Ten days away from classes seem like the perfect time for students to head home for some rest and relaxation. However, more than 160 students and faculty from Northwestern decided it was the perfect time to travel and inspire change.
NW’s annual Spring Service Partnerships took students to eight different states, Puerto Rico and Mexico. They accomplished a variety of tasks involving cleaning, renovating, painting, serving meals, teaching, playing with kids and building relationships.
Although there were a lot of similar service orientated tasks across all the teams, each student walked away with a unique experience, gained from the stories they heard and the new perspectives they adopted.
Mary Walnofer, who traveled to Opelousas, Louisiana, said, “Seeing the underequipped schools, low quality houses and daily struggles of the people of Opelousas was heartbreaking, but it reminded me of how important loving others truly is and that we are all the same in God’s sight.”
Heartbreaking stories changed many student’s perspectives. Alyssa Feeley traveled to Mescalero, New Mexico, praying that God would break her heart for what breaks His.
“And he did just that,” Feeley said, referring to her experience visiting the local school. “After several conversations throughout our week, I got the sense that kids do not like school and that breaks my heart, especially going into education… I want to be a shining light in my future classroom that breaks through the darkness of this world, and I get that light through the love of Jesus Christ.”
Emma Hansen also spoke of brokenness from her trip to Grand Marais, Minnesota.
“Throughout my SSP, I was able to see the beauty of God through people and nature, but I also witnessed generational brokenness and hurt,” Hansen said. “It inspired me to see the beauty of God in people first, instead of only focusing on the brokenness. It encouraged me to be more intentional with people and hear their side of the story.”
Ethan Natelborg, who went to Compton, California, said, “The power of people’s stories changes the way you view them.” He also shared about a child he became friends with throughout the week. “This friendship is something that I deeply cherish and look back fondly on from the trip.”
God worked mightily through the relationships that the teams made. Makenzie Vander Haar and Alayna Bergt both experienced this in Mescalero, New Mexico.
“I learned more about God while we were there and what he was doing with the people there,” Vander Haar said.
“Being surrounded by the Native American culture was a very eye-opening experience for many of us,” Bergt said.
Janaya Battles visited Coffield Prison in Texas during her trip. It was in this prison that four inmates decided to dedicate their lives to Jesus that week.
“The people we met completely embodied the idea that God completely washes away our sins and we are now a new creation in Christ,” Battles said.
People were the center of God’s masterpiece in creation in northern Minnesota, where Alyssa Geetings traveled.
“God was so present in the people I had the opportunity to serve alongside, the communities and organizations we partnered with and in the beautiful nature we were surrounded by,” said Greetings.
God was active in the teams that went. Abby Noonan, who went to West Virginia, said, “It was awesome to be the hands and feet of Jesus and touch lives there but also to have Him teach me things through my experience.”
Now that the students have returned to campus, they have the opportunity to reflect on their own lives based on their spring break experiences. Mark Cooley, who traveled to Denver to serve the homeless population, said “It helped my view going back to Orange City. I was able to see another perspective on life and reflect on how I see my life and the benefits I have.”