Teens embark on mission trip

Students opt to work in Tanzania
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Sabrina Rush (left) and Haleigh Swierski say goodbye to loved ones before heading to Atlanta for their trip to Tanzania.

On the first day of spring break, students from Westminster Schools of Augusta landed in Amsterdam en route to the east African country of Tanzania.


On the second day of spring break, they sat in a small hut beading bracelets with Tanzanian children during a Sunday school class.

On the third day, who knows? The trip -- a weeklong mission organized by Westminster -- includes service projects in orphanages, schools and a rehabilitation program.

Four students were picked for the mission trip by Headmaster Steve O'Neil. Before moving to Augusta in 2008, O'Neil lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's commercial capital. There, he was director of an international Christian school, with students from more than 30 countries.

O'Neil has returned to Tanzania and decided this year to take students and two chaperones with him.

"I brought a piece of Africa back with me, and I've been dying to give my students a taste of what we experienced," he said.

On Friday morning, the students -- Sabrina Rush, Kaitlyn Hadden, Haleigh Swierski and Lila Capps -- said goodbye to their families outside Westminster before hopping into vans bound for Atlanta. They carried with them gift bags of candy and hand sanitizer, and art supplies and crafts for children.

The students were accompanied by Athletic Director Mike Freace and Director of Development Carrie Brigham.

Each member of the team is sending updates back to the U.S. with a blog.

Though the trip only lasts a week, the students have spent months preparing and writing about their experience, said Hadden, 18.

The mission, she said, requires "a lot of prayer." The group members read Acts in the Bible and a book by Max Lucado called Outlive Your Life, and were inspired by its message.

They learned phrases in Swahili, though most of the communication will be done in English, and endured rounds of vaccinations.

The group returns April 12. Until then, they'll stay in hostels and guest houses at night, but by day, assist at an orphanage, decorate a school's bare walls, and aid missionaries working with addicts.

Swierski immediately picked up an application when she heard of the need.

"I hope to gain a new perspective on life by seeing a different way of living, and I hope my heart will be softened after seeing poverty and people in great need," Swierski, 17, said before the team left.

The trip, Hadden said, has been a long time coming.

"Last year in a Christian Leadership class, my teacher hypothetically asked if we were offered a chance to go to Africa for God, would we do it," she said.

The next day, she was in O'Neil's office begging for a mission trip. She even sent cookies to his house.

"I have been praying for this trip and opportunity for over a year now, and God has answered my prayers," Hadden said. "I cannot wait to see how he is revealed to us in Tanzania."



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