Friendship Mission Trip

Spring Break Friendship Mission Trips

Alice Millar Chapel and University Christian Ministry co-sponsor spring break service trips abroad each year. These “friendship missions” are undertaken to increase global awareness, to provide an opportunity immersion in a different culture, and to building relationships with brothers and sisters in other countries. In previous years, groups have travelled to Russia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Cuba.

Students are responsible for the cost of the trip. Every effort is made to keep costs to a minimum.

For more information, contact University Christian Ministry (847-864-2320) or Alice Millar Chapel (847-491-7256).

Recent Trips


Sponsored by Alice Millar Chapel and University Christian Ministry


The goals of this trip were: (1) To help team members learn about the political, social, economic, and religious aspects of life in Haiti. (2) To build bridges of friendship and understanding between ourselves and our Haitian brothers and sisters. (3) To provide resources for and participate in rebuilding following the earthquake. (4) To deliver medicines and supplies to Methodist churches in Haiti.

Our visit was hosted by the Eglise Methodiste de Haiti. We deepened relationships with church and community leaders by sharing worship and Bible study with members of the congregation. We visited mission projects of the Methodist church. We met people who are living out their faith in a social, cultural and economic setting very different from our own.

Friendship Mission Trip - Cuba Spring 2010

Article by Dana Behnke
Dana Behnke

I was one of fifteen people who went on the Friendship mission from Alice Millar Chapel and University Christian Ministry over Spring break. We spent a week in Havana, Cuba hosted by First Presbyterian Church of Havana and their pastor Hector Mendez. I was asked to share a bible passage and some of my thoughts on the experience. I wanted to thank all of you for your continued support of this trip and for giving me the opportunity.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

About a week and a half after we got back to Cuba, I met with Julie and a women from a local church. We were trying to renew our relationship with this particular congregation and hopefully get some financial support from them. There was, of course, the requisite schmoozing. Julie talked about our ministry and I tried to offer a student’s perspective. The conversation went smoothly, flowed easily. We ended up talking about Cuba and she essentially asked me if I had found the experience to be life-changing.

I didn’t know how to respond. Certainly, I felt impacted by the trip, but I also didn’t have some Pentecostal revelation. I had no idea what this woman wanted or expected me to say. I became acutely aware that I was essentially selling something, marketing our ministry. I gave the cope out answer. I said that we all encountered the trip to Cuba differently and that each of us were affected by it to varying degrees. It was a true statement, but it wasn’t the best answer I could have given. Perhaps my uneasiness was not with the question she asked.

Did the trip change you? That response should have been easy. Sure, I learned new things; I met people who generously shared their lives with me. I would see the world just the slightest bit differently because I was able to have this experience. But the question that’s truly terrifying is the one that must logically follow the initial one—how did it change you?

For me, I think going to Cuba was about reaffirmation of this scripture from Romans. Hope, it doesn’t disappoint us. That’s one of the few Bible passages that I’ve carried with me for a long time and yet I still have a tendency to carelessly forget it. I remember being struck by the hopefulness of the people we met. I shouldn’t have been. My surprise was a little naïve; it was a bit condescending; and I don’t know maybe it was partly the result of a college lifestyle filled with complaints of stress and trivialities.

So I went to Cuba and I carried Paul with me. I saw hope in the way the Cuban-Americans clapped as the plane took off from Miami. And I saw that same hope in the eager expressions of Cubans waiting for loved ones just beyond the airport exit. Pastor Mendez spoke of his deep if irrational faith when he preached a sermon about religious tolerance and a church filled with people to the sole woman who had showed up to worship during a period of religious discrimination. One of the Spanish speakers on our trip experienced the humorous but painful optimism of an aunt who wanted to introduce her nephew to all the young American women of our group. All week our group encountered the excitement of a city whose baseball team, the Industriales, was competing in the World Series.

We heard the prayers of a congregation that cared deeply about one another and their concern for a man whose brother had recently died in a hunger strike. Some of the church youth, our friends, had the endearing belief that we might be able to teach them an American dance. And I’m pretty sure it was only bright-eyed hope that permitted one of the guys in our group to get six strikes at the baseball game. The thing is…these aspirations aren’t really all that unique to Cuba—they are mostly entirely ordinary. It took two planes and hard-to-obtain religious visas to remind me that hope and God’s grace is ubiquitous.

But Paul isn’t talking just about hope for the earthly future. He’s talking about anticipation of the afterlife, and to be entirely honest, that’s always made me a bit uncomfortable. Since we are justified by faith…we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Well what about everyone else? It sounds a little exclusive—a club house that only the cool kids can hang out it. And so I’ve always had a tendency to ignore the first part. Let’s skip it and just talk about how suffering produces hope. But the beginning of Romans five is important and my understanding of it has changed. I don’t think Paul is trying to exclude anyone from God’s grace. He points to a community that shares suffering, that shares hope. And I think that’s what this trip to Cuba was about.

I think it’s what Julie and Tim Stevens, the congregation at Alice Millar, and all the other supporters of this trip have in mind when they encourage these friendship missions. I was reminded of what Leinad, one of our hosts, said to another guest of the church as he reassured her that she could take more food. He said, “We are family” and he turned to Julie, “Family. Right?” That’s what Paul is conveying—the idea of a huge, awesome family.

Students listening to leaderI am hopeful. I hope for improved health, more plentiful housing, universal freedoms, wiser leadership, more courageous government, more generous church, more laughter and more baseball, a larger and more loving family. I hope for a better Cuba, a better United States. And I hope all these things with Paul’s confidence that hope will not disappoint us.