Union College Students Leave For Haiti

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"We pray that you will be a powerful presence for them throughout whatever they face ahead...."

Armed with prayer and a passion to help people, Justin Woods is headed to Haiti.

The mission is one he and his Union College classmates have been preparing for, for years.

"You've been trained to do this. That's why you came here. This is what your life calling is -- to help people," Union College President David Smith told his group of students minutes before they left Lincoln for Haiti.

The group of five consists of students and a staff member - all part of the school's International Rescue and Relief program.

They will be part of a task force consisting of Florida based groups ACTS World Relief and Worldvision.

The invitation comes directly from Haiti's Prime Minister.

"He told use we are going to be assigned to an orphanage and a small hospital clinic where we are going to work with the local people there to try and develop centers that can act as distribution points for relief aid and so forth," said John Thomas, associate director of the school's International Rescue and Relief program.

The crew found out just days ago that they were leaving.

They left out of Omaha Sunday and will catch a chartered flight from Miami to Haiti.

Thomas said the biggest challenge the group feels it will face is seeing children who are injured or wandering around without any parents.

Their schooling has trained them for this moment but the students say no exercise can fully prepare them for what's waiting in Haiti.

"I think it's going to be hard. I'm looking forward to the experience and helping people but it's definitely not going to be a fun walk in the park," said Woods, a senior with Union's IRR program.

Sarah Sexton is a junior in the same program. She says she's depending on her faith to carry her through the difficult job.

"I don't think you can completely prepare yourself because I don't think we were made to be able to deal with situations like this. This is just beyond what humans are made to deal with," said Sexton.

There are conditions no one should have to deal with but Woods and his travel companions pray their presence will bring hope to the hopeless.

Hope, Smith told the students, is the "most precious thing you have to share."