Every spring break, students from Northwestern travel domestically and abroad to serve others and glorify God through a ten-day long mission called a Spring Service Partnership.
The title ‘Spring Service Projects’ (SSP) has recently been renamed ‘Spring Service Partnerships’ this year.
“We look for people that really have that heart for missions and really have that desire to see what God is already doing and coming alongside our long term partners internationally,” SSP coordinator and senior Christian education and youth ministry major Lizzy Rice said.
Last year, Dublin was added to the long-term locations of Amsterdam, Nicaragua and Haiti as places where students can learn about culture, God’s work and give a helping hand wherever it is needed in their location during their spring break. Throughout the years, NW has created long-term partnerships with these ministries as they have held the level of excellence that NW looks for in missions.
Senior social work major Tabitha Frey traveled to Dublin last year as a student leader for her SSP. Frey served at two different sites while in Dublin: at a homeless shelter in the heart of the city and at another center that focuses on at-risk children in the surrounding area.
“Something about international SSPs is checking where your heart’s at,” Frey said. “Serving the homeless was not easy. It was not glamorous, and you’re not there to be a tourist. You’re dealing with spiritual warfare and poverty and questions that we often don’t necessarily have to face at NW.”
Senior social work major Jennifer Te Grotenhuis traveled to Amsterdam last year as one of two student leaders. While in the Netherlands, Te Grotenhuis focused on spring-cleaning and working alongside those who were employed at a hostel.
“The leaders of the ministry in Amsterdam are all about building community amidst the staff at the hostels,” Te Grotenhuis said. “What stuck out to me the most was how intentional they were in putting Christ into everything and letting him be Lord over everything.”
In Nicaragua, students can expect to serve at a health and feeding center and lead Vacation Bible School. In Haiti, students help with construction and work with young people.
Before going to their locations, students prepare by getting passports, vaccinations and meeting in their groups to discuss the culture of the places that they will visit. In missions going to Europe, many groups discussed post-Christian/truth culture in their locations. Then before leaving, each team fundraises for the expenses of their missions.
“In domestic SSPs you are going to a different culture, yes, but within the same society,” Te Grotenhuis said. “In an international SSP, you are being taken away from your comfort zone. It’s going to a new place and realizing that God is still at work there. It’s not up to me to bring God there. He was already there to begin with. He’s already doing things.”
Although the application process for this coming year’s SSPs closed on Oct. 20, it’s never too late to think about next year’s missions. In addition, domestic SSP applications close this coming January.