On a mission

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Mission trips inspired Helm to become a teacher

By Michele Roberts

Melanie Helm is a Lancaster native who graduated from Anderson College in May. She was hired by the Lancaster County School District to teach fourth grade at North Elementary School.

Helm says it was an experience in a country thousands of miles away that inspired her to be a teacher.

Helm, who attends Second Baptist Church in Lancaster, has gone on several mission trips in the past few years to destinations like Japan, Cambodia, Guatemala and Ecuador. Each experience was different, she said, but it was her second trip to Ecuador that really put the calling in her heart to teach.

“The first time I went was the summer before my senior year in high school,” she said. “We worked with different schools in the community we went to. The first half of the day we would do maintenance on the buildings, and the second half of the day we worked with the children. The work I did with those children really impacted me and made me decide that I wanted to teach.”

That second Ecuador trip happened the summer before she entered college.

The next trip took her to Guatemala, where she saw a completely different side of work being done for local children.
“There was a lot of physical work involved in that trip, because we were building boys’ homes for the ministry. The main purpose of that ministry was to rescue young boys from gangs and gang activity, because they are under a lot of pressure to join, and the violence there is just terrible,” she said. “The ministry team was committed to helping these boys find a way out, so we had much less contact with them and focused on plowing the land and building roads to these homes.”

The trip happened during Christmas break, and the ministry team gave out Christmas presents.”

Helm went to Japan during the summer before she began her junior year of college.

“That one was really different from most trips, because the ministry there focused more on a building a relationship with the people rather than witnessing to them. The reason for that is that people in Japan believe heavily in family and tradition, which includes Buddhism,” Helm said. “So they felt it was important to cultivate a relationship with them first before suggesting they change religions and more than likely get kicked out of their family for doing it.”
She visited Cambodia this summer.

“This was probably my favorite trip besides Ecuador,” she said. “We got to work directly with the people a lot more and that’s my favorite part of missions trips. We were in teams of five, and the older ladies with us held women’s conferences, and myself and another girl took care of the children while their mothers were attending the conferences.

“We read Bible stories to them, and sang songs with them, and I just really enjoyed it so much. My passion has always been working with children.”

Aside from the mission trips, Helm has visited Nova Scotia, Hawaii and the Bahamas and said her traveling days aren’t over yet. She is planning to go on a mission trip to Romania next summer with her father, Larry Helm, and says she has a burning desire to go to Africa and work in one of the orphanages there.

“It’s really been on my heart lately to do that,” she said. “So I am really hoping God will open that door for me. These travels and the things I’ve experienced have really impacted me a lot in the way that I teach. Not every kid comes from a good home, and it’s crucial to remember that. As a teacher, I don’t just focus on the learning component, although that’s certainly important. What is most important to me is to let them know that they are loved.”