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Mission Trip Reawakens Cumberlands Student’s Childhood Dream


University of the Cumberlands sophomore Hae In Cha, from Uruguay, left, goes through registration with assistance from Sharon Vanover of the Financial Planning Office.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. –Until January 2010, University of the Cumberlands student Hae In Cha had never seen an actual orphanage, but her childhood dream had been to own and facilitate such an establishment.

During the Christmas Break, Cha traveled to the border of Mexico and Arizona to minister at Casa Hogar Emmanuel, an orphanage in Naco , Sonora, Mexico, established to provide a safe haven for orphaned, abused and abandoned children, which is supported by SBC churches.

A team of six Cumberlands students and Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) Director Dean Whitaker spent a week helping in various ways, doing some light construction and distributing food in poor neighborhoods. But for Cha, the highlight of each day was the afternoon, when the students conducted a Kid’s Club, which included Bible stories, games, crafts, and music all in Spanish.

This was not a problem for Cha, who was born in Paraguay, the daughter of Korean missionaries, and grew up in Uruguay. At Cumberlands, the sophomore is a Spanish major with a secondary education emphasis.

She believes that God brought her to Cumberlands and that her going to Mexico was part of His plan. When she first decided she would like to go, it was too late. The team was already set, but just before Christmas, Whitaker told her that there was an opening for her. “God provided me with the resources to start the New Year serving Him,”she said.

She loved spending time with the children and remembered that although it was dark when the missions team arrived and she could not see much of the surroundings, she could see the children’s faces. There were 28 children between the ages of 2 and 17.“They were so happy, so loving, and they loved hugs,” she recalls.

Cha suddenly found herself remembering her childhood dream. “I first wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, and when I was in middle school, I began to think of running an orphanage,” she said. I had been blessed with loving Christian parents and I wanted other children to know Christ’s love. However, as I got into high school, I began to plan to be a teacher, so by the time I came to college I had put the idea at the back of my mind and my memory.”

For a time after first coming to Cumberlands, Cha felt she had lost contact with God, and wanted to restore the strong communion she had known earlier. “I believe now that I might have been homesick,” she admits, “and I was so determined to do well in my studies.” However, she found a way back; she began typing from the Bible. “I had never read the whole Bible, and I thought I should, but I typed it instead.” After typing some scriptures, she knew she wanted to do the whole project, and now feels it was what she needed at the time.

No matter what career path Cha ultimately takes, it will definitely focus on children. When she talks about the children at Casa Hogar Emmanuel, her smile reveals how much the experience has affected her. “Maybe God wants to tell me something,” she says. “I am praying about what he wants me to do. I want to teach, and if I teach children like these, or even children who are hurting but go to a regular school, maybe I can be one of the persons to be a shelter for them.”