A Broadened Worldview: France
Director of Career Development Matthew Stackowicz and Associate Professor of Communication Elizabeth McLaughlin, Ph.D., led a group of students, one alumna and a professional photographer, on a trip to the town of St. Hippolyte-du-Fort, France. There, they partnered with YWAM Bridges of Life and Action Tourism to tell the story of the town and the ministry in a brand new way. Using photography, videography, writing, social media, communications and marketing, the Bethel group met with local business owners to interview them and create a marketing package each business could use.
“We wanted to meet local community members and business members to create content for them … [to] create bridges for outreach purposes,” Stackowicz says.
McLaughlin adds, “We had the opportunity to stay in one community for nine days and actually experience some of what their life is like. It was less touristy and more like working together to offer merchants the tools to promote their businesses, while the YWAM team had the opportunity to build relationships with their neighbors.”
Students learned about generational legacy, passion, relationships and hospitality through interviews with eight different businesses.
A particularly impactful experience happened while taking photos in a coffee shop. The Bethel/YWAM group sparked the interest of a member of the mayor’s committee on tourism, who happened to be stopping in. This led to a conversation between YWAM director Dudley Weiner and the mayor’s office. It ultimately resulted in the Bethel group creating a presentation about the town called “Inside Perspectives,” which Weiner will present to the mayor’s council.
“Now YWAM is interacting with the community in a very different way,” Stackowicz says.
Several students, including senior communication major Maria Vidal, took the trip for course credit in fieldwork or public relations. Vidal found great benefit in learning about public relations and applying it at the same time, and even had the opportunity to shoot and edit a high-fashion video that can be used to promote the town.
“I loved it because I was able to have my hands on throughout the class by writing stories about the community and YWAM. I also helped them to create a program to be more involved in the community,” she says.
The Bethel group also learned about French culture and ministry in a country that is largely secular.
“The immersion with the French culture was very humbling. Families, couples and students were all together at YWAM in France and it was humbling to see them come together and love God and their community,” Vidal says.
In the future, Stackowicz hopes to expand YWAM’s reach even further by bringing more student groups to St. Hippolyte-du-Fort.