A new summer mission trip is headed to Greece this summer, organized by a team of students. The team will be gone from June 1 to August 1 and is made up of nine members, eight of whom are Harding students.
The members are senior Zach Cowdery, senior Robert Stewart, senior Jake Black, senior Sam Traughber, junior Madison Vanderheiden, junior Emma Powell, senior Bailey Forkner and senior Erin Fletcher. The ninth member is Cowdrey’s sister, Brittany Cowdery.
Cowdery said the group will be partnering with Hellenic Ministries, a missions organization based in Athens founded by Harding alumnus Matt Gulley. Hellenic is involved in ministering to refugees and running EuroRelief, a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos. The group will work eight hour shifts to provide the refugees with meals and basic hygiene products. Hellenic also conducts Bible studies and leadership training for people open to Christ.
Cowdery had been involved with several mission trips before and attend the HUG (Harding University in Greece) program in spring 2016. Cowdery also participated in a six-week internship in Mozambique during summer 2017.
“Ever since I studied abroad in Greece, God has placed missions on my heart. I never thought about cross-cultural missions before, but he changed my worldview completely that semester,” Cowdery said. “Our mission is twofold, help the refugees feel as comfortable and cared for as possible, and share the message that God loves them and offer a new story of hope and redemption.”
The team will also visit Porto Astro, where they will help run a family camp for about 90 Afghan people. Cowdery said the team will be participating in the Joshua Project, which aims to place a Bible in every home in Greece. They will also spend two weeks in villages in northern Greece.
Senior Madison Vanderheiden also has previous missions experience and participated in the Global Missions Experience. Vanderheiden said the team wants to cultivate relationships with the people in Athens, Lebos and Thessolinkili.
“A huge population of refugees are in Greece and that is currently a central hub for camps so we saw that as the most practical place for us to become a part the work God is doing,” Vanderheiden said. “One of my biggest struggles is falling into my comfort zone and not radically pursuing Christ like I am called to. For me, some of the most growth that I experience in my life has happened when I am shoved out of my comfort zone and thrown into new situations and have to rely on God.”
Everyone on the team is looking to pursue full time at some point and GO serves as the stepping stone to that goal.
“I want to do missions and I want to do missions with my best friends,” Cowdery said. “I’m not sure what that looks like yet or where that will be, but I’m excited for the clarity this summer will give us.”