We get a lot of questions about our ministry, because it is a bit unusual! Below are some of the questions we get most frequently. If you’d like more in-depth information about our International Student Program and our work with human trafficking, watch the recording of our webinar with the Alabama West Florida United Methodist Conference.
Q: “What’s the difference between your old programming and your new programming?”
A: Noah’s Ark used to be a retreat center where churches could come do short-term outreach for tourists and locals. Now, we focus on long-term local ministry opportunities. We work with international students participating in the Work and Travel Program, as well as helping combat the huge human trafficking problem we experience in our area.
Q: “Why do these international students come to The U.S.?”
A: Each year, thousands of students from around the world participate in The State Department’s Work & Travel Program, which is an exchange program that encourages students to experience American life. Participants receive a “J1” visa, which is why you often hear them referred to as “J1 Students”. This visa allows them to travel in the U.S., as well as work to support themselves during their stay. The goal of the program is to help students improve their English while seeing what daily American life is like. They participate in different cultural events, meet other students from a vast array of backgrounds, and collect life-changing experiences that they can take back home with them.
Q: “How long do the students stay?”
A: J1 visas typically allow for a 4 month stay. There are 2 semesters for our area each year: spring and summer. Spring students stay from February-June, and Summer students stay from May-September.
Q: “What do you do in your off-season?”
A: During our off-season, we have several things happening. We begin planning for and implementing changes for the following season. We also still continue our Snowbird & Local’s Program, which is a great opportunity for winter guests in the area to learn a new skill, participate in events, and collaborate on a favorite hobby! These activities run from December-February each year.
Q: “Can you still host groups hoping to come to PCB?”
A: Yes! During our high season, most of our dorms are occupied by students, so we often can’t accommodate overnight guests. However, we have The Pour and The Chapel that are available to be rented year-round for meeting space. During the off-season, 2 of our dorms and all our meeting spaces are available for over-night guests. We would love to host your retreat!
Q: “Why don’t you provide Transitional Living anymore?”
A: We have loved having a Transitional Living Program at The Ark, and we have seen many lives impacted. However, in January 2016, we began to evaluate the effectiveness of our program. Our facilities are located on Front Beach Road (notorious party location); plus, we are situated right between two bars. We also do not currently have the resources to provide overnight supervision. This makes it very difficult to accept higher-risk clients. Unfortunately, clients that might be susceptible to these temptations are the exact people who need Transitional Living the most. We began to seek the Lord’s direction on how to solve this issue, and we committed to daily prayer for 8 weeks. During this period, God made it very clear that we were supposed to discontinue the Transitional Living Program at this time. It was a very bittersweet decision–we were sad at the closing of this chapter, but we are committed to being obedient to God’s will. If we acquire a different property in the future, God might allow us to resume this ministry. Until then, we are grateful for God giving us the opportunity to streamline our ministry focus on human trafficking.
Q: “How can I get involved?”
A: There are several ways individuals, groups, and churches can get involved in our ministry! Check out our “Get Involved!” page here.