Students are spreading hope across three continents this January as eight student-led mission trips are serving in various capacities across the world. The Student Missionary Union (SMU) is the largest student-led missions organization in the United States and has 25 staff members and hundreds of volunteers. SMU sends approximately 7 to 10 trips each interterm and summer.

This interterm, students are serving in South Africa, El Salvador and Honduras, Rwanda, Hungary, North Africa, Mexico, Kosovo, and Romania. This past summer, there were multiple trips taken as well. Each student and missions team faces challenges as well as experiences joy. We interviewed students from the Ukraine, Panama and Malawi summer teams for an inside look at their challenges, joys and to ultimately learn more about where God took them.

The SMU mission trips currently serving each have different focuses ranging from medical assistance to street evangelism. The trips are completely student led and receive guidance from SMU, however, the co-leaders (one male and one female) of the trip set the details and vision for the team.

“I knew that I wanted to go back to Africa once I left Uganda and I felt God pulling my heart towards leading a trip to Rwanda,” said Steven Mendez, co-leader of this interterm’s Rwanda team.

The Rwanda team co-led by Mendez and Liz Phalan will be traveling to the city of Kigali to serve through children and youth ministry by helping with religious education to children in primary schools, Saturday children’s clubs, Sunday school, youth rallies and hosting youth and children’s games.

Students Katie Burnett and Casey McCartin are leading the trip to South Africa, specifically the cities of Bulwer and Johannesburg. The team will be visiting Zulu people in huts, share God’s love with the Zulu people and help pass out medicine.  They will also be helping at preschools and a center for disabled children as well as encouraging believers there.

“I do this because my passion drives me and love is my message,” said Burnett. “Watching the team members become a family because they want to serve the Lord is awesome.”

The El Salvador/Honduras team is being co-led by students Anthony DiGenova and Nicole Aragon in San Salvador. The team will be working at an orphanage teaching children English and the Bible through arts, crafts and skits. They will also hold a sports camp and do some light construction work to improve the orphanage there.

The Hungary team will do ministry in an orphanage, hold a retreat for the children, do service projects and also help with college ministry and church outreach efforts. Students Cat Snyder and Marco Chavez are co-leading the Hungary team in the cities of Budapest, Miskolc and Debrecen.

The North Africa team is co-led by students Kerri Sanders and Skyler LeBreton. The team will serve through teaching English, kids' programs, prayer, and working at a handicapped children's center. They will also be working alongside those that are serving long-term

Students Candice DeGeus and Mark Kilsgaard are leading the Mexico trip in Mexicali where the team will do children’s ministry, visit people in the city dump, work in a medical clinic and do street dramas and skits.

The Kosovo team will be serving through ministry to Muslims, praying over the sick, university outreaches, sports camps, Vacation Bible School and encouraging national believers. The team is led by Julie Shuler in the cities of Pristina, Pirizen and Skopje.

The Romania team’s vision for ministry is to meet the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of orphaned and abandoned children living in orphanages. The trip, co-led by students April Gregory and Ryan McAneney, will be serving in Bucharest and may also be serving through street evangelism.

Biola’s SMU celebrates their 86th anniversary this year as Biola University continues to send out students and missionaries of all kinds to reach others for Christ. SMU orchestrates the largest student-led missions conference in the world every spring as well.

“We labor to mobilize students to catch a vision of God’s desire for our world, and passionately pursue their role in the incredible, real-life story that God began with Abraham, and will end with the Messiah’s second coming,” according to SMU’s mission.

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. Jenna can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at