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Serving in Mission Fields in Your Own Back Yard

BRISTOL, Tenn., March 20, 2016 – From the beginning, King University was built upon the idea of transforming lives in Christ. Throughout the years, mission or service trips have taken King students, faculty, and staff across the globe. This year, students were able to reach out to both international and domestic communities all while staying in the United States.

King’s mission is to build meaningful lives of achievement and cultural transformation in Christ. Professors take the mission a step further by integrating the concept of global citizenship into almost every course on campus. Global citizenship provides for an outlook in which each person, regardless of geographical location, is a part of one community. For the King community, this also means living a life where serving others is integrated into everyday life.

This spring, student groups, led by faculty and staff, spent time with UrbanPromise in Camden, N.J., and Global Frontier Missions in Clarkston, Ga. According to recent data, Camden is ranked as the number one most dangerous city per capita in the U.S., while Clarkston is called “the most diverse square mile in America” by Time Magazine.

This spring was the first time a group from King travelled to Clarkston, Ga., for a mission trip. The organization with which they worked is Global Frontier Missions (GFM), a movement of Christ-centered communities dedicated to mobilizing, training, and multiplying disciples and churches to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the unreached people groups of the earth. GFM’s Atlanta location helps reach out to the numerous international communities surrounding the city.

By travelling to Clarkston this year, King students were able to interact with children and their families who hail from more than 140 countries and 760 ethnic groups. Clarkston and Northeast Atlanta’s international communities include mostly residents granted refugee status by the U.S. government, some of which are Nepalis, Cambodians, Iranians, Somalis, Burmese, Bhutanese, Sudanese, Laotians, and Indonesians to name a few.

King students visited a mosque and Hindu temple while in Georgia, however, most of their time was with the refugee children, interacting with them, playing games, and sharing the spirit of Christ.

“Even though we were in a small, quiet town in Clarkston, Ga., we didn’t need a passport to be in the heart of an international mission field,” said Dan Kreiss, program director and assistant professor of Youth Ministry and dean of King’s Peeke School of Christian Mission. “What meant the most to the children we engaged with was the gift of our time – simply being there with them.”

The connections King groups make at UrbanPromise is unlike any other mission trip of which Dan Kreiss has been a part. Kreiss said, “I’ve been in youth ministry for more than 30 years. There is something about that place and that organization that just works. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. What we do there, the people we meet and work with there – the kids, the street leaders, the interns, the workers – it is just unlike any other program.”

UrbanPromise is the largest employer of teenagers in the city of Camden. The organization has programs for kids up to eighth grade. For those young people who wish to continue on, they can apply to be a street leader to help mentor the younger generation.

Kreiss added, “There is a good balance not only of social opportunities and helping people with needs but also recognizing the spiritual needs all while working in a Christian environment. The program just works for a city that is in desperate need of help.”

King alumna Mickensie Neely graduated in May 2015 with a major in Youth Ministry and double minors in English and Photography. Neely, who went on several mission trips to Camden while at King, took a leap of faith, moved to Camden, and now works for UrbanPromise.

“Camden is polarizing; everyone feels something when they come here,” said Neely. “I tell people who are afraid of going into this place that is so uncomfortable and so different that maybe they need someone just like you – someone who is willing to be genuine. [The ability to be genuine] is something I learned at King. College is such a ‘discovering yourself kind of place.’ I was comfortable at King, and that helped me to be comfortable being planted somewhere else.”

“College is a nursery to life; then you go plant yourself somewhere,” said Marcus Bell, program director of Camp Spirit at UrbanPromise. In his previous role as missions director, Bell developed a strong relationship with Dan Kreiss and King University. “Dan has done a great job at not only getting [the students] to understand local missions but also global missions. Global missions does not necessarily limit [the students] to travelling overseas.”

Neely added, “One reason the kids in Camden react so positively is that the students from King are well prepared. During Dan’s preparation for the Camden trip, there is always someone who says, ‘I can’t believe there are places like this in the United States. The mission field is truly right in your back yard.”

“Fifty percent of Camden’s population is under 30; forty percent of the population is under the age of 18,” said Bell. “For me, the mindset of many groups who come to Camden is one of short-term missions. [UrbanPromise] is about long-terms missions. It is really nice to have a group [like King] come through that understands ‘what are my short-term mission goals, and how do they partner with the long-term mission program.’ King students come with the understanding that relationship is selfless – it is not about me.”

Neely wrapped up by saying “I love the quote, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!’ Jesus doesn’t care if you are comfortable. He is the great physician and healer; He cares about you and will comfort you. Jesus wants you to be uncomfortable though, because it is during these times you are growing the most, and change the most – relying on Him. For the time I’ve been at Camden, I’ve been uncomfortable about 85% of the time. It is hard, but it is so rewarding. The small successes really fuel me to keep going! This is such an amazing experience.”

Contact Dan Kreiss at 423.652.4153 or dskreiss@king.edu for additional information about the missions program at King University.

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King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit www.king.edu. King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.