Alternative Spring Break Trip to the Gulf Coast Changes Lives

During this year’s spring break in March, Jonathan Frye, associate professor of natural sciences at McPherson (Kan.) College, led a group of students, alumni, and Church of the Brethren members for a nine-day trip that took them more than 2,228 miles. They went to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, and to observe and understand the extent of the devastation.

McPherson students Sheila Bevan, a junior from McPherson; Jared Heinen, a junior from McPherson; Lacy Johnston, a freshman from Arlington, Colo.; Sheree Kriley, a junior from Espon, Kan.; and Brandon Pitts, a senior from San Antonio, Texas, will never be the same after seeing first-hand some of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on Biloxi, Gulfport, and New Orleans. During the trip the group re-roofed two homes in Lucedale, Miss.

Sheila Bevan feels that the trip was an unforgettable experience. “The trip was a wonderful experience for me. I learned about roofing but I also learned a lot about myself and others. I got to see first-hand the emotional side of what Hurricane Katrina has done to others. People don’t understand the impact of it and we almost forget that people are still trying to build their lives again. The trip was an emotional and a spiritual journey, one that I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Brandon Pitts said about his experience, “The trip to Mississippi was an eye opener for me. I saw first hand what Mother Nature can do to a city and to lives. Helping touched my heart, because you looked into people’s faces and saw how happy they were for us to be helping them. It was powerful to hear the testimonies of how people made it through Katrina while it was happening and afterwards. Meaning how it changed their lives for the better and what they learned from it.”

Sheree Kriley says she is glad she went on this work trip. “The trip was amazing. It was hard work and I won’t lie–there were days when I would have rather been doing other stuff than standing on a roof. However, it was really great when the owner of the house we did was just so excited to see the progress.

“My favorite memory was when a lady came and told us about her life,” Kriley continued. “She called the people who worked on her house angels. In a way I felt she was telling us we were angels too. It was very touching to know I could impact someone’s whole life by giving a day or two of my time and energy.”

Kriley added, “We couldn’t have had a better chaperone either. Frye was the coolest!”

“I am so grateful to these students and the other members of our group for the opportunity to explore our career and vocational callings together through this week of service and self-discovery,” Frye said. “Participation in this work trip to the gulf will have a life-long effect on all us.”

This is reprinted from a McPherson College release, by Janice England. The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to Submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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