News Center

Serving in the Southwest

Shiprock Mission Trip 2009CONWAY, ARK. (March 20, 2009) – Foregoing the beaches of Cancun for sands closer to home, nine Hendrix students spent their Spring Break in New Mexico for a week of service.

The volunteers worked on the Navajo Reservation for four days with the Four Corners United Methodist Mission.  They painted rooms, offered childcare, and demolished several rotting wooden structures on Church property.

“It’s the most work I’ve ever gotten done on a mission trip,” said Rev. J.J. Whitney, the trip leader.  Whitney is the associate director of the Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics, and Calling, which sponsored the trip.

In their spare time, the group took excursions to Shiprock, an enormous rock formation that is sacred to the Navajo people, and to the ruins of Chaco Canyon.

“The trip gave students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to engage with another culture within the borders of the United States,” Whitney said.

The students also engaged academically with the area.  During one of the demolition projects, the team found a plant growing in the dirt beneath the floorboards they tore up.

Sophomore Kristi Vo“You can tell it’s a monocot,” freshman Dillon Blankenship said that day, as he dug down to the roots and removed the plant.  The team replanted it behind the church.

At the end of the trip the group spent a day in Santa Fe, working with the Food for Santa Fe program to pass out more than a thousand supplementary grocery bags.  The FFSF pantry operates on an honor system, so clients don’t have to fill out paperwork to prove their need.  Anyone who drives up to the loading station is given a paper bag with canned goods, eggs, and fresh produce.

After the morning distribution, the group worked with The Food Depot, northern New Mexico’s food bank. The team literally sorted tons of carrots and onions into small parcels, which will be doled out to food pantries and agencies across the state.  Even in their dealings with moldy onions, the volunteers never lost their smiles.

“In general, the trip was really great on a connection level, in that we got to make connections with a lot of different people, including the other Hendrix students,” said senior Sunny Young.  The group represented the range of Hendrix students: scientists and sociologists, freshmen and seniors, and a whole host of religious beliefs.

“Something amazing happens when Hendrix students get away from campus and work with different kinds of people on a project,” Whitney said. “It’s the stories shared while a student is digging a fence post or using a drill. It is the laughter over a mistake made or the encouragement felt when one of us faces her fear of heights to climb up a ladder.  These are life-changing experiences that point students in the direction of discerning their vocations.”

Volunteers included:

  • Dillon Blankenship, freshman
  • Afton Cooper, junior
  • Michaela Fraser, sophomore
  • Kiley Gottschalk, junior
  • Sierra McCabe, freshman
  • Ian Pollard, sophomore
  • Katie Rice, junior
  • Kristi Vo, sophomore
  • Sunny Young, senior
  • Dr. Carl Burch, associate professor of math and computer science

The trip was one of four annual Miller Center mission trips.  This year’s other trips include missions to San Francisco, Vietnam, and France.  For more information about the trips, click here.

Hendrix College, founded in 1876, is a selective, residential, undergraduate liberal arts college emphasizing experiential learning in a demanding yet supportive environment. The college is among 165 colleges featured in the 2009 edition of the Princeton Review America’s Best Value Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit