Students experience the unexpected
Portia Jeronimo and Milagro Menees expand on their unique experiences in Kosovo and The Philippines. | Eliana Park/THE CHIMES
Over the course of interterm, students involved with the Student Missionary Union visited Kosovo, The Philippines, East India, South India and Zambia.
Sophomore and kinesiology major Portia Jeronimo expressed her lack of expectation for her long-term mission trip to Kosovo, a small country in South Eastern Europe. Through preparation and training, student leaders of SMU had mentioned, “Maybe we’ll go there, and have millions of people come to Christ; maybe nothing at all,” Jeronimo recalled.
From Jan. 4 to 26, Jeronimo and her team experienced unusual circumstances throughout the three weeks they were there. Jeronimo was mainly attracted to the youth ministry in Kosovo.
Upon their arrival in Kosovo the team found their luggage missing. For the first few days the group of four men and four women were challenged to continuously reuse their garments and belongings. Although the training readied the team for the unexpected, such as missing luggage, they ended up not being dressed properly for the weather.
“My boots were in my suitcase and it was all snowy. So, I was in my Nikes in the snow,” Jeronimo said.
Aside from a training simulation coming true, the group attempted to get their bearings during the first day. The team encountered one of the missionaries, Diamant, a Christian who lived in the city of Peja. Diamant encouraged the team to simply do their best to inspire Albanians in the region.
“You are not going to take someone in three weeks from A to Z,” Jeronimo recalled Diamant saying. “A to B, that’s enough because that is something that wouldn’t have happened if you guys weren’t here.”
Jeronimo and her team understood their focus was to generally provide knowledge about Christianity to the Albanians, whose culture is predominantly Muslim. Over the course of the trip they formed the analogy “put a pebble on their shoe” to explain they simply wanted to begin the process of conversion.
The next day the team began with youth groups of various ages — activities and events took place throughout the week, including movie nights, communion, athletic games and especially coffee outings. Flaka was one of the few women in Kosovo the group got to know well over coffee, despite the difficulty of pulling the Albanians out of their usual small conversations.
“We got to show them that we are different, because of the things we talked about,” Jeronimo said.
Near the end of the time in Kosovo, the majority of Albanians revealed their understanding of the distinction between their culture and American culture.
The team of seven in the Philippines had a rather different trip, co-led by Milagro Menees, senior nursing major, and Doug Keller, junior ICS major. Menees mentioned that sickness, primarily a mild upset stomach, is almost always expected for members to obtain while journeying overseas.
However, Menees and the group of three girls and three guys had an unshakable experience with the citizens of the Philippines. While involved with the organization that taught English, agriculture and medical assistance, the students modeled Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching amongst the villages and about 2,000 Filipino citizens received optometry, dental and medical treatment.
“As a nursing major, I was really interested and really passionate with how God works: healing through physical means, in order to meet spiritual means,” Menees said.