Urban Initiative, Potter’s Clay and Emmaus Road change direction amidst COVID-19

Maddy Simonsen, Staff Writer

While COVID-19 has shifted the way that Westmont missions organizations serve, these organizations continue to operate. Potter’s Clay and Emmaus Road are working on college-wide events and maintaining and developing new initiatives for the future. Urban Initiative has recently partnered with Westmont’s new Trafficking Action Group (TAG), a community focused on bringing awareness to human trafficking in Santa Barbara and working with local organizations to help survivors. 

Potter’s Clay is not sending students to Mexico this year. However, this year, the leadership team is working to make their program more sustainable. Laina Quiñones and Alexandra Ebert, the Potter’s Clay co-directors, explained, “There are aspects of Potter’s Clay that have changed over the past couple of years in an attempt to form healthier partnerships between our contacts in Ensenada and the U.S.” Quiñones and Ebert stated that the leadership team has critically thought about the history of Potter’s Clay and its impact on Westmont College and their partners in Ensenada, and has been prayerfully considering the direction that Potter’s Clay should take in the future. 

Quiñones and Ebert shared that the leadership team has been tasked with building up Potter’s Clay, which is a slow process. They maintained that Potter’s Clay will release a statement that outlines the new developments later this year.

We wanted to start a group on campus that would educate students about human trafficking and provide opportunities to serve in the Santa Barbara community.”

— RACHEL ELLIOTT

Similarly to Potter’s Clay, Emmaus Road is not sending students overseas this year. Instead, they are doing work on campus and planning for future years. Sharon Ko, Emmaus Road’s publicity manager, described that they are working with the Spiritual Formation Coordinators (SFCs) in each dorm to provide globally focused prayer, worship and Scripture for the Holy Hangouts that take place once a month. Ko emphasized that Emmaus Road is continuing to plan for Westmont College’s Global Focus Week in April, which will involve several events, speakers and prayer sessions. According to Ko, Emmaus Road hopes to “expand people’s perspectives and hearts to see and partake in God’s pursuit of his people in every nation and culture” through this week. 

Ko stressed, “We have been staying in touch with our global partners in Peru, Indonesia, Spain, Uganda and the Middle East,” and they have been preparing for future years by developing various resources and thinking about creative ideas. Additionally, Ko emphasized that the leadership team continues to pray for the world’s nations because prayer “transcends time, place, and understanding,” and they continue to trust that God is taking care of his people in all places. 

The Trafficking Action Group (TAG) was started last spring by several Westmont students. Rachel Elliott, the group’s leader and intern for the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation (SB ACT), explained that the group began when several students with a passion for combating human trafficking desired to create a Urban Initiative ministry so that more students could get involved. Elliott stated, “We wanted to start a group on campus that would educate students about human trafficking and provide opportunities to serve in the Santa Barbara community.”

Elliott explained that Urban Initiative was a desirable partner because of their emphasis on education and service within Santa Barbara. Through this collaboration, Elliott said that “TAG will be able to host all-campus events and can publicize and encourage more people to become involved.” 

This semester, TAG is partnering with local organizations and developing educational events. Elliott announced, “TAG is partnering with the Interfaith Collaborative to fundraise for and assemble fresh start bags for survivors,” which include essentials such as clothes, snacks and books. Additionally, TAG is hosting prayer vigils, virtual guest lectures and training events in which all students can participate. 

If students want to become involved in TAG, they can attend the prayer vigil this Thursday, Jan. 28, or attend the group’s bi-weekly meetings on Thursday nights to learn more and participate in their upcoming projects and new partnership with Urban Initiative.

While COVID-19 has shifted how Westmont’s ministries operate, these organizations continue to add new groups, create more sustainable programs and plan college-wide events while maintaining connections in other nations.

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