Assoc. Dir., Campus Ministries, Carson-Newman University, Jefferson City
It happened in a group from Carson-Newman University when a student, who was determined to party and to “get away from it all,” found Jesus.
It happened while students hiked into the hills of Guatemala to give clean drinking water access to a mother of nine.
It took place while providing medical care and praying with individuals in small remote villages of Haiti who had put their faith in voodoo.
It occurred while simply listening to a teenage orphan living at Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home.
“It” is the love of Christ. “It” is impact. “It” is life change.
These life changes are what I’ve had the opportunity to witness over the years in coordinating Carson-Newman SPOTS missions trips. Over the span of four decades, Carson-Newman SPOTS (Special Projects Other Than Summer) trips have been the catalyst for significant transformations in students and those whom they have served.
Life change can occur at our back door as well as halfway around the world, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. This was the case for two of our Carson-Newman students who were only nominally involved in campus ministries and other university activities.
Before graduating in 2009, Kevin and Mandy Norris Cline were commuters who grew up in the surrounding area. High school sweethearts, both were dedicated followers of Christ, but generally only came to campus for classes or when it was required.
The two learned about a scheduled SPOTS trip to Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home in Chattanooga. Already having a heart for children, the two decided to go. The decision would forever change them.
Carson-Newman has had a long relationship with the children’s home as a place for sending spring break missionary teams to invest in young lives. Not only do the children long for the attention of our students, but they look up to them. During one of these trips Kevin and Mandy not only served, but found a new passion in life.
The experience allowed the couple to pour into the children’s lives, but they soon discovered that a week was not going to be enough. This missions experience for them was the start for a future in SPOTS and Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
The couple not only became involved, but served on our BCM leadership team for the next three years. Kevin even became our BCM president during his senior year.
The story doesn’t end there.
Kevin and Mandy would return to Chattanooga on several SPOTS trips, but they wanted to do even more. They went back to serve as interns during the summer and returned to visit the children on other breaks.
The Clines, now married, have children of their own. It is because of their experiences at Carson-Newman that they have served at other children’s homes, in the local school system, and have considered adoption. For them, there is no greater joy than sharing the love of Christ with a child.
We have a saying in our SPOTS program, “Christ’s love is found when your passion and the world’s need intersect.” What Kevin and Mandy found at this intersection was life changing.
This spring, Carson-Newman continues its SPOTS tradition. The university will send out 11 missionary teams to five states and three countries. Whether our students are serving in Chattanooga or Costa Rica, please pray that from these experiences and through the love of Christ, those both serving and being served find life change.