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On mission trip, Lady Bulldogs minister to orphans, ailing Haitians

Union University basketball player Paige Parker holds a Haitian girl during the team's recent mission trip to Haiti.
Union University basketball player Paige Parker holds a Haitian girl during the team's recent mission trip to Haiti.

JACKSON, Tenn.Sept. 26, 2012 – The Union University women’s basketball team walked past children splashing around in sewer ditches every day for a week. The ditches were full of dirty water, but the children kept playing and bathing in them.

Everywhere the Lady Bulldogs went, the windows and doors were open to let any breeze waft through to provide relief from the heat, heavy with humidity. Rebecca Sharpe, a senior engineering major and a guard on the basketball team, wondered if there was one comfortable spot in the city, or any place with air conditioning or a dish washer.

Sharpe and her teammates spent a week this summer on a Mobile Medical Disaster Relief mission trip to Thomazeau, Haiti, an experience she said bonded the team and created a desire in her to return to serve the people of Haiti.

“These trips give us an opportunity to give ourselves up for a week and gain an experience that exposes our hearts and plants seeds for God to grow,” said Mark Campbell, head coach for the Lady Bulldogs. Campbell has taken the basketball team on several mission trips over the years.

Union students and staff comprised more than half of the 40-person team, which also included students from Texas A&M University and doctors from both Jackson and Nashville. The mission team held mobile medical clinics and spent time with more than 50 children at an orphanage each day.

“While I was in Haiti, I felt like I was with ‘the least of these’ — the poorest of the poor, the neediest people — because they just lacked hope,” Sharpe said. “Their main religion was Voodoo, so they're just trying to get some hope in their life for something better.”

Haitians flocked to the medical clinic, often with fungi and infections. Many had scabies, an itch-inducing skin disease caused from mites burrowing in their skin. In these cases, mission team members could apply a one-application topical medicine to kill the mites — a treatment that would give relief in a few days for a disease that had caused some to itch for months.

Before and after each Haitian received a medical examination and treatment, team members would pray for him or her. At the end, the patients also received a food bag and a hygiene bag. The team packed and passed out 400 food bags during the week.

Seeing how the Haitians lived made LaTesa McLaughlin, a senior social work major and guard for the Lady Bulldogs, realize how much God has blessed her, she said.

The basketball team bonded through participating in the activities together, many of which were completely new to them, Sharpe said. For some of the basketball players, it was their first time out of the country and for some their first time on a plane.

“I think it helped us being thrown in an uncomfortable position,” Shape said. “We went to serve people and help them medically, so we didn't have time to think about ourselves really. Being in an uncomfortable situation, your only strength comes not from you.”

One of the doctors on the team led a devotion each day, and the team had a chance to debrief each night. Sharpe said she was inspired by the way the doctors lived missionally.

“Every time our team does something like this it gives us an example of what missions should be like, abroad and at home: submitting to God and serving others, expressing love and living out the gospel,” Campbell said.

Sharpe said she plans to graduate in the spring, so this was her last chance to go on a mission trip with her teammates, a fact she said disappointed her. But she expressed excitement for her teammates who may have an opportunity to return to Haiti or travel to another part of the world to serve.

The hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to the orphans they had spent time with throughout the week, McLaughlin said. After a week of interactions, the team had bonded with individual children. The love McLaughlin said she found for Haiti has stuck with her since returning to the United States.

“I want to go back to Haiti and allow God to use me in any way he sees fit,” she said.

By Samantha Adams (’13) and Caroline George

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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