By Amy Rognlie
Instead of spending the Christmas holidays with her family and friends this past year, Neika Daniel traveled 17 hours by plane and bus to reach Tinca, a tiny, impoverished town in Romania. Neika, a senior social work major, is active in student leadership and passionate about serving others. Under the direction of UMHB’s Spiritual Life department, Neika led a team of fellow students on a weeks-long trip to serve disadvantaged populations in both Romania and Hungary.
The team’s original plan was to work at a Ukrainian refugee camp in Romania, but the quickly-changing war and political situation caused the Ukrainians to move out of the area. Instead, the students headed to a village of impoverished Romanian gypsies, where the team spread the hope of the Gospel by providing daily church services and programs for the children as well as food, gifts, and one-on-one visits with families.
“As representatives of Christ, we were there to look these people in the eye as equals and listen to what they have to say. We were well aware that we may have been these folks’ only interaction with the Gospel,” Neika said. “These shorter trips are all about serving others and listening. My education in social work has taught me how to listen and relate to others and establish rapport. In order to share the Gospel in the right way and at the right time, I have to know a little bit of someone’s story.”
In Hungary, the students delivered Christmas gifts and needed resources to the homes of underprivileged children and their families. The team also worked with the Hungarian Baptist Aid, which is similar to the Hungarian Salvation Army, by serving in their soup kitchen and helping to meet physical and spiritual needs.