Contact Dawn Insanalli, director of Public Relations, at (914) 637-2726 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mackenzie Mennucci, '15
NEW ROCHELLE—The formula is clear: go to college, go on a mission trip, find yourself. Matthew McGinnity returned to school as a 23-year-old junior. Matthew Romano finally found something he cared about. Jacqueline Keeley turned down an acceptance letter to graduate school.
So has humanity finally stumbled upon a proven recipe to the time-old question of self-discovery?
“It may be cliché to 'find oneself’ through a mission trip,” said Tiffany DiNome, director of the Iona in Mission program at Iona College. “But it is a cliché because it has happened so often. And there is validity behind that. All clichés start somewhere meaningful.”
It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Christian-Americans take part in such mission trips annually, with an estimated $2 billion spent annually as well, according to Dr. Robert Priest, a missiology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in a 2008 article in Missiology journal.
Business is booming for short-term mission trips. And while the attraction may lie in the transfixing testimonials of those whose lives were drastically changed, the reality is that each student emerges from the experience differently.
DiNome states that such trips are invaluable for students to gain a new perspective both on how others live and to see oneself in an entirely new light. It isn't until one is immersed in the culture, stripped of creature comforts, when one realizes how simply others live without question. And this realization, DiNome says, will never be clichéd.
"It doesn't have to be a life-changing event,” said college sophomore Romano, “Sure, you could learn a lot about yourself. But I think it is the little things, the minute details that you see that matter most."
As an undecided sophomore, he scrambled to declare a major. He had no idea of what he wanted to do—so he chose criminal justice, a ‘secure job path.’ Then, he went to New Orleans.
Romano had found his passion, and it lay right in front of his eyes. As he worked tirelessly to finish a simple brick walkway at Trinity Lutheran Church, surrounded by the still-devastated Ninth Ward, he learned more about himself than ever before.
Time, he said, is the most valuable thing one can give. Now a public relations major, he hopes to represent a nonprofit organization in the future.
These short-term mission trips often do not last for more than two weeks. The activities of students are typically mapped out, hour by hour. Yet when placed within these thorough schedules, students are directly faced with tragedy—how they respond is up to them.
Jacqueline Keeley, a senior at Iona College, chose to attend a mission to Cochabamba, Bolivia, on an emotional whim. Her best friend was leading the trip, she had nothing else to do over spring break, and a part of her knew something was missing from her life.
"I was always one of those people who thought it was a cliché,” said Keeley, “I just thought I was going to be helping to change the lives of the people of Cochabamba, but they were the ones who changed me.”
Perhaps fitting the cliché all too well, Keeley has remodeled her life entirely based upon these precious moments. She will be returning to Bolivia after Christmas to work at El Centro de Infantil, a preschool, to teach. She will be able to reunite with the children that loved her without question—that taught her to love unconditionally.
While mission trips can easily be dismissed as clichéd opportunities for students to discover themselves, the intentions behind them can be nothing but pure. Matthew McGinnity, who travelled to Haiti his senior year of high school, employs his haunting memories of the citizens living in humble poverty there to appreciate what he has.
A resounding consensus confirms that students attending mission trips do emerge with something in common. It may not be a perfectly packaged identity or purpose, but it is newfound appreciation for life. It’s no wonder why they are so popular.
"My experience gave me more than I could ever imagine. I want to succeed, I want to pursue my dreams," says McGinnity, "I just want to deserve it."
For questions or more information please contact:
Public Relations Office
Iona College, 715 North Avenue, New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801
Office: (914) 637-2726
Fax: (914) 637-2711
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