When Jenna Clark heard that a small group of students would be able to travel to the Philippines over spring break, she literally jumped out of her chair.

When Jenna Clark heard that a small group of students would be able to travel to the Philippines over spring break, she literally jumped out of her chair.

“I was so excited about this opportunity,” said the senior at Center Place Restoration School in Independence. “I have always wanted to minister and witness to people. I knew as soon as it was announced that I wanted to go.”

Clark, along with seniors Madelyn Cain and Chelsea Hamann as well as principal Richard Neill, traveled to Tagum City in the Philippines the first week of April. Tagum City is located on the southern island of Mindanao. Neill said he has made three trips to the Philippines in the past, but this was the first time he invited current students to go with him. A little more than $13,000 was available from a private donor, which funded the trip for three students.

“I have taken former students to places such as Honduras, Kenya and Nigeria before, but this was the first time I was able to take current students. It just happened to work well, coinciding with spring break,” he said. “It is always important to us to have people connect with each other. It was such a deep experience for them, that they were all sad to go.”

The group left March 30, returning April 7. That included almost a day and a half of traveling each way.

Hamann said she has always wanted to go to another country to serve. Although she was nervous about the plane trip, she said she was excited to go to the Philippines.

“I knew I would be safe, but it was still out of my box,” she said. “I was hoping to gain more trust in God on the trip. He comforted me with everything we did. Putting my trust in Him drew me closer to my Lord, which humbled me.”

Hamann said after they arrived in Tagum City, however, her nervousness increased.

“There were no seatbelts in the cars and no stoplights,” she said. “There were no speed limits, and everyone was just honking at each other. I knew then that this definitely was a life experience.”

During the groups stay in Tagum City, the three students led a two-day youth retreat for the local children, teenagers and young adults. Much of the retreat included mixers and ice-breaker games, but they also had a roundtable discussion where the youth had the opportunity to ask questions of the American visitors and taught the youth how to conduct a prayer service. Many of the questions including describing snow, why Americans got Diabetes and why church volunteers who came to the Philippines were so “energized by the gospel.”

“We thought it went really well. They prayed for guidance in going to college and finding the tuition for college,” Cain said. “One of our main purposes there was to minister to the youth and share the gospel. We were also supposed to share our experience with the school here to get more people excited.”

Clark said she grew to love the Filipino people and was happy to share with them a little of what she has learned in her life about God.

“I am glad that I was able to step outside the norm and understand a little about what it is like to be in their shoes. They have so little,” she said. “It was an incredible experience to be able to spread the love of God. The whole time, I was totally at peace.”