Category: International Trips

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.

Acuña, Mexico – End of Week Recep

So much has happened in the past few days in Acuña. By day three, we were all tired and sore from doing construction for two days in a row. We were supposed to wake up at 6 am for breakfast at 6:30, but each day we stayed in bed just a little bit longer. We did a devotional before eating breakfast made by two wonderful ladies from Casas por Cristo. After eating, we loaded up the van and headed to the worksite jamming out to “El Mismo Sol” or the Jonas Brothers. As the house came together, we got more excited to work. Scott started each workday with another devotional and prayer. On day three, we continued putting up chicken wire around the entire exterior of the house for the stucco. While a team worked on that, Mason and I finished up some electrical work by drilling holes in the studs to run wires and by putting in outlet boxes. The family we were building the house for cooked all of us tacos for lunch and bought Coke. Both were so delicious! Today was also roofing day. Mason, Sam, and Jamie were on the roof nailing in the plywood boards, trim, and screwing in the roof. It was wonderful to have warm, sunny, dry weather today, but it was blazing hot on the roof.

  • Belmont Mission Trip in Acuña, Mexico on March 14, 2019.

Just as we put up boards around the outside, someone ran out yelling that Lexi got injured. All of us who were working froze, unsure of what was happening. Scott came out of the house carrying Lexi and brought her to a chair under the shade. She fell off a step ladder in the house while putting up insulation. Luckily, we had two nursing majors on the team who knew what to do. The team finished out the work day by getting the roof and insulation completed while Lexi played with the kids of the family.  We drove to the pharmacy to pick up something to wrap Lexi’s foot with. There was a lot of decision making, but Scott, Sam, Lexi, and Jamie chose to go back to Del Rio to the hospital to get X-rays to make sure nothing was broken. All praise to God that nothing was broken according to the X-rays and Lexi and Jamie got Chick-fil-a and Rudy’s for dinner.

On Thursday, we finished construction on the house and dedicated it to the family. Several people put up drywall on the ceiling inside. The rest of us waited around to start stucco and talked to the family. Once the ceiling drywall got up, a team stayed inside to complete the drywall while the rest of us started making stucco and putting it on the exterior of the wall. The stucco process consumed the majority of the day for many team members as it required much attention to detail. As we worked, Scott played music which really helped encourage and energize the team so the day seemed to pass rather quickly. For the second day in a row, the family provided us with lunch which was above and beyond what we expected. Today, they served us chicken with mole sauce and tortillas which was just the pick-me-up we needed to finish the house off.

Finally, we began to put the last touches on the home! This included installing light bulbs, cleaning tools, sweeping out the rooms, and putting up the final shelf. As the building came to a close, we gathered as a group and poured immensely into our relationships with the family. By playing with the children, communicating with the adults in broken Spanish, and giving hugs, we saw that the project was much more than simply a building. We presented the family with keys to their new home, a Casas por Cristo plaque, and some simple house warming gifts before presenting final prayers and words of blessings. Each Casas por Cristo plaque has a number on it that represents the number of houses Casas por Cristo has built. Blas, the head of the family, nailed in the final nail in the house to hang the plaque. This particular portion of the experience was a standout to our team members and was impactful in ways that exceed words. Seeing a project that we poured our hearts into come to completion and reach others for Christ was life-changing to say the very least and is the root of change in many hearts.

Post written by Jamie, Sarah, and Delaney



Guatemala – Day 7


Today was our last day of clinic work and we spent it at Pablo’s plantation, La Azotea. The whole group was together again and everyone was able to collaborate and learn even more from each other. We only saw about 30 patients today as opposed to the other days where we saw 130. This way we were able to spend more time with each patient.

During our lunch break, we were served a delicious lunch with hibiscus juice. There was a performance going on while we were eating which was cool to see even more of the culture here in Guatemala. Most of us went on a tour of the gorgeous plantation and the Mayan museum. Pablo also showed us where he had his wedding ceremony and reception. We came back to the house and had some time to relax. Some of us played games and others went down to the town square.

Pablo and his wife, Sara, graciously served us dinner in their home. It was a recipe passed down from Sara’s mom! We toured their beautiful home and enjoyed a delicious meal together. Afterward, we spent time sharing our experiences from the week. We ended the night by talking about how all of our previous expectations had been exceeded and how grateful we are to have made so many new friends.

Written by: Melia, Brooklyn & Mallory

China – Late Week Recap

This week our team of Occupational therapy and nursing students traveled to Maria’s Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China. MBHOH is a safe haven for medically fragile children in orphan care. Our week has been full of laughter, love and play with the children. We also created sensory boards which were installed in the children’s play rooms.

Today was our final day at Maria’s Big House of Hope. We said our goodbyes to the kiddos and took a group picture. We left Luoyang by fast train around 7:30 am headed to Beijing to begin touring the city. Today we will head to the pearl market for shopping and explore the rest of the city tonight. Tomorrow morning we will head out for the Great Wall!!!  Our final three days in China will be spent in Beijing touring several different places while still deeply immersed in the culture and processing our entire experience.

Maria’s Big House of Hope held an acronym for our devotions each day. Mindfulness, brokenness, humility, ongoing reconciliation and hope.  Each word intricately unpacked numerous emotions while building a new perspective for orphan care and missions.


Reflecting back on the week, we are each walking away refreshed, blessed, humbled and inspired. We have experienced a place where both pain and joy coexist. We have learned the role and value of simply being present for others. Moving forward, we are equipped with insight to take into our lives as future as occupational therapist and nurses.

— Kristian Wilson

Guatemala – Days 5-6

Tonight we gathered as a team after dinner and had a debriefing time where we were prompted to talk about where we have been challenged this week. We quickly found many of us felt the same way- inadequate. As students, we are still working to gain confidence in our different fields. Since our team is mostly students, we are pushed to act more independently at the clinic and at Keramin, and practicing new skills can be intimidating. Our patients are looking to us to answer their questions, address their aches and pains and to provide a solution. This is an exciting opportunity but can also be overwhelming. In addition, there is an obvious language and cultural barrier present, so we are often challenged as to how to best provide education and care to the people we see. 

On our first day we all felt quite overwhelmed by these realities, but every day God has been showing us over and over again that He is the one in control. In our devotion this morning, Hillary spoke about the importance of taking off our crowns. As humans, it is so easy to feel that we are in control of our own lives and our own situations. This also carries over into how we view others and our relationships with them. It is easy to go into a mission trip with our own agendas, believing that we are going to “save” the people we serve. Even though we have felt overwhelmed and inept, God has repeatedly reminded us of his power and grace this trip. We reflected on the importance of letting God take control, which has drastically changed the pace and outlook of our days. Knowing that he is the ultimate one in control has allowed us to have peace and to actually gain confidence in our skills and assessments today.

In the midst of our feelings of chaos, God has shown up. Keramion is a school for children with special needs that the therapy faculty and students have been serving. On Monday, we were told that the school has been without running water since last July as they have not been able to cover the bill. This was where God decided to do his work. In two days, due to a simple Facebook post, over $1500 was raised for the school. This will cover their future water bills and add groceries to their pantry to feed the students. Today, we were able to tell the school and they were incredibly grateful. It was an emotional moment for all involved, as we truly felt the power of God and his faithfulness to those who continue to serve him even when things feel impossible. 

There are 3 volcanoes we can see from the windows of our house that repeatedly remind us of how big and majestic our God is. Honestly, we are inadequate, but our God is mighty. We feel humbled to have seen Him move this week. 

Savannah, Kate, and Gabbie

Dominican Republic – Update #2

Today we spent our last day with Pastor Wesley & his church. In the morning we installed the last of the water filters and saw parts of that community we had not yet seen. We even encountered a few goats along the way. After lunch, we put on another skit… this time about God’s mercy and forgiveness. The kids really seemed to enjoy that. We sang and danced to “Lean on Me” and learned “this little light of mine” in Spanish. we were able to connect with the kids again even with the language barrier. after that we played kickball & other games with the kids, embracing every moment we had left with them. Before we left we were graciously thanked with kind words from Pastor Wesley and his wife along with a cake. Collectively, we all put some cash together and donated $210 to help Pastor Wesley continue with his ministry in the church & school. We have built such a unique relationship with him by watching him interact with the community. He never turns a child away from his school, he feeds, educates, and loves them just like Jesus. 

It’s been very hot – but we have made the best of being sweaty and gross. After we returned to our “base church”, we had some time to relax, play with the local kids, and further build relationships with the group who we share this space with before dinner. After dinner we had a meeting with JC to reflect on the trip thus far. Many of us shared thoughts and memories that have impacted us one way or another. 

I think a big theme of this trip has been adaptability. We have taken every obstacle with grace and made it into something beautiful. I credit a lot of this to what we have learned from the people we have been serving. While they have so little possessions, they have so much love and joy. They adapt to their situation in the most wonderful way possible. They never give up on their faith, they have hope for the future, even when they literally don’t have food to eat or a bed to sleep in. We have been patient and creative in any challenge we have faced – yet these “challenges” for us are the reality of these people. Tonight during our meeting JC told us that we’re “doing”. He praised us for sleeping on air mattress, showering with buckets, and handling the heat. My instant thoughts came from the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff. In the book he says “I used to think you had to be special for God to use you. But now I know you simply need to say yes.” We all chose to be here because we said yes to the love in our hearts. We aren’t playing the role of God, we aren’t bringing God to these people, they know God and they know we are here because God’s love isn’t stationary, it does.

— Mackenzie Hodgson, Student Leader

Guatemala – Day 4 Update


After reflecting on today, we are deciding to make the point that sometimes participating on a mission trip and working with people from a different culture can be challenging. Can we all agree on that? Not only is communication difficult (sometimes in the form of various “wohoos”, “excellente”, and big smiles); understanding the daily challenges patients of another culture and country face, can wane on even the happiest of spirits.

The Guatemalan people are sincere, hospitable, hardworking, strong, relentless…etc. There will never be enough words to describe them. Working with them has been a pleasure and a joy but hearing their hearts has been eye-opening and endearing.

We met a woman today who works 3 jobs, 7 days a week, and is a single parent to 3 children. After hearing her story, we attempted to offer her healthcare and a prayer, yet her story resonated with many of us. The hardships, the challenges, the trials that plague so many people. However, her resilience and perseverance has prevailed.

Overall, despite the challenges, today was a joyful day. We saw greater depths of God’s work and God’s people and that is something to celebrate!  We thank God for the opportunity to visit these lovely “amigos”!

Written by: Nick, Stacy & Hillary



Acuña, Mexico – Day 3 Update

Our team in Acuña is off and running after a slow start because of weather. Take a look below for a quick update from one of our student leaders as well as some of the pictures from yesterday!
Hi everyone!  We finished day two strong!  Today, we put up all the walls, and we began reinforcing the outside and placing black board and chicken wire.  We tried to catch up on the work we got behind on yesterday.  It is finally starting to look like a house (or “casa”).  We had fun improving our construction skills and connecting with the family we are serving.  After a night of rain, we were thankful for good weather that allowed us to make some great progress.  We are excited for another great day tomorrow!
– Katie Bieri, student leader

Dominican Republic – Midweek Update

The trip had a rough start. Our plane got struck by lightning on the ground before we got on, which took out the navigation system and had us spend the rest of the day at the Nashville airport. By the time we got to our hotel in Miami, we got 3 hours of sleep before getting up for our new flight to the Dominican Republic (DR).

Thankfully our host partner, Praying Pelican Ministries (PPM), was gracious and was able to accommodate our new plans. We settled into the church where we are staying at and got a nice overview of the DR and how PPM works in the community. We got assigned to a local pastor, pastor Wesley, who leads a church and school in a poor neighborhood of Haitian immigrants. Our mornings consist of installing the water filters which we brought and then doing sports ministry with the children in the afternoon. We even did a skit about the parable of the good Samaritan, which could rival any professional acting Troupe. We do various activities in the evening including playing basketball with the neighborhood kids at the local court, hosting movie nights for the school children, and doing devotionals for the group. We are blessed that our group from Belmont has good synergy and I think everyone will be truly blessed by this experience.

As someone who struggles with the benefit of short-term mission trips, I have been encouraged by several things. The first is that the Haitian community is blessed by not only the water filters, which are desperately needed to help prevent disease, but also by our presence. Pastor George (who partners with PPM and often accompanies our group as a translator) said that our physical presence helps the people in the community believe in the work of pastor Wesley and the fruits of his labor. That hope is something so intangible and immeasurable that I often forget its true power, and it cannot be bought with money. God does not need us to accomplish His work here, but He is gracious in making us a face of the hope He gives to this community. The second encouraging thing I have received is the group’s response to the experience. Having travelled a fair amount myself, it is hard to reimagine my first time placing myself in the shoes of someone born and raised in a completely different community with a completely different reality than I. But seeing how God is using this trip to work in the hearts and minds of each member of the group reminds me that these trips are an invitation from God to open our hearts and allow Him to give us a glimpse of His work in the world and begin to break our hearts for what breaks His.

On a personal note, I have been blessed by being able to use my French and help translate for the group. The official language in the DR is Spanish, but Pastor Wesley speaks French, Spanish, and Creole in the Haitian community. Many members of the group have commented on how they desire to communicate so much more to people but don’t have enough Spanish to do so, so it is nice for me to use what I have learned at Belmont to be of service to those around me.

The book of Job has been powerful for both me and the group during this trip as we consider the proper response to the poverty and suffering we see. Pray we continue to experience God’s mercy and grace here in the DR.
“He causes the [storm] to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for His mercy. Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of the Lord…God is awesome in majesty. As for the almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgement and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart.” Job 37:13-14, 22b-24, NKJV

— Sean Grossnickle, student leader

Acuña, Mexico – Day 1-2 Update

  • Belmont Mission Trip in Acuña, Mexico on March 11, 2019.

The whole team made it safely to Acuña on Sunday evening after a long day of travel. We all met at school to catch a ride to the airport at the early hour of 4 am. Daylight savings, of course, had to be on Sunday. We flew from Nashville to San Antonio where we rented two vans to drive to Acuña. Our first stop on the way out of San Antonio was Whataburger, a Texas classic, to eat lunch/breakfast for many. We drove for about 3 hours before arriving in Del Rio. In Del Rio, we stopped to pick up snacks at Walmart. Since we arrived early, we hung out in the Walmart parking lot playing football to pass the time.  We eventually met Scott who is our project leader this week from Casas por Cristo. He directed us on how to cross the border and instructed us on what to do if we got stopped or separated.

We only had to drive for a few minutes before arriving in Acuña. We had no issues crossing into Mexico which was a huge relief. As soon as we crossed the border, it looked like we stepped into a different world. We drove through the city to the place where we are staying for the week, a former church. After dropping off our belongings and setting up our beds, we explored the area around us. Scott brought us to a Mexican restaurant to eat dinner. We all shared giant platters of meat and queso and tried these bubbly lime drinks called limonada mineral.

Full and tired from such a long day, we still had enough energy to visit the site where we would be building the house and pick up supplies. When we returned to the church, we hung out on the porch to get to know each other better and play card games. All of us went to bed early to recover from our travel day and prepare for a week of hard work.

(written by Student Team Leader, Jamie Keith)


Here are some additional pictures from the team’s first day of work on Monday!

  • Belmont Mission Trip in Acuña, Mexico on March 11, 2019.