Performance of a lifetime
For most, spending their Christmas break relatively undisturbed is idyllic. Dividing days between work and time with family or time with the television remote is as eventful as many prefer it to be.
That's not the case for some students at Wayne State College.
Eight WSC students spent their Christmas holiday overseas performing and dancing or were they working as missionaries?
The answer is both.
WSC students joined others from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Hong Kong for two weeks. While there, the group went through training for three days prior to going out into the streets.
Those three days of training included intense sessions of dance and performance routines intermixed with praying and preparing for what the students might come into contact with.
"The training really was learning dances and dramas because we were 'professional international dancers and actors' which with only three days of training we really weren't," said WSC student Ethan Berck. "We spent a lot of hours practicing during our training. And some of the other training was how to show your faith and some cultural differences that we would come in contact with."
Hong Kong, once a British colony, is now part of China. While the city is fairly autonomous at this point, the integration of communism can be seen. It isn't at the levels of mainland China yet, however, that will likely change.
"I never felt unsafe while I was there," said Berck. "In 50 years I don't know what will happen because China is really changing things in Hong Kong."
Hong Kong was peaceably handed over to China on July 1, 1997 after years of negotiations between Britain and China following the 1898 decision to allow Britain another 99 years of ruling.
Berck was one of eight WSC students who visited Hong Kong as a performer and dancer with an ulterior motive – to spread the gospel.
"We went into these dark places and we saw people's lives change. Jesus is so faithful. He cares about all these people, all the broken people."
The group Berck went to Hong Kong with spent their time in a 900 year old village.
"It's one of the original villages in Hong Kong and it was the closest thing to Nebraska as you could get to in Hong Kong. And there were still people everywhere but it was the country side."
While serving Berck and his counterparts encountered some amazing things.
One story Berck shared was that of a homeless man they hoped to speak with.
"In one of the districts there's this massive bridge and under this bridge there's a bunch of makeshift houses that the homeless people have constructed using things out of the garbage."
Berck went on to say, "We were going to do a performance in this area for the homeless people and the refugees and we were handing out cookies and inviting them. We were just knocking on their houses telling them to come watch us perform and hear the meaning of Christmas and people were very excited."
"There was a home with two older gentlemen and one of them said he couldn't go because of his knee. We asked if we could pray for him and he say yes. So we're praying and praying and we get done and our translator said he says it feels a little bit better so we decided we were going to pray one more time and this time – it was amazing. He was healed. He was able to stand up, he was able to come to our performance and it was witnessed by all these people around."
That was just one of the numerous stories the students got to be a part of and witness while they were in Hong Kong.
Berck has many stories from his time serving in mainland China, which he did last year over Christmas break, or from his time in India, Qatar and Haiti to name a few places. During his time abroad, what he's seen has left a serious impact on him.
"I've seen too many people's lives change to not be convinced."
Which is why he chose the major of international business at WSC. Berck plans to continue working with missions in countries that many have no desire to go to.
"The Lord has done amazing work in my life and I'm intentional about sharing the gospel," he said. "I really feel called to serve in the Middle East or in North Korea.
When asked if the thought of what could happen to him scared him, Berck's response leaves no doubt about his devotion to Christ.
"Once upon a time I would have said yes but the Lord is more powerful than the oppression and I want to bring that light to the darkness."