During Northwestern’s spring break, approximately 125 students were able to travel to ministry sites across the U.S. to serve in various Spring Service Partnerships.
With COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, there was potential for this year to look different for participants. Regardless, this year’s trips were concluded successful by a number of accounts.
At many ministry sites, service consisted of cleaning, painting and sorting to assist in the upkeep and functionality of facilities or to serve members of the community. Some teams also had opportunities to work with youth in street camps or after school programs.
In Waco, Texas, kids at a local apartment complex were excited to play outside with new friends from Iowa. Natalie Wheeler, faculty advisor of the Waco team, shared how one young girl was thrilled to return for a second day of street camp after they taught her the song “My God” by Go Fish.
“The next day after we did that, she just kept asking, ‘Can we do the Jesus song? Are we going to do the Jesus song?’” Wheeler said.
Teams were also educated on various challenges that their partnered organizations face.
Opelousas, Louisiana team leader Colin Kaemingk reflected on what he learned from a director at Hope for Opelousas who said, “Everyone has wealth…The question is how do you use your wealth for the community you’re in?”
Kaemingk explains that this was a big takeaway for his team as they learned about racial reconciliation and poverty.
Individuals even saw personal growth as a result of their SSP experience.
“I prayed before the trip that my heart would be changed and that my eyes would be opened,” Denver participant Alyssa Feely said.
She explains that through hearing the stories of the people they partnered with, she walked away with a different perspective on the world and homelessness, as that is a focal point of Denver Rescue Mission.
Paige Ginger also found spiritual growth during her first SSP experience in New Orleans, Louisiana. Struggling with trust, it was a challenge for Ginger to participate in a trust fall activity with her team. The Lord, however, allowed her to become more vulnerable with her team members and break down those walls and complete the activity.
“God just wants me to trust Him more,” Ginger said, “and He used that experience to show me that.”
While many students have stories to share of their time on site, others had a much different SSP experience. Wheeler’s team to Waco departed with 15 members, but after arriving in Kansas City, two were sent back to campus after being exposed to COVID-19.
“The two others were still willing to video call in for debriefing and stories every night,” Wheeler said. “They still wanted to get to know their team members.”
This development of a team bond was common among SSP teams. Feeley explains that her team developed a family tree throughout the week, deeming their faculty advisor Dr. Chris Nonhof their “spiritual guru.”
Ginger explains that her team was able to connect well at the beginning of the week. On one of their first nights, the team came together for an unplanned night of worship with guitars and a garbage can drum.
“It was so beautiful to see us all worshipping together,” Ginger said. “I don’t think I could have asked for a better group.”
Although some students are unable to participate in future SSPs due to spring schedules or finishing their time at NW, many hope to participate again.
“A lot of people told me they regretted not doing one their freshman year,” said Feeley. “I’m very glad I went.”