Thirty URI students forsake post-finals rest for religious, service mission to Guatemala

KINGSTON, R.I. — June 2, 1999 — The day after the final exam period closed at the University of Rhode Island, 30 University students boarded a plane for a two-week trip to Guatemala. They returned May 29. But they weren’t away on a vacation. The were going to serve God and the people of Antigua. The trip was a mission of Students International, a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. URI’s InterVarsity chapter is the largest in New England. It met each week this year in the new Multicultural Center. Each of the students had to raise the money needed to make the trip. Before they left, four of the students who made the trip talked about their reasons for going. Three of them–Elizabeth Hall, of Cherry Hill, N.J., Juliette Greene, of Lincoln, R.I. and Barbara Wiggin, of Marlboro, Mass., are pharmacy majors, while the fourth, Cyrus Ferri, of East Providence, R.I., is a nursing student. Why did they forsake a little rest after the high pressure of finals? Ferri responded, “The main purpose is to spread the Gospel and the message of Jesus Christ to the people. We expect to have an impact,” he said. “Another major reason is to grow in our knowledge of other peoples’ culture,” Ferri said. “It’s a mission, but a big part of the trip is putting our skills to work, and seeing how God can work with that,” Hall said. The students worked with a mission doctor and three mission nurses in a village hospital. “We’re taking the skills URI has given us and bringing them to Antigua,” Ferri said. Asked whether they could have much of an impact in two weeks, Wiggin said, “If you are giving your service and dedicating it to God, he can do something with it, whether it is two weeks or one day.” Wiggin said the program is an invitation to try mission work, so the students can see what it is like, and maybe consider a more lengthy trip later. Ferri added that he would be doing an independent study for three credits in nursing on the culture of the Guatemalan clients they serve and the cultural world of the providers. Specifically, he’ll be looking for the incidence of varicose veins and leg ulcers. All four students said their parents were happy their children had the opportunity, even though they worked in 80-degree heat and humidity during the rainy season. “My mom knows it’s going to benefit my health care career,” Ferri said. “My parents are pretty happy because they were once missionaries in Japan,” Hall said. “Mine are excited about me going, but they are worried about diseases and the political climate,” Greene said. Finally, Wiggin said, “Mine are worried about safety issues, but they are glad I am interested in following God.” How about reaction from fellow students? “All the students I told about it are excited for me,” Greene said. “Everyone has told me what a great opportunity this is,” Ferri said. -xxx- For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116