March 1, 2022 / SonLight Power Mission Trips
“I just love the mission of SonLight Power and just coming and helping others in different countries like Honduras. I’m actually a mechanical engineer by degree, so I like the idea of connecting my technical mindset as well as being able to connect with the children there as well.”
— Anna Rusconi, Senior National Account Manager at Melink Corporation
Think SonLight Power mission trips are just for church groups? Think again.
A group of current and former Melink Corporation employee-owners recently teamed with SonLight Power on a mission trip to Honduras that made a lasting impact in the lives of those served and those serving.
The trip was an awesome reminder of the special ways God uses the SonLight Power mission. It also laid the foundation for a purpose-driven, team-building trip model with organizations looking for creative ways to attract and retain talent, while investing in the global community at the same time.
To set the context for the trip, one story of breakthrough stands out.
“You came to visit us.”
At one of the small, remote schools the team visited and equipped with solar power, the students were assembled into a classroom for the lighting ceremony where the kids and team together turned on the lights in the school for the very first time.
The lighting ceremony usually marks the first time the students and teachers have ever experienced the presence of lighting in their classroom apart from the light from the sun that’s only available during daylight hours. Those who have participated in SonLight Power mission trips to Honduras know the lighting ceremony is always a highlight of the day’s visit.
Before the big reveal where the lights were turned on, the team joined in conversation with the children as they sat in anticipation on the classroom floor. Prior to the lighting ceremony, the kids had been engaged in vacation bible school-type activities – jumping, laughing, getting their faces painted, playing with parachutes, and enjoying precious moments with the team.
During the group conversation, a question was asked to the children about what they’d remember most about the day. Having visited upwards of some 120 Honduran schools over the past two decades, most SonLight Power teams hear the same responses to that question. The kids will often shyly reflect on how much fun they had or how excited they are to have solar power at their school.
But this time was different.
One little boy raised his hand and said, “I’ll remember that you came to visit us.”
Those within earshot paused at what he said, unsure how to react. But when the boy’s sentiments finally registered, it was clear a breakthrough had occurred.
You see, communities like these where the school is located don’t see many visitors. The residents often live in isolation, wondering whether anyone outside the community actually cares about them.
More than the lasting impact the solar power system will provide, the trip served as a reminder for the kids and community that there are people outside their village who care about them. Our team came alongside them and demonstrated in real, lasting ways that we care and that God loves them deeply. That’s the essence of SonLight Power.
Not Just for Church Groups
The story is a fresh reminder of the real difference the mission makes in real lives. It also highlights how important partnerships are to make the mission work.
In this case, the partnership responsible for mobilizing the SonLight Power mission trip to Honduras was unique. Unlike prior trips, the team wasn’t comprised of members from a specific church. Rather, the trip featured a team of current and former employees of the Melink Corporation in Milford, Ohio, just east of Cincinnati.
“Many co-workers of mine were on the trip. And while I know them all fairly well, it went to another level of intimacy and vulnerability. Just being raw with each other and being uncomfortable and relying on each other and just being in this together. That to me was just amazing.”
— Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability at Melink Corporation
Melink and SonLight Power have been partnering in a variety of ways for over a decade. The idea of a joint mission trip was birthed at a Lunch ‘N Learn gathering for Melink employee-owners on April 4, 2019. The guest speaker that day was SonLight Power Executive Director, Kevin Sasson. After Kevin’s presentation, about 30 Melink employee-owners signed up to learn more about SonLight Power trips to places like Honduras.
From there, about half that number signed up to go on a trip in May 2020, but the pandemic pushed the trip to the end of October 2021. The final tally eventually landed on eight current and former employee-owners and two spouses.
Those who participated on the trip represented a wide range of company functions – sales, operations, marketing, tech support, HR. They were also motivated by different factors, venturing out of their comfort zones in some cases.
“It’s certainly a leap of faith,” reflects Senior Business Development Manager, Joshua Gerlock. “No matter who you are, it’ll get you out of your comfort zone. But I think that’s where growth starts.”
For Angela Bradley, now the Director of Human Resources at Truckway Leasing, “it’s about finding a passion for something. Whether it’s solar, whether it’s your faith, whether it’s friendship, whether it’s family. To do this and embrace it for what it is, you’ve got to go in with an open mind and open heart and just embrace the opportunity for something good to happen to you and accept it as a gift.”
“I just love the mission of SonLight Power and just coming and helping others in different countries like Honduras,” said Anna Rusconi, Senior National Account Manager. “I’m actually a mechanical engineer by degree, so I like the idea of connecting my technical mindset as well as being able to connect with the children there as well.”
Mission Trips as Team and Culture-Building Events
Most SonLight Power mission trips in Honduras feature off-road excursions to remote schools in need of electricity. This trip was no exception. While half of the team was installing solar power and wiring the schools for lighting and other applications to improve learning, the other half was engaging with the kids, teachers, and families in children’s ministry activities.
“We had a two-hour ride from our base camp to the sites every day and it was good for my heart and my head because you knew you were nearing the schools when you saw families on the road,” said Matt Meyer, Director of Operations.
“They were walking to the schools as we were driving by,” continued Matt. “It was always uplifting to see that. And as we left, they were all on their way back home and they had two-hour walks. We had a two-hour drive, but they had an hour, two-hour walk sometimes back to their houses.”
“If anybody can be part of this type of mission, they’re going to find a new purpose. They’re going to find a new calling. They’re going to find a whole new way to look at the world.”
— Angela Bradley, Director of Human Resources at Truckway Leasing
Mission trips like these inherently make a lasting impact in the lives of those served, as well as those serving. One byproduct of serving together in secluded areas without the comforts of home is an elevated sense of unity and team.
Melink is already known as a culture that walks the talk. This trip took that culture to a whole new level.
“Many co-workers of mine were on the trip,” explained Director of Marketing & Sustainability, Allison Sternad. “And while I know them all fairly well – we’re a very close culture – it went to another level of intimacy and vulnerability. Just being raw with each other and being uncomfortable and relying on each other and just being in this together. That to me was just amazing.”
A Purpose-driven Trip to Inspire More Organizations
The intent is to replicate the successes of the Melink | SonLight Power trip into a team-building trip model with other organizations.
“These mission trips are so unique in what we are doing. I would absolutely encourage anyone that has the means or the desire, to really look into it and look into themselves,” Matt says. “Can you give up a week of your life and go do this for somebody else? The size of the commitment you put in compared to the impact you’re going to make, it’s very disproportionate in a good way.”
“It’s certainly a leap of faith. No matter who you are, it’ll get you out of your comfort zone. But I think that’s where growth starts.”
— Joshua Gerlock, Senior Business Development Manager at Melink Corporation
“I think that’s what differentiates SonLight Power’s mission trips from some of the other ones that I’ve seen before is there is actually a tangible result,” Matt continues. “The tangible, lasting effect of our contribution was something I expected was going to be impactful for me, and it was.”
The Melink | SonLight Power trip has already inspired other partnerships with businesses. Hoekstra Electrical Services of Holland, Michigan is mobilizing a SonLight Power trip to Honduras scheduled for the summer of 2022.
“If anybody can be part of this type of mission, they’re going to find a new purpose,” says Angela. “They’re going to find a new calling. They’re going to find a whole new way to look at the world. And I think that’s a big piece of it.”
Looking for creative ways to attract and retain talent at your workplace? Want to invest in your talent and the community at the same time? Find out how your organization can partner with SonLight Power for team-building, purpose-driven mission trips for lasting impact. Connect with us at Info@SonLightPower.org.
For more information: Video: Melink Corporation Teams with SonLight Power on Mission Trip in Honduras