That’s how Carson-Newman University senior Keaton Hubbs describes her recent mission trip to Denver with six other Carson-Newman University students.
The group worked with unhoused and refugee communities, along with getting poverty relief training from North American Mission Board GenSend missionaries.
Reaching the lonely
GenSend gives college-age students a chance to be on mission within one of NAMB’s Send Cities, and the Tennessee Baptist Convention currently is in partnership with Send Denver.
Though it was not Hubbs’ first trip to the Mile High City, it was no less impactful. It marked her third time working with GenSend in Denver, a place dear to her heart.
“I would describe Denver as the area where the prodigal son would go on his way to spend all that his father had given him,” said the nursing major from Halls Crossroads, Tennessee, whose home church is Salem Baptist in Knoxville.
“Denver is statistically the third loneliest city in the United States,” she noted, “and many young people move here to discover who they are and what they are going to do with their lives. The sad truth is that many people leave Denver lonelier than they felt before.”
With the trip just prior to Christmas, spreading joy was at the top of the “to-do list” for Carson-Newman’s group. They worked with Place Bridge Academy, a magnet school for refugee children from more than 40 countries, who speak some 35 languages. Though GenSend already had a history of partnering with the school, it was the first time a student team was allowed to meet with children and faculty.
Beyond having lunch with students during the week, Hubbs said fun events provided memorable connections.
“We passed out cookies to the students, and desserts and thank you cards to the staff,” she noted. “We also handed out Christmas presents to each child provided by an annual toy drive that has taken place for the last two years.”
Getting to know the children and learn about some of their hardships was a lot to take in.
“These (students) have gone through more in their lives than I will probably ever go through in mine,” Hubbs lamented.
“They are resilient and beautiful,” he said. “Our prayer is that they will one day know the God who sees them, knows them and loves them.”
The team also led a prayer-walk on Denver’s Colfax Avenue, connecting with the unhoused, taking time to talk and pray with them.
Chris Milligan, administrative assistant for Carson-Newman’s campus ministries, helped coordinate the trip, noting it was a blessing.
“The amount of growth that our students received during this trip was amazing,” Milligan said, “and I looked forward to our late-night conversations that showed the true fruit of their labors that week.
“All around, the trip was an amazing experience that led to our students and I deepening our relationship with God and with each other.”
Hubbs said it was yet another service experience she will treasure from college. She plans to return to Denver in March to continue the work they started.
“A trip like GenSend Denver has impacted my life and education in more ways than I can articulate,” Hubbs said.