Trips to Asia Give GWU Divinity Students Opportunity to Minister and Receive Blessings

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Cultural Immersion Experiences Focused on Pastoral Care and Missions

Dennis Costner, a member of Dr. Hebert Palomino's group
Dennis Costner, a member of Dr. Hebert Palomino’s group, serves lunch to children at a Christian School and orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Sleeping on the floor, listening to a blind man’s story and sampling kangaroo burgers—students in the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University participated in these immersion experiences while traveling in Asia over the summer. Dr. Hebert Palomino, professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, led a group that focused on pastoral care, and students who traveled with Professor of Missiology Dr. Terry Casiño learned how to function, live, and work in different cultures.

The first week Palomino’s group stayed at a refugee camp in Mae La, Thailand. They slept on the floor and had no air-conditioning. “I learned how to adapt and be content in different environments, even when it wasn’t the most ideal situation,” shared team member Cynthia Long. She and the other students, Pamela Gilliam, Bonnie Talford, Kyle Hamlin and Dennis Costner, listened to testimonies from a blind man and a man with no limbs. The men didn’t complain as they shared about their lives. “I was amazed at the hope and joy people have in the situations they are living in,” Hamlin observed. “It made me realize how Jesus can overcome the worst situations in our lives. They had hope because they had Jesus.”

tudents traveling with Dr. Terry Casiño
Students traveling with Dr. Terry Casiño met with leading administrators and faculty at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Singapore.

From Mae La, the group traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to provide training and work with a human trafficking rescue group. Next they spent six days in Cambodia working with an organization in Phnom Penh that has several ministries, including a medical outreach to children. The group also visited Phnom Penh Bible College, which was started by Korean churches. “We were able to minister and be ministered to in spite of cultural differences,” Talford reflected. “It was a time to learn, listen and take part in others’ joy, pain and brokenness.”

Casiño’s team joined Palomino’s group in Phnom Penh to visit the killing fields, a historical site where more than a million people were killed by the communist government from 1975 to 1979. Jaime Fitzgerald, a student traveling with Casiño, is still affected by her memories of standing in the prison cells of executed men, women and children. “Touring Tuol Sleng, the school turned prison, literally made me feel nauseous while feeling and touching the prison cells of innocent Cambodians,” she recalled.

Other students traveling with Casiño were Ricky Alston, Regina Johnson, Sarah McCloy, Will Davis and Trevor MacPherson. Before visiting Cambodia, they met with religious leaders, toured historical sites and observed life as locals in Australia and New Zealand. They also had stops in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. “The team observed varied expressions of major religious traditions, and learned significant parts of the historical process of missions history that contributed to the beginning and spread of the Christian message across the Asia-Pacific region,” Casiño related. “They also learned some of the major contemporary trends and issues in theologies, ministries, and missions.”

Dr. Terry Casiño's students led a workshop at a leaders’ gathering in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Dr. Terry Casiño’s students led a workshop at a leaders’ gathering in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Highlights from the trip included visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata, New Zealand, attending sessions of the Revive ’17 Missions Conference and a service at Hillsong Church in Australia, and talking to a group of professors from Morling College while eating kangaroo burgers and steaks. The group also heard from the Rev. Dr. Miyon Chung about her experiences with The Baptist World Alliance and the Global Diaspora Network.

“My worldview was widened, and my respect for cultures other than my own was deepened,” Fitzgerald affirmed. “I was challenged to rethink long held beliefs of varying capacities and nudged toward sharpening and defining what I believe in regards to faith, ethics and missions. Study abroad/mission immersion trips shape and form us as students in various ways and to differing degrees. It’s awesome to me how a group of Gardner-Webb students from many different backgrounds, ages and life experiences can travel together and grow and shape one another in ways deeper than words can explain.”

Pam Guilliam
Pam Guilliam, right, who traveled with Dr. Hebert Palomino, led a training assisted by a local interpreter.

Located in the North Carolina foothills, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university that prepares students to become critical thinkers, effective leaders and compassionate servants in the global community. Emphasizing a strong student-centered experience and rigorous academics, Gardner-Webb ignites learning and service opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Ignite your future at