Author: larkin.briley

El Paso End of Week Reflections

After an exhausting week, a trip to White Sands National Park was exactly what we needed to recoup. We left early in the morning with a group from Augustana University and drove for about an hour before arriving at the park. We passed through a citizenship checkpoint on the way. When we arrived at the park, we stopped at the gift shop to pick up some sleds to ride down the sand dunes. The weather was perfect; not too hot or too cold. The sand was so bright that even with clouds some of us still wore sunglasses. Hiking up sand dunes was extremely difficult. In contrast to the sand we had all experienced at the beach, this sand was cooler and covered a much greater area. Spending the morning outside and sledding with the other students was a refreshing change.

When we returned to the church after visiting the national park, Crystal Massey, the volunteer coordinator of the American Immigration Council in Washington D.C, presented to several groups participating in the border immersion. She talked about what the American Immigration Council does, shared some personal stories, and the process of seeking asylum. She was knowledgeable about current immigration issues. Her presentation helped piece together the information we learned throughout the week and furthered our understanding about immigration from countries other than Mexico.

Sylvia then took us on a guided driving tour through the Stahmann Pecan Farms. She shared her experiences living on the world’s largest pecan farm in the U.S. We learned that the original farm had its own bank, grocery store, hospital, gas station, and even an airport. Driving through, the rows of pecan trees seemed endless. We were surprised to see that the pecans grew on trees.

Our next stop after the farm tour was a small town called Mesilla. It was originally a part of Mexico and it holds a lot of its heritage. Many of the original shops, restaurants, and roads were still there.

After a busy day, we stopped by a local Thai restaurant to get bubble tea. We’d been planning to get it since we drove past the restaurant on our first day in Las Cruces. A few of us had never tried it before, but we all enjoyed it. So far, we have all been learning lots and felt immersed in the city and the culture. We are looking forward to sharing more of our stories from the trip when we return this weekend!

Jamie and Titus – Student Team Leaders

El Paso Days 3-4 Reflections

Wow, the past few days have been really informative. We started Tuesday out at the border wall in El Paso hearing from border control. They talked a lot about the issues that are controversial, and a lot of us students felt as if they were just defending themselves. They provided basic information but seemed to be lacking detail. It was still good to hear from them, but our host informed us of other experiences opposite of what they told us. We got to walk along the wall and also think and process all of the information we just received. We had lunch at Cafe Mayapan, a traditional Mayan restaurant. SO GOOD! We visited the Walmart memorial. From this spot in the parking lot we can see Juarez, the mountains, and El Paso all as one community. You can’t see borders from where you stand.

Our host partner shared her personal experience with migration and how it has affected her own family’s life. That was very emotional to listen to. We finished Day 3 out listening to Ruben Garcia who is the founder of Annunciation House, which has been a hospitality and welcoming place for migrants and refugees seeking asylum. He wanted to move us into action with his stories and what he’s seen and knows. He encouraged us to vote and volunteer and think about what we want for our future as citizens of this country. It was a long but inspiring day. We came home ready to sleep for sure.

On day 4 we started by listening to someone in the Immersion organization inform us on the court system. We went from this presentation straight to the U.S District Court. It was a tough experience for us to witness. We can always imagine this scene, but being there and hearing shackles and the commotion really puts your heart into a new position. Because of the “zero-tolerance” policy the court now tries immigrants with former deportation backgrounds as felons. The only crime they committed was crossing the border again. This is an issue because the USA can be seen as the only home, because it is where they have lived for so many years, either because of DACA or other circumstances. We did not sit through the entire processing, because there were 64 immigrants. This was a hard part of the day, but we got to relax and explore more of Las Cruces after. We ended the day hearing about hospitality for refugees and about the MPP (migrant protection protocol). This was a very informative presentation, considering there was a Supreme Court ruling on it today. We ate dinner with the church and other immersion groups. We have enjoyed the weather by debriefing outside and taking a short walk to Baskin Robbins.

Thank you for all your prayers through this journey of ours.


Victoria Gross and Sadie Escalona

El Paso – Early Week Reflections

As soon as our team landed in El Paso, we took to the windows at our gate to admire the Franklin Mountains and surrounding landscape. “Where is the border?” and “How close is Mexico?” were our initial responses as we made our way to and through Las Cruces, NM during our first days.
After a day of settling in and getting our bearings at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, we were ready to dive in and learn more about the communities around us. We started the day by assisting friend of Border Servant Corps, Carmen, in making gorditas (a masa pastry stuffed with meats, veggies, and spices). We also met our peers and fellow leaders from Augustana University, with whom we shared fellowship and the preparation of our meal.

Each of us was moved by God’s presence in Carmen’s life as she shared her story with us after lunch. Carmen felt an urgency to cross into the US when her daughter became in immediate need of a kidney transplant. She left behind her three sons with the mission to give her daughter the treatment sufficient to keep her alive. Upon reflection, it was clear that many of us related to the “angels” she cited as hers and her daughter’s saving grace. God placed people in Carmen’s life to get her daughter the care necessary to live a longer life and keep them out of the eye of immigration officials. A few of us recognized angels in our own lives who have guided us through difficult moments and reinforced our faith.  Above all, Carmen instilled in us that no matter the hardships we face emotionally or economically, we must maintain a strong foundation of faith. She stressed that material possessions and wants are nothing without the reinforcement of our beliefs, a sentiment that hit close to home after experiencing the aftermath of last week’s tornado.

We spent the remainder of our afternoon at Peace Lutheran Church learning about the legal advocacy happening in the borderlands with the ACLU. This presentation planted the seed that there are things we can do in our communities to advocate for immigrants and their families.

The day ended on a high note with a surprise private concert from award-winning New Mexico artist, Gilbert Uribe of the band ‘Nosotros’. Gilbert’s songs shared the message that we are all born of the same earth, the same God, and that we all should recognize that this human experience binds us no matter where we are from. We enjoyed his music and message in a beautiful courtyard on this sunny day. This experience allowed us to see how many positive elements are born out of immigration and how immigrants have influenced American music and culture for decades.

As we headed back to the church, we walked around downtown Las Cruces to get a better view of Organ Mountain, whose peaks captivated our attention during our drive into the city on our first day. The Mountain serves as a reminder that each of us have our own steep hills to climb, both in this weeklong journey and in our own lives back in Nashville. The peaks and valleys of the Mountain signified the emotions we’d experienced during our first days as well. Most notably, the mountain views have grounded us in the midst of thinking about our anxieties this week.

I choose to close with Isaiah 2:2: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills and all nations will stream to it.” Although we are at the beginning of our experience here, it is clear that we share common ground in the pursuit of safety, security, health, happiness, and in many cases, faith. Borders may divide, but it is clear that God is working in the lives of people in both of the nations on our minds this week.

Lauren Lauzon — Team Leader

Honduras Day 6

Sam Smith, Patsy Bane, MaKenzie Firek, and Emerald Lupari

Today is the last day of the trip and I couldn’t be more thankful to be able to serve on the mission trip this week. The day started off at the clinic site with the most gorgeous view of the mountain. Between the view and the people of the community, I had an overwhelming sense of gratefulness, peace, and gratitude.

While working in the pharmacy, we were asked if anyone would like to deliver a food bag to a family in need. I felt very compelled to be apart of delivering the food bag and praying with the family. After delivering the food bag, Kirio, the preacher and pastor of the community, asked if we would do a house visit to a local woman who was home ill and was unable to come to the clinic. Upon arrival, we met an older woman, Julia, in bed. Julia was in extreme pain to a huge mass that was discovered in her colon. There wasn’t much we could do, but when we asked if there was anything we could do they asked for prayer. We prayed for/with Julia and left with the promise of coming back to deliver some medication to help her find relief as well as bring back a doctor. The family gifted us with a bundle of plantains as a thank you gift for coming to see them. I was speechless and kept thinking that we didn’t do anything except pray. I couldn’t comprehend that this family, who just got these plantains from the field and was going to be using them as their dinner, had just gifted us with their meal. I had so many emotions running through my mind that I was having trouble processing it. When we returned with the medications and the doctor, we found out the unfortunate news that Julia had colon cancer.  Palliative care is her only option at this time. I was beyond heartbroken to hear the news and as a group, we continued to pray for her well being. We also prayed for God to help her find some relief. As we were leaving, I leaned down to say my goodbye while Julia continued praying and thanking God for sending us to help her. I was brought to tears but was able to take away how selfless, grateful, and appreciative Julia was. I was able to leave knowing that Julia was going to find some relief and was beyond blessed to have been able to pray with her as she fights this awful disease.

Overall, I get to leave this trip with so much love, new memories, and lasting relationships. I am already counting down the days until I can serve with God once again to love and serve my neighbor.

— Emmy Lupari, College of Pharmacy student

Honduras Day 5

(Ali Gean, Emily Wilcox, and Lisa Marie Harris)

I’ve learned more in 5 days on this trip than what feels like a whole semester of school. Also life will never be same after discovering my love for granitas. During this trip my perspective has completely changed and my story has a new page to be added. Today we went to a remote community in the mountains a couple hours away from Jovenes. I started out counseling, filling and handing out food bags. I had help with interpreting by the sweetest boy named Daniel. He is a young man from Jovenes en Camino and, despite his situation, he is not bitter or resentful towards others. He is beyond generous and has been invaluable to our efforts along with the other interpreters. I couldn’t have triaged patients without the help of Louise, Marvin, and Emmanuel. They get up at 5am to do chores for two hours before they work with us all day long. Daniel never missed a beat. He was always ready to help me counsel. Today he told me he wants to be a pilot when he grows up because he likes to be up high above the world. I could hear the passion and determination in his voice. I can easily relate to that in my story to become a healthcare provider. I am beyond thankful that God put me here this week to meet Daniel. We have gotten really close over the past few days even to the point where Daniel says he misses me between riding to different clinics. Daniel taught me three things in just one day: to be generous no matter the obstacle, dream big knowing that God will provide and love when world hasn’t given you a reason to love.

(Daniel and Lisa Marie on the far right)

— Ali Gean, College of Pharmacy Student


Honduras Day 4

(Emerald Lupari, Patsy Bane, and Mackenzie Firek)

Our time in Honduras is coming to an end. However, each day presents an experience completely different fromthe last days. Today, we spent time in Las Delicias, a small village in the Honduran mountains. This trip has given me time to reflect on how God intertwined my story with all the people I meet and those who came with me. At the beginning of the day, I worked in triage and one of the patients was an elderly lady. She sat down with tears in her eyes and immediately started speaking in Spanish. Although the language barrier prevents me from comprehending what she was saying, I could understand what she was trying to tell me. The interpreter then informed me that the lady had lost her son recently and was having trouble sleeping at night since. Listening to her story, I was in awe to think about how God had orchestrated our lives to meet at this moment. Everything I had done from choosing a profession in pharmacy to choosing to go to Belmont brought me to this one moment were our stories intertwined. This trip has taught me to cherish every moment and know there is a reason my paths cross with certain people in life. When I return back to America, I do not want to put the lesson I have learned here in a box and set it on the self. However, I want to remember to be grateful and know there is a perfect plan for every story mine is interwoven with.

— Mackenzie Firek, College of Pharmacy Student

Day 3 in Honduras

One thing I keep trying to remind myself is “Hey. You’re here. In Honduras. Don’t miss it.” I think it can be so easy to wake up, go to these places, and forget that you’re in the middle of it — forgot why you gave up the resources, time, and more to travel across the world and help people you don’t even know. However, with each passing moment, I believe it’s becoming more apparent of why. And that we’re here. And that it matters.

Trisha McHugh and Emerald Lupari

There was so much that we could have been missed today, if we hadn’t been looking. We started the day off by grabbing the perfect coffee on the road to the clinic. Truly, it cannot be expressed the perfection of this particular type of caffeine. Honduran coffee really puts the rest of the world’s coffee to shame.

From the God-sent coffee, the group split in half, and went to two various clinics in the area. The clinic I ended up in was a government-run clinic that needed extra hands, as it was the weekend, and they only had one provider. We prepared a triage center, an add on to their current pharmacy, and 3 different clinic rooms. From there, we immediately started seeing patients from the community. There were men and women off all ages from the area and we treated all that came through our doors. Every single smile, hug, and “gracias” only reaffirmed that what we were doing mattered.

We provided fluids for someone in severe dehydration. Medication was given to families who were struggling with infections. Prayer was spoken over parents dealing with loss of loved ones. Every single moment worthy of our full time and devotion.

The team God assembled here in Honduras could not have been more anointed, with every single man and woman contributing valuable skills and information to the clinic. We would not be where we are today without the absolute crucial help of every single person here. It is our hope and desire that we continue to fix our eyes on Christ and reveal to our patients here, His love with the services we can provide. We are striving to give grace and compassion to those that we serve, all the while we do the same for each other. We are in here in Honduras to serve and expand the Kingdom — and we aren’t going to miss it.

Trisha McHugh – Belmont College of Pharmacy Student

Days 1-2 in Honduras

The first day in Honduras was a full one. Yesterday we landed in Tegucigalpa and met up with our host partners from Jovenes. Ronald, the one who runs the boys home, met up with us, loaded up the luggage, and we were on our way to El Zamorano. This group is a unique one, with 11-12 Pharmacy students from both Belmont and Lipscomb Universities.

The 45-minute drive is a beautiful, winding, journey down into the valley of El Zamorano. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Jovenes en Camino (or “Children on the Way”) is home and school to over 50 young boys of all ages. The campus includes three residence buildings, dining hall, carpentry shop, a store, farm, offices, guest house, space for recreation, a tutoring center and a clinic that is open to the El Zamorano community.

Once settled at our hotel, we enjoyed an authentic Honduran dinner and then headed off to bed.

The next morning started with a bang as the whole group began preparing for the first day of the clinic at Jovenes. The students, supervised by the Pharmacy faculty, saw over 100 people from the community and gave them health consultation along with medication for various issues they were dealing with. Additionally, our group packed 40+ food bags that will provide basic food supplies for entire families for 2 weeks during the holidays.

Later, we shared dinner with the Jovenes community and then had spirited games of kickball and futbol (spoiler – we lost).

With all the new sights and sounds, the group is just getting acclimated and settling in. We’re looking forward to a week of hard work and new friendships as we serve and receive from the community of Jovenes and from El Zamorano. In the coming days, you’ll hear more from the students on the trip as well, so keep following along for more updates!

Larkin Briley – Trip Leader


Rwanda Post – Lauren Weaver


I took a class this past semester surrounding Postmodern American Literature and History, and after we finished each novel, we always asked the question: “Is this novel hopeful?”

Now, if you know ANYTHING about Postmodern literature, you probably know that themes tend to lean towards the brokenness and darkness of our complicated realities, so finding seeds of hope tends to be a difficult task. But, regardless of the novel and its tragic ending, we always concluded that, yes, there is hope. Because something always had to persist, whether it be a character, an idea, a dream, or just the fact that the author chose to write the story in the first place for others to remember—to have the tale endure as to not be forgotten to the oblivion of history—is in itself hopeful. If one thing is able to escape the darkness, it is a victory for humanity, and the Rwandan community has taken that belief and ran with it.

This is what’s been consuming my thoughts as I’ve begun to process the magnitude of what happened 25 years ago—what has persisted and kept affected Rwandans hopeful? Because, you see, the way that the Rwandan Genocide differs from the Holocaust is the distance from violence. The Nazis attempted to remove themselves as far as possible from the conflict, performing mass killings in gas chambers and death camps scattered around countries outside of Germany. In Rwanda, the Hutu people set out to kill their Tutsi neighbors and family members, and they succeeded… to a degree. Yes, one million lives were lost in the most horrific way, but a man whom we spent quite a bit of time with here and who survived the Genocide as a young boy, Edward Makara, made a great point early on in our trip by saying something along the lines of, “They tried to kill us all, the Nazis tried to kill all the Jews, but when will they learn that it never works? It never has worked! We always come back and survive.”

Before visiting any of the genocide memorials, our group visited an organization called ‘Never Again Rwanda.’ NAR’s mission is to work with youth in peace building and reconciliation. We spent over an hour learning about the methods, beliefs, and goals of the organization—how to deal with soon-to-be released perpetrators of the Genocide, educational programs for disadvantaged youth, and mental health initiatives (to name a few). Once we concluded our meeting, the man who we talked with asked what our plans were for the rest of our stay. When we told him of our plans to visit the Nyamata Genocide Memorial—a church where 10,000 people took refuge from the Hutu but were still killed—he then told us that he had been there. He had laid under a broken bench (we realized there was only one upon visiting) as bodies piled up around him and hid him from his persecutors.

He had been around 6 years old.

I don’t think my heart has ever hit the ground faster—and we hadn’t even visited the memorial yet at that point. I don’t know what I found more compelling—the fact that he survived, or the fact that he was dedicating his time and effort to work at preventing future genocides. NAR has plans to work with recently released perpetrators and their families in readjusting to life after their release. How could he forgive them? How could he look them in the eye and equip them with tools and strategies to prosper?

And then I realized that was the humanity. The persistence of a little boy who survived a horrendous massacre, forgiving those who hurt him and countless others, in the hopes of bettering the world and Rwanda for the next generation. So that they would never have to see the horror that he saw.

That’s what it takes. One person, one spark, to inspire hope into a broken nation torn apart from the inside out. And of course it is more complicated than that. This transition to forgiveness didn’t happen overnight or at the snap of his fingers, but IT HAPPENED. And I wish I had the vocabulary to enforce just how powerful and courageous I think that is. What I’ve seen is that when ubumuntu is fostered in just ONE person, it can lead toward the reconciliation of a whole group, or even a whole nation. And I would say that’s pretty hopeful.

We always come back and survive.


Submitted by Lauren Weaver

Acuña, Mexico – Student Reflections

Sarah: Despite our limited time, this experience was full of learning.  I learned many new skills such as how to properly stretch chicken wire, stucco the outside of the house, and install insulation and drywall. I also felt God teaching me to switch my mindset off myself and re-focus it on others.  I was pleasantly surprised by the genuineness with which the team engaged with each other, and it was so refreshing.  There were multiple times this past week where a teammate chose to speak a word of encouragement to me at a time when I was feeling drained, and it truly blessed me.  I praise God for Casas por Cristo, and the good work they are doing for His glory.  It was an honor to serve with the team in the community of Acuña, and I am so very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and grow.

Mason: I was very much aware of the fact going into the trip that we would be building a house, but you can never be fully primed for what God is going to do throughout the journey. We knew we would be serving a family but had no clue that the family would end up being the compassionate people we know now. We also knew we would be hammering nails, but we definitely did not comprehend how many. In a short summary, besides a few bumps and bruises, there are no negative takeaways from the trip. We were able to further God’s Kingdom in exactly the way He planned and further our personal faith through the experience. I love and appreciate everything and everyone that God put in my life over the last week, as well as Belmont for allowing it to happen.

Elania: Coming back to Acuña is always such a humbling and beautiful experience. It teaches me all the things I take for granted each day and reminds me how big God’s love really is. I’m so grateful for the people who went with me, they were so welcoming and kind. Every relationship I built this week, with my peers and the family, I will cherish for a lifetime. I’m so lucky to have been a part of this amazing trip and work with Casas por Cristo. The city of Acuña and the people there are such a huge blessing. Casas por Cristo is such an amazing organization, and I encourage everyone to work with them someday.

Katie: As we leave Mexico, I just feel so joyful. This family now have a roof over their head and a house that is livable. Their previous home leaked every time it rained. I can’t even imagine living in a house that leaked when it rains. It made me realize just how much I can sometimes take for granted at home like a roof. Giving is always better than receiving. I am so glad I went on this trip again this spring break!

Grace: I learned that God can bring different communities together in so many ways and that we could show love to each other in so many ways. It was beautiful.

Jamie: My biggest takeaway from this trip is that God’s love and power have no boundaries. Most of us going on the trip had never met before, but our love for God brought us together to serve in a different country where none of us spoke the language fluently. Even though there was a language barrier, we were able to show the family the love of God through our actions which meant more than words. The most powerful moment for me was when we prayed over the family on the final day to dedicate the house. God was so present in that moment as everyone cried tears of joy and sorrow. I learned many skills on this trip and learned so much about myself and my faith. I know that God will continue to work in Acuña through Casas por Cristo, and I hope to stay in touch with Pastor Cristian and the family.