Janelle Cammenga—Staff Writer
In a little under two weeks, 119 Dordt students will pile into passenger vans packed with supplies, drive to sites around the country, meet new people, have crazy adventures and serve others.
But the tradition of PLIA starts far before the start of spring break. A lot goes on behind the scenes before the first bus is packed.
“It never stops,” said senior Sam Hawks, PLIA co-chair. “It’s year-round planning.”
Five subcommittees handle the responsibility of making the trips happen. Committees include: food, devotions, transportation, T-shirt design and advertising.
“Anybody can get involved,” Hawks said. “We’d love it if you went on a trip, but it’s not necessary.”
“I gave a lot of presentations on Mendenhall, Miss. It was kind of crazy,” said sophomore Sarah Siglin, who is on both the T-shirt team and the advertising team.
Advertising consists mostly of putting up slides at chapel and Praise and Worship and hanging posters around campus. The group focuses on letting people know when meetings are, relying on word of mouth from past participants to explain how PLIA works and what it has to offer.
Hawks and sophomore Ana Timmer co-chair the operation. They spend about two to three hours on PLIA tasks a week in the fall and four to 10 hours a week during the spring. Choosing the teams this year took them about six and a half hours.
The planning committee tries to put students in groups with people of whom they don’t usually interact. They also try to take the students’ location preferences into account whenever possible, since they believe students’ preferences may be a sign of where they feel God is leading them.
“We’re put in a position to choose the teams,” Hawks said. “But it’s amazing to see the way the Lord orchestrates what’s going on. He works through us to help prepare his plan for PLIA.”
Last year, they put together a team of people to go to Denver, Colo. None of the team had marked Denver as their first choice, but they grew so close with each other that they still meet for “family dinners” often.
In terms of new sites, anything is possible.
“Just dream it up,” Hawks said.
If planning members think of a location they want to help, they try to find Dordt connections in the area.
Their goal in choosing sites is to empower existing organizations. Helping these groups instead of just doing their own short-term projects “shows you what other ministries struggle with,” Siglin said.
The system also helps to build lasting relationships with communities. Most PLIA sites have been long-standing traditions. Dordt students have been visiting Mendenhall, Miss., for many years and Cary, Miss., for 35 years.
“A short-term missions trip ended up being a long-term friendship with itty bitty Mendenhall, Miss.,” Siglin said. “People see us walking down the street and yell, ‘It’s Dordt!’”
The planning committee is hoping to emphasize devotional life this year.
“It’s as much about individual growth as it is the site that we serve,” Hawks said. “More often than not, you feel more blessed by your site location than you feel like you bless them.”
Throughout the process, Hawks is very conscious that God is in control of their plans, whether it’s choosing teams or site locations.
“He’s going to make it what it’s going to be, and it’s going to be awesome,” Hawks said. “God shows up and does what He does when you’re willing to be open.”