By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Local college student is on a mission
Efforts have taken her around world
Rebekah Tuten’s humanitarian work recently took her to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. - photo by Submitted
Whether on spring, summer or winter break, Rebekah Tuten likes to travel on a mission.

Tuten, a rising senior at Valdosta State University, seizes her vacation time by going on Christian mission trips around the globe.

“I wanted to actually live out my faith. Not just say it, but do it,” said Tuten, 21. “If you have a short time off from school, why not go out and make that impact?”

She’s traveled to Haiti and Australia once each and Estonia twice, with plans to return to the northern European country for an internship this summer.

The South Forsyth High graduate said she wasn’t always as strong in her faith, though she did help build homes in distressed areas across the country with her family and local church.

Those experiences led her to continue giving in college by traveling on her own and with Valdosta church groups, starting with a spring trip to New Orleans her sophomore year.

She most recently returned from another experience with disaster relief by helping with the earthquake recovery in Haiti.

Tuten said the destruction in the third world nation brought on “a different mindset” from working in her home country.

“You expect the worst,” she said, “but when you get there, it’s even worse.”

The people want to rebuild their homeland, but they don’t have the means, she said.

Haitians would swarm their church group’s bus, pointing to their hungry stomachs and asking for water, she said.

Despite their hardships, Tuten said the drive and optimism of the Haitians forever changed how she sees her own life and faith.

“The people that I would think [would] be the most to have something to be upset about and to be angry with God about, they were the ones that were rejoicing,” she said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

Tuten’s mother, Terrie, said the family’s volunteer construction trips may have started her daughter off, but it’s her faith that keeps her continuing.

“She’s got a real heart of mercy,” she said. “She feels other people’s pain.”

From painting a church to a surprise visit at an American air base, Terrie Tuten said her daughter used every minute she had in Haiti to help.

Her favorite work is working with young children, which she soon will be doing again.

Tuten leaves June 5 for her longest overseas mission trip to date, two months interning with a church in Estonia.

She’s been to the country twice before thanks to a connection through her Alpharetta church, North Point Community.

This time, she had to raise money just to be able to have the volunteer experience. However, she said, “God was really laying on my heart to go.”

Her job this summer will be to organize children’s programs at the church and be a good role model for the kids, who often have been forced out of their homes at an early age.

She’ll also get to lead worship through singing, one of her life’s passions.

One of her favorite mission trip memories came from a worship service at the same Estonian church, where Americans sang in English and the locals in Estonian.

“It was such a cool thing to hear them singing to the same God,” she said. “I’m excited to go back and experience it again.”