The end of spring break means students come back to campus from across the country and all over the world to answer the age-old question: What did you do over break?
For over 160 students, the answer to this questions involves stories from their Spring Service Partnerships, as they share memories of their team and stories of how God worked during their time of ministry.
Shonna Ritz spent her spring break in Compton, California, working with the Compton Initiative to assist with community development and the beautification of the city, to help show love to everyone who lives there. Throughout their work the team got along very well and grew incredibly close, Ritz said. As they painted a room together on their first work day – something that was new to many of them – they had the chance to talk and get to know each other, as well as goof around and sing loudly. Through this, Ritz said, they finished the rooms faster than expected, and “seeing the gratitude on the faces of the people we were serving was 100% worth it.”
One of the most memorable experiences the team had was while working in a severely understaffed school one day. Without replacements for teachers who were late or home sick, the school was in desperate need of assistance. After of a couple hours of working with the kids, they were already asking when the Compton team could return.
“While it was heartbreaking to tell them we were only there for the day, we were blessed to show them love while we were there,” Ritz said.
The Amsterdam SSP team also had a memorable spring break, even despite their early return to the States. The ministry Northwestern partners with in Amsterdam is the Shelter Youth Hostels, who run two Christian hostels for any and all travelers to stay at and experience the love and hospitality of Christ. The work of the team included cooking in the café and working with the cleaning team during the hostels spring cleaning week.
Team leader Joey Lohse said the team was positive regardless of the situation they were in, even considering their early departure. Due to potential travel concerns related to COVID-19, the team found they had to leave early and had far less time to work with the ministry and explore the culture in the city. The team took this in stride as they learned to trust God’s timing instead of relying on their own.
“The day we found out the news we were devastated, but our very next question was what else can we do before we have to leave?” Lohse said.
The team worked hard to keep a positive attitude and take advantage of every minute we were there to talk to guests and cleaners and serve in any capacity they could.
Because of their shortened trip, the team spent part of the last full day exploring the city and heading to the flower market, an area of the city full of small souvenir shops, cheese stores, cafes, and many other small businesses.
Traveling up into northern Minnesota, the Grand Marais SSP team worked with Mount Rose Church in Grand Portage and the Cold Water Foundation in Grand Marais. During this time, students served in a variety of ways by working with a food pantry, a local church youth group and a wilderness camp. Leader Ben De Boer says the small team quickly grew to love one another as they served alongside each other and participated in fun activities along the way, like baking cookies and playing games.
“We spent so much time laughing with (and at) one another,” De Boer said, “And we shared so many joyful moments together throughout our trip.”
One of the team’s favorite moments happened during their last day at Cold Water, when after working with the foundation and its partner church, they had the opportunity to drive a snowmobile around the campground and on the frozen lake. Despite crashing it a few times and getting it stuck in a deep snowfield, they had a great time learning to drive a new vehicle for the first time. This is just one example of the fun they were able to have while they were challenged throughout their service experience in Minnesota.
“Getting to serve some amazing people and bond further with my team members led to an amazing experience full of laughter, joy, and beauty,” De Boer said.
Regardless of the location or the ministry, students who participated in the Spring Service Partnerships have returned with great memories, new friendships and exciting stories of God’s work across the country and around the world.