johnson, director of University Ministries.
Partnerships have been developed at several sites in the United States, including New Orleans and Appalachia. Sites also have been established in six countries: Thailand, Bolivia, Mexico, Russia, Zambia, and Chile.
Projects included working with an organization in a Thailand slum to help develop jobs for women, as well as working at an orphanage in Bolivia, constructing homes in New Orleans, and preparing campgrounds in Appalachia.
Program organizers developed three criteria for choosing each of the partner sites: education, relationships, and sustainability.
Dates for the upcoming trips will be announced during the beginning of the school year. One person who won't be returning as part of the program, however, is Keller. She has accepted a job with one of the partner organizations in Mexico.
Applicants for the position are being sought. Job descriptions and the application process are located on the North Park web site.