Hearts of Service: PUC’s Summer 2017 Mission Trip to Kenya

PUC Student Association President Megan Weems spent her summer a little differently than the average college student: she embarked on a nearly 30 hour trek to Maasai Mara, Kenya with others from the PUC family for several days to serve the community there. We asked her to talk about her inspiring experience learning about a new culture and giving back to those less fortunate in our world. Here is Megan’s story.

Our team was comprised of 15 people. We had two doctors, one nurse, one professor, and 11 other people, all who had hearts for service. We left on a Monday afternoon to embark on a long journey from small town Angwin, Calif., to the middle of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It took one 15 and half hour flight to Dubai, a six hour flight to Nairobi, and then an eight hour safari car ride from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, our final destination.

We arrived on a Friday, the next day we went to a Maasai Adventist church. On Sabbath afternoon and Sunday we went on a safari around the Maasai Mara, with beautiful views and plethora of animals. After resting up for the few days on the Mara and shaking off the jetlag, the team was in preparation mode for the week to come. We were separated into bush clinic teams, a Vacation Bible School team, and a painting/construction crew. Our group was small but all very driven and excited to be doing our part to help the Maasai community.

We set up five bush clinics while during our time in Maasai Mara. The bush clinics consisted of a team of doctors; Dr. Jonathan Wheeler and his wife, Dr. Julie Perry Wheeler; nurse Francis Aho; and recent PUC nursing graduate Elizabeth Shown. Each day they packed their lunches, put on their scrubs, piled into a safari truck, and drove to a surrounding village in need of medical attention. They offered basic medical checkups,eye checkups, a pharmacy, triage station, and lots of prayer for each Maasai native seen. On a typical day the bush clinic team would see as many as 70 people.

Upon arrival our VBS team first met with the headmaster of the Olosonin Primary school. We discovered the school had over 700 students enrolled and only eight teachers overseeing them. Each morning began with song service led by recent PUC grad Kelly Siegel and myself. Following song service, Dr. Peterson, adjunct professor of music at PUC, would give a Bible story complete with puppets and various instruments. Each day closed with an arts and crafts section which allowed each child the opportunity to create something they could take home. Towards the end of the week the children were excitingly awaiting our arrival at the beginning of each day. At the end of our weeklong program, the children showed their thanks by treating us to a traditional Maasai tribal dance, grabbing our hands and making us join in.

After spending the mornings with the children, we began painting the staff quarters of the first all girls high school in Maasai. Each afternoon we teamed up with a Maasai native, our very own Fabio Maia, the service and missions coordinator at the college, along with five other PUC students. Our crew scraped, primed, and paint the walls. Once school let out, the students would come and dance, sing, and play along as we worked. A great memory for me will always be the Maasai children teaching us Swahili songs, as we taught them English.

Our group was extremely fortunate to have amazing American native hosts. The Aho family are the owners of Mara West (accommodation) and African Missions Services. They run their own community clinic and led our bush clinics. We were blessed to be able to serve the community in the capacity we did and then come back to safe and comfortable accommodations. The Maasai Mara area is blessed to have them and we are blessed to know them.

This trip is something each of us will never forget, and it will stay with us throughout our lives. The PUC missions office strives to create lasting relationships around the world and hopes to return to Maasai Mara soon. The PUC family is expanding from Angwin to all over the world, from Brazil to Fiji and beyond. Now we have just added more beautiful souls, the people of the Maasai Mara.

The group was fortunate enough to go on a safari in the Maasai Mara. We were able to experience and see firsthand the animals of Kenya in their natural habitat. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Each day a part of the team went out to the primary school to lead a Vacation Bible School program. The team would sing songs, pray, put on puppet Bible stories, and make arts and crafts with and for the kids. It was a great way to really get the children involved with the members of our missions group to learn and swap stories about faith, love, and life. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

While distributing donated water filters to community schools on the Maasai Mara, students would charge the truck to see what was happening. Each filter will provide 70,000 gallons of clean water. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Dr. Peterson putting a performance to the children during church service. The children were amazed and bewildered at the violin and the sounds that came from it. (Picture by Dylan Turner)

Dr. Wheeler with a patient at one of the clinics hosted with African Missions Services. Dr. Wheeler did general patient checkups while his wife Dr. Julie Perry, an ophthalmologist, did eye checkups. Praying with the patients was one thing Dr. Wheeler made sure to do. There was a translator present for every checkup. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

Every day at the Olisonoon Primary School, all 705 students eat the same thing for lunch, a corn-based porridge. They stand in line with a cup ready to receive their daily portion. (Picture by JJ Reynolds)

This is the crew that helped in the construction site. Each day this group would prime, paint, and work hand in hand with the local construction workers to finish the new faculty housing for the only all girls high school in the area. (Picture by Esau Gonzalez)

Returning missionaries Kelly (Brazil, nine months), Cristina (Brazil, nine months), and Megan (Fiji, nine months) were the leaders of VBS. This was the end of the first day of VBS with the kids. (Picture by Dylan Turner)

PUC Students Share Powerful Testimonies During Annual Student Week of Prayer

By Andrew Mahinay

Pacific Union College held its annual student week of prayer the week of April 10. Student week of prayer is a special time for the students, giving them the opportunity to experience the power of God’s work in the lives of their peers. “It is more personable, more real,” said Jason Bajwa, a senior biology major.

This year’s student week of prayer took place in Dauphinee Chapel, a more confined and intimate worship space, giving students a feel of comfort and closeness with each other. Students spoke of God’s ability to work in the life of a sinner. The personal testimonies had a powerful impact on listeners. Inspirational and uplifting words were usedtransformative, change, willing to use youto give listeners a glimpse into how God works. The speaker series consisted of Lulu Kabanje, Randy Ramos, Daniel Grigore, Giselle Garcia, Milka Saint-vil, Laurant Panggabean, Nic Miller, Jamal Armstrong, Alex Chang, and Andy Palomares. There were morning and evening meetings each day.

One of the week’s highlights was the talk by Andy Palomares, future religious vice president of the Student Association. He ended the evening talking about God as our ultimate defender. His demeanor and style made it easy for students to relate with him. In addition to bringing astounding energy, he owned the stage pacing back and forth with confidence and authority. Palomares touched on a more personal issue. After disappointing his father by doing something he should not have done, he felt guilty and ashamed. At times, he could hardly look himself in the mirror. He felt disconnected and distanced from God and his father. But upon reading the Word, Palomares realized it wasn’t God who was doing the distancing, it was himself. “There’s nothing I could do to fix what was wrong, because Jesus was the problem fixer. He is the one interceding for us,” he said. Palomares realized there was nothing in his power, nothing he could do to right his wrong. However, he realized the importance of accepting forgiveness, which his father provided.

With the acceptance of grace and forgiveness, Palomares realized God was on his side the entire time. He used a profound quote saying, “God is already wanting you to be saved, and Jesus is your defense attorney. Not only do you have the judge on your side but you have the best defense attorney on your side you can get,” he continued, “And the only thing against you is Satan, and Satan isn’t going to win.” Palomares paralleled his own struggles with that of Jesus, quoting Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one that has been tempted in every way just the way we are, yet He did not sin.” Ending his speech with this, Palomares made it clear we sinners are not to bask in our own mistakes, “You see, Jesus is for us and He’s never going to leave us.”

After a successful week of student testimonials, many students felt a need to reassess their lives and re-accept God as their Lord and savior. By mentioning their past problems, student speakers made it known no one is perfect. Each student’s sermon emphasized perfectness is not a prerequisite to be used by God. Student testimonials were a great reminder of how God can use any life for His glory and purpose of furthering His kingdom here on earth.

To the Pioneers, With Love

A sincere love letter to the students of PUC from a guest lecturer
By Patrick Vogelpohl

In 2009, I drove a dying Honda Civic up Howell Mountain Road to teach my first class at Pacific Union College. I was a former real estate marketing manager and a freelance writer. I lived in a demanding marketplace filled with unforgiving bottom lines and deadlines.

But my first son was about to be born. My wife and I needed the money. Michelle Rai, the chair of the communication department and now a dear friend, needed someone to teach newswriting at the last minute. She took me to a classroom on the first floor of Irwin Hall, introduced me to about 25 young adults, and then left the room. The students and I smiled at each other for a few seconds until I began to lecture.

Strange things began to happen right away.

As I talked, the students paid attention. They took notes. They smiled at me some more. If they talked to classmates, it was about newswriting. At the end of class, some asked me questions about my lecture. Others simply welcomed me to the college. I thought I was being punk’d, but I wasn’t. These students were friendly and sincere. It was, for lack of a better word, weird.

I drove down Howell Mountain Road and thought, “That was the most pleasant work experience I have ever had.” So I kept going back. I eventually served as an assistant professor of communication. I even taught in the English Department. I became co-director of Publication Workshop and was an advisor for the Campus Chronicle. I got to introduce Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder at Colloquy. Currently, I’m serving as a guest lecturer in a public relations course.

Vogelpohl, center, surrounded by four of his most attractive students. Note their dewy skin.

Vogelpohl, center, surrounded by four of his most attractive students. Note their dewy skin.

In my time on the hill, I’ve learned a few things about PUC’s exceptional students. If you are an incoming freshman, here’s what you should know about your peers:

1. PUC students are active members of the Adventist church. Some are conservative Adventists. Some are liberal. Most students, however, regularly tend to their relationships with God. They go to (and enjoy) church on Saturday, as well as residence hall worship or other prayer groups. When a PUC student wrestles with her or his faith, their friends still accept them as a fellow child of God.

2. PUC students have fantastic skin. It’s not even fair! Maybe it’s because of the plant-rich diet. Maybe it’s all the rest on the Sabbath. Every PUC graduate could earn a modeling contract based on their skin alone. Could your skin be healthier? Then get up here. By the time you leave, your skin will be best described as “supple” or “visually delicious.”

3. PUC students are serious about learning. The vast majority of students actually attend class. The vast majority does homework. Group work gets done. Are there some slackers on campus? Sure. Do students work harder in some classes than in others? Of course. This a college filled with young adults, not study-bots. But I would argue that slackers don’t last too long at PUC. Why? See #4.

4. PUC students are ridiculously active. They study. Then they play on intramural sports teams. They play instruments. They double-major. They have jobs. They have internships. They learn to play instruments while at their internships. They have terrific conversations in the Dining Commons. They feed the homeless. They take day trips to San Francisco and the beach. If these kids weren’t so friendly and attractive, they would be annoying.

5. PUC students are very good at dating. First, they are friends. Then they attend vespers together. Nine years later, they have two law degrees, three kids, a cocker spaniel named Gary, and a nice house near the beach.

6. PUC students live long lives. I once met an alumnus that was 177 years young.

And finally, PUC students look out for one another. They even look out for their professors. I have had students bring me food and snacks during marathon grading sessions—students that weren’t even in my courses. When my kids have been sick, other students prayed for them without my asking. They just did it. Stuff like this doesn’t happen often in most jobs. But it can absolutely make the worst days seem brighter.

In short, you will go to school with the best people you will ever meet. Get up here. Fast.