For his final spring break, Steve Frankenfield ’11 journeyed to the rugged Cumberland Valley of Tennessee.
For three out of four spring breaks of his Messiah College career, the 22-year-old adventure education major has participated in the Agapé Center’s service trip to Mountain T.O.P. (Tennessee Outreach Project), an interdenominational nonprofit ministry that serves impoverished rural families in the scenic—yet isolated—Cumberland Valley.
In the mountainous Appalachian region marked by persistent economic hardship, he has built wheelchair ramps, repaired walls or simply shared glasses of sweet tea with families, all the while learning lifelong lessons about service and leadership.
“I am passionate about this place,” said the Hilltown, Pa., native. “Serving at Mountain T.O.P. has been a vital part of my faith and incredibly helpful to my spiritual life. It is just a luxury to be able to see the tangible results of your service.”
The mountain experiences have influenced him so much that, after spending the summer between his freshman and sophomore years working at the camp as a ministry coordinator, Frankenfield even switched his major from environmental science to adventure education. “I saw how these ‘soft skills’ that I learned at camp, such as group facilitation, leadership, group dynamics and communication,” he said, “are applicable across the board and would translate into any setting.”
He urges incoming Messiah students to pursue service-learning and credits the Agapé Center for making the path of service an easy one to travel. “I think most of these service trips cost $80-90 for a week of lodging, food and transportation—and a free T-shirt,” he said, smiling.
As he reflects on his last spring break, Frankenfield notes the duality of servanthood: the unexpected benefits that are received through giving. “I think every student has something to offer—and gain—from service,” he said. “I’ve benefitted far more from this experience than I’ll ever be able to give.”
Posted on May 13th, 2011