Campus ministries unite for spring break project in Rio Texas

David Burke


College students from Nebraska and Kansas work to help repair a mobile home park before FEMA brings in new homes for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Photo courtesy Emporia State Campus Ministries

While their friends may have had plans for fun and sun over spring break, 40 college students representing the Great Plains Conference spent the third week of March at work performing disaster response in the Rio Texas Conference.

Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Kearney, Kansas Wesleyan, the University of Kansas, Kansas State and Emporia State, along with five campus pastors, spent most of their time deep cleaning a 200-lot mobile home park in La Grange, Texas, to prepare it for the arrival of FEMA trailers.

“This was an idea that started back when Hurricane Harvey hit back in the fall,” said the Rev. Nicole Conard, young adult leadership coordinator. “They turned that idea into fruition, and it evolved into doing it for their spring break.”

Thanks to the Rev. Hollie Tapley, Great Plains disaster response coordinator, and her counterpart in Rio Texas, the group was sent to La Grange and stayed nights in Cathedral Oaks, a conference camping and lodging facility about 20 miles away in Weimer, Texas.

All of the students received certification in Early Response Training and/or Safe Gatherings before making the trip.

Students paid their own way to get to Texas, although part of it was subsidized by mission shares, Conard said.
Forty students, as well as five campus ministers, spent their spring break helping with disaster response in Texas. Photo courtesy Emporia State Campus Ministry.

The Great Plains group talked with those who had been homeless since the hurricane, many of whom were still living in hotels, Conard said.

“When they met with other people, they had to do a lot of listening,” she said. “To be present with people in the midst of all this is very powerful.

“The students’ lives change, and the people on the ground had their lives changed by the church.”

Each night, a different campus ministry led the devotions.

Conard said this is the first time that multiple campus ministries have worked together on a project such as this.

“I’m really seeing the connectional pieces of it, where one of them could have done it by themselves and been fine,” she said. “But it was also a way for them to learn from other students, get to know other campus ministries, to spend time together and be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

A blog by Emporia State student Carlyn Hartsock details the trip day-by-day.
David Burke, communications coordinator, can be contacted at

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