Having recently returned from his 15th mission trip to Costa Rica, Fred Shively has now completed 71 of these journeys to other parts of the world.
As a recently retired religious studies professor and the former director of the ministry education program at Anderson University, he has been closely tied to the Tri-S program, which offers students cultural experiences with a purpose.
“This time, we went back to a church in a suburb of San Jose where one of our groups helped start construction of the building,” Shively said. “Now it seats 400-500 people. This time, we painted iron bars that stretch around the property, and painted picnic tables.”
Nine students participated in the most recent Tri-S trip to Costa Rica. Tri-S is so named because the program encourages students to study, serve and share. Each trip connects students with a local group, so that they are working hand-in-hand with indigenous people.
“The goal is to introduce the students to the world as participants in service projects with people who live there,” Shively said. “What I see happening to the students keeps me going. For some of them, this is their first time on a service trip. For some, it’s their first time out of the country, and for some it’s their first time on an airplane. This is a life-changing experience. They work hard and learn about what the world is really like.”
Rather than being tourists trip that include four-star hotels, these missionary jaunts often have students sleeping on cots and sometimes on the ground. In this manner, they truly experience the culture.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Tina Lipps, 20. “I was surprised to see the poverty. There were barbed wire and fences around every house because of the extreme poverty. I grew in my Christian walk and saw how God was working through the church there.”
“I was surprised at the language barrier,” said Courtney Eldridge, 21. “I thought more people would speak English, so I had to really work on my Spanish, and I liked that. I learned that your service doesn’t have to be some big grand thing. They appreciated so much the things we did and that we spent time with them.”
“The students experience culture shock when they go and when they return,” said Shively, who plans to continue leading Tri-S trips. “They have no TV and video games for a time and realize they can live without them. Americans often think there is only one way to do things. Watching the way people do things in other countries causes them to think differently.”
— Emma Bowen Meyer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.