International Christian Service program moves forward despite world tensions


Mike Harrington

UPDATE: Houston, TX was officially announced as a Christian Service trip destination for 2018 at the AGE Block Assembly on Sept. 27. The 2017 trip to Ireland will not continue for the 2018 trips.

After the cancellations of the Philippines and Armenia service trips this past summer, the service program will move ahead as it has in the past.

From adding new people to positions, to possibly investigating service opportunities in Houston, the Christian Service program has had several developments recently.  

According to eleventh grade Christian Service program coordinator Mr. Stephen Borish, the decision making process for choosing countries for service isn’t focused solely on countries that are seen as less dangerous.

“Of course we don’t want to put you in danger, but…there are people in need,” Borish said. “We have to be aware of that and be in relationship with those people. Regardless of there being a safety issue, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.”

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We are never going to put students in a situation where they need to deal with any terrorism in the country to which they are going or anything potentially dangerous.”

Christian Service Coordinator Mr. Stephen Borish[/perfectpullquote]

While Malvern doesn’t want its students to be prevented from helping people due to dangerous situations, there are always back-up plans if there is a reason for canceling a trip.

“If there is ever a situation where we need to cancel we always have a backup plan so we can ship students in different groups or find something locally to do as service,” Borish said. “But we are never going to put students in a situation where they need to deal with any terrorism in the country to which they are going or anything potentially dangerous.”

The Philippines service trip this summer was cancelled due to a group linked to ISIS taking control of Mawari City in Southern Philippines. Students scheduled to go on the trip like senior Ryan Gabriel were directly affected by this.

“We talked to some of the guys who went to the one in the year past like Sean Brady and Dan Ford. They were telling us all about how fun it was,” Gabriel said.

Despite his original trip getting canceled, he still had an awesome experience on his replacement trip in the Dominican Republic. “The DR was the best trip I’ve ever been on in my life,” Gabriel said.

Philippines Service Trip, 2015

The service trip in Armenia was also canceled due to safety issues in the nearby country of Ukraine, where a skirmish between Ukrainians and pro-Russian rebels has been occurring since 2014.

According to Borish, the service program tries to focus on countries that Malvern has a connection with and has a need that has been voiced.  

“So for example when we go to South Africa, we have people in South Africa who we partner with who have said there are children in South Africa that are in need or that there are other needs,” he said.

Malvern always wants to be able to help these groups of struggling people around the world, but certain things can prevent these trips like the factor of the students’ well being.

“With that being said, some of those countries are potentially dangerous and we might be in a position of having to cancel,” Borish said. “There really is no way to predict that.”

Something that helps the Christian Service program have some semblance of peace of mind if it is sending students to someplace with potential danger is their evacuation insurance policy.

“In terms of students, we have evacuation insurance. So if they are ever in a situation where there is some sort of attack or threat, or they are targeted or somebody gets sick, or something dangerous happens, we have insurance so those students can be evacuated from an area and be treated or get shelter or whatever the case may be,” Borish said.

This is Borish’s first year as the eleventh grade Christian Service coordinator, and he is enjoying the experience so far.

“There is a learning curve. It’s a lot of sort of figuring out, communicating with Mr. Legner and Mrs. Miele,” he said. “Figuring out what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, but it is going well for the most part. It is a good experience. They are really helpful so it’s making my job a lot easier. But it is a lot. It is a big program.”

Borish appreciates everything Legner has done for the program and is glad to take a portion of the responsibility off his shoulders.

“I think it is for the best. Now we have a lot more people involved and a lot more resources so we can expand the program the way that Larry would have wanted but didn’t necessarily have the time to do,” he said.

In his first month of the position, Borish has already been faced with an interesting development service-wise, the several hurricanes impacting southern states like Florida and Texas. The Christian Service Program is actively looking into opportunities to aid Houston in their time of trouble and hopes to be able to do something.

“With regard to Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we are in contact with people who are organizing locations that we could go to for service. It could potentially lead to a site that we go to,” he said,  “There are no guarantees with that, but it is not off the table. If help is needed, we could be there.”

The organization that the Christian Service Program works with to send students to places in need is Rustic Pathways, and Malvern is currently talking with them to see if their site in Houston would be available to us.

“We reached out to them to see if there’s any possibility to send students. It could potentially be a future opportunity,” Borish said.

Students like Gabriel think that this would be a good idea. Although according to him, the right group of guys would have to go down to make the trip worthwhile.

I think that that would actually be a cool idea, but you definitely have to find the right group of guys,” Gabriel said. “The guys that I went with on the DR were seriously dedicated to the service, and we got done five miles of trench work, which most groups probably wouldn’t have done. So if you get the right group of guys to go down to Houston, they’ll definitely be good.”