Missionaries recount experiences helping others

Jessica Sheldahl

A tall, lanky, Iowa farm boy experienced the horror of terrorism firsthand as a missionary in Guatemala in 1964. He witnessed the country torturing its own people and instilling fear in them so they would not rise against their oppressive government.

Thomas Melville, author of “Through a Glass Darkly,” spoke at the Memorial Union last Monday about his book concerning the terrorism his friend Ron Hennessey faced day in and day out for much of the 34 years he spent in Central America serving as a missionary in a Catholic parish.

Fortunately, missionaries from Iowa State can rest assured they will not face the same insurgencies and guerrilla warfare in the future that Hennessey faced during his work. The Salt Company, a campus religious organization, organizes approximately five or six mission trips a year – mostly for the summer – which spread the word of God in places where the group has already formed good relationships.

“We really believe in continuing your work where you’re at,” said Cody Cline, senior in agricultural business and Salt Company president.

He said the group typically sends missionaries in groups of four to seven to such places as China, Thailand, central Asia and central Africa.

Cline went on an eight-week mission trip in the summer of 2005 to Bangkok, Thailand, where his group built a Baptist church and he helped teach conversational English.

“They’re very open people,” Cline said. “They want to talk with you. Many of them only believe what they believe because it’s what they grew up with. It’s a good challenge for us to confront them with questions of truth – it’s a joy for them.”

Not all mission trips are directly related to religion. For Lydia Yoder, junior in music, a mission can be a trip to help others in a different but still meaningful way.

Yoder went to the northern part of China last summer to teach music to orphans. She did not go through Salt Company, but instead she assisted her sister, who lives in China, to teach approximately 80 preschool-aged children.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with the kids everyday and just being able to help out with them. It was kind of heartbreaking just to see the hopelessness at the time, but it was really good to go and show them love.”

She taught the children in English so they could also learn some of the language. Most of the children will be adopted by American families soon.

Yoder said the most difficult part of the mission was the language barrier, but she knew by the children’s faces that they understood.

Yoder said she hopes to return to China one day to continue her work there. She said it is a very rewarding experience.

“It showed them that people really do care, but it’s difficult because they get to know someone and they leave again,” Yoder said. “I hope they felt love and that they felt that someone does care about them.”

Despite Melville’s account of Hennessey’s trying times in Central America, not all mission trips encounter such difficulties. For Cline and Yoder, the trips have been a rewarding experience they each said they hope will be repeated.