Originally created 08/07/99

Volunteers' work is difficult but rewarding



Rugged, snow-capped mountains jut into the sky above Vancouver, British Columbia, far away from Eric Odom's home in Evans, where he still remembers to pray for Frieda, a Canadian evangelist he left behind.

It was Frieda, 63, who told the 18-year-old and other short-term missionaries from First Presbyterian Church about her efforts to evangelize her people, First Nation (Indian) tribes, who live in the mountains.

Most tribespeople ignore her, treating her like an outcast, but others put curses on her. Yet she is committed to staying, said Eric, 18, who wrote about her in his journal.

He and other Augustans prayed for her after she gave her testimony. "We pray for her still, and I pray for her in my daily personal prayers," he said.

Augusta youth served in many spots across the world this summer, including Brazil, Haiti and Romania. They each raised several hundred dollars from friends, family and fellow church members to cover travel expenses to the missions. Their personal journals provide glimpses of their experiences.

Rosalie Hilton, 15, a rising sophomore at A.R. Johnson High School, who dreams of becoming a doctor, accompanied a medical team to St. Louis du Nord mission in Haiti this summer. It was her second trip.

The team distributed vitamins and medicines and also performed minor and even major surgery. Her job was to sterilize instruments, she said. "I (also) stitched up a couple of people."

She noted the extreme poverty and overcrowded conditions of the city in her journal. "Everywhere you go somebody -- or a lot of somebodies -- are already there," she wrote.

The extreme poverty changed her perspective on life. Instead of bemoaning the lack of designer clothes, she wrote, Haiti is "a world where you wear what you can get."

It is also a place where she saw women standing in a line, nearly 20 deep, just to get drinking water. Volunteers met many children in the clinics during their two-week mission trip. When she could, she played with them, she said. "They try and take care of you."

Green-eyed Sarah Enyeart, 18, an Evans High School graduate, also got attached to the people she met during her 10-day mission to Itabira, Brazil, though she struggled with their language -- Portuguese.

The team held a vacation Bible school, built a drug rehabilitation center and handed out Bibles, candy and WWJD -- What Would Jesus Do? -- bracelets. They also showed the Jesus film and performed a drama called The Redeemer, she said.

One day her home visitation team entered only seven houses, but each accepted Christ, she said. "One lady was in her 70s. We were telling her about Christ -- that you can have peace in your heart with Christ."

The woman told them she had no peace -- her son had tried to kill her four times, but the woman prayed to accept Christ, wrote Ms. Enyeart, an Augusta State University freshman. "She put her hands over her heart and with a smile said she felt peace."

Shannon Simoneau, 21, a senior at Georgia Southern University majoring in early childhood education, returned for a second time to Romania to work in a boys' orphanage this summer.

Ms. Simoneau traveled with 32 others from Curtis Baptist Church. They had little sleep during the first two days of the mission because they had to travel around the clock. The team flew into Budapest, Hungary, then took a train to Tirga Mures, Romania, where they boarded a bus for Ludus, Romania, and the orphanage.

She and nine others left the rest of their party at the orphanage to accompany some boys and interpreters to a mountain camp at Lunca Bradlui.

The second day at camp was very hard, the hardest of the mission, they said.

Food was good but different -- the Romanians' main staple is bread. But there wasn't enough electricity or water to shower at the cabin, so they donned swimsuits to bathe in a nearby river, she said. "It was very, very cold but bearable."

The boys had a blast in the river. When some younger ones noticed her bottle of shampoo, they all wanted some for their hair, she said. Although the experience was fun, the lack of sleep, the unfamiliar customs, food and language took their toll.

Yet no matter how her day went, God was in control, she wrote in her journal. "Thank you, God, for your unending love for me and these beautiful guys. Help me -- be my strength to love them."

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.