La Sierra students to spend holiday helping L.A.’s disadvantaged

Left to right, back to front: Gatra Suhari, Justin Tuot, staff sponsor/Public Relations & Marketing Project Manager Rebecca Barcelo, Amrita Rudra, Assistant Campus Chaplain Steve Hemenway, Short-Term Missions Director Jaylene Chung, and Jasmine Pagaduan.
Left to right, back to front: Gatra Suhari, Justin Tuot, staff sponsor/Public Relations & Marketing Project Manager Rebecca Barcelo, Amitra Rudra, Assistant Campus Chaplain Steve Hemenway, Short-Term Missions Director Jaylene Chung, and Jasmine Pagaduan.

December 16, 2011

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( They are experiencing a mix of emotions—excitement, anticipation, and a bit of apprehension, but mostly they are just happy to do it. Four La Sierra University students along with a staff sponsor are leaving this evening for The Center for Student Missions in Los Angeles where they will stay for the next week working as volunteers in outreach programs for the urban homeless and disadvantaged.

The students will follow a packed itinerary that includes creating and presenting a program for children at a housing project in East L.A., playing games and socializing with residents of a senior retirement hotel, serving meals on Skid Row, helping out at regional rescue missions and preparing food packages for distribution.

Their outreach activities will take place at several locations including the Midnight Mission, the Los Angeles Mission, and the Long Beach Rescue Mission. Staff sponsor and La Sierra alumna Rebecca Barcelo and one of the students will record their experiences on blogs. Watch for their updates by clicking this link,, or the link on the La Sierra University homepage at Watch for posts on Twitter @lasierranews.

For Religious Studies major Gatra Suhari, the use of his holiday vacation to volunteer in Los Angeles is in keeping with the meaning of the Christmas season. “Pastor Sam [Leonor, campus chaplain] always says, ‘don’t give material gifts. Give something that matters.’ I just want to give of my time and help out the kids, to help someone,” he said.

The Center for Student Missions is a non-denominational urban mission organization that brings in groups to work with local ministries. The center has outreach operations in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C. The Los Angeles center hosts groups from churches, private schools, universities and colleges who want to engage in outreach activities.

The Los Angeles outreach trip is among many short and long term, national and international missions activities organized by La Sierra University’s Office of Spiritual Life. It is in keeping with the university’s aim to serve others which is carried out through a campus-wide, academic-based Service-Learning program, its missions projects, international economic empowerment projects through its award-winning Students In Free Enterprise team and other efforts.

In 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 the Corporation for National and Community Service announced La Sierra’s inclusion in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. In 2008 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States.

La Sierra’s crew will work with The Center for Student Missions through Wed., Dec. 22 and return to La Sierra the following morning. They must follow strict protocol in Los Angeles that includes not wearing solid red, blue or purple t-shirts to avoid confusion with gang affiliation.

The group, who just completed finals week at the university, arrive from divergent backgrounds.

Suhari, a native of Indonesia, said the Los Angeles missions outreach trip is his first. “I’m actually excited,” he said. “I’m pretty stoked about helping them out.” Suhari is a part-time youth assistant at the Costa Mesa Seventh-day Adventist Church. He aims to work in youth ministry.

Amrita Rudra, of Punjabi Indian descent and a recent accounting graduate from La Sierra’s School of Business is a veteran volunteer through her church, New Beginnings in Norco, and through Victory Outreach, an international evangelical outreach ministry. She has often volunteered in Los Angeles but always with her brother or her mother. This time she will be going without her family members. “I feel kind of comfortable, but anxious, excited and nervous,” she said. Rudra is considering earning a minor in theology and aims for a potential ministerial career that makes use of her business degree.

La Sierra students Jasmine Pagaduan, a native of the Philippines and freshman pre-nursing major, and Justin Tuot, biology/pre-med major of Cambodian ancestry will also participate in the Los Angeles outreach trip.

Jaylene Chung, La Sierra director of short-term missions and a La Sierra alumna organized the trip. She and Steve Hemenway, assistant campus chaplain and a participant on previous mission trips, spoke to the group during a recent information session.

“You may have some apprehensions, but you’ll be like, ‘dude this is …the best experience I’ve ever had,’” Hemenway said to the students. “You actually live your life differently because of the time spent with them [outreach population].”


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  March 15, 2012