Spring break: a week where you’ll find the typical college student heading south to the year's favorite vacation spot. Unless you're us, and you are privileged to host a group of not-so-typical college students. Instead of spending their week off from school sunbathing or Netflix binging, they spent their time serving those in need--doing anything from scrubbing toilets to cutting down trees to harvesting spinach. And, they travelled all the way from Michigan to do it. When I asked some of them why they would give up such highly valued week of relaxation, their answers all carried a similar theme: they loved Jesus, loved serving people, and were eager to learn.
As a community service organization, we have many student groups come to volunteer with us. It’s not uncommon to receive students who lack motivation, or who need prompted to see the necessity and value of serving. While we are happy to teach such groups, it’s quite refreshing when a group comes in with a willingness to serve with joy and enthusiasm from the start. One of our service project coordinators, Denise Bennecker testified, “These students came prepared to physically work hard, which they all did. I appreciated their positive and energetic attitudes and their genuine interest of the holistic approach that we take here at G.O.D. What a blessing!”
Not only did students bring a strong work ethic, they also showed a genuine care for the vulnerable people that they served. One of our values as a service organization is to address not only physical needs, but also the relational needs of a person. In the United States, roughly one in three people older than 65 live alone and 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis.
Students this week were given opportunities to sit with the elderly and widows and learn their stories. One elderly widow remarked that she was so appreciative of the company of the girls who visited her in home. The girls carried out tasks such as making her bed and rewriting directions in a larger font that she could read. Though seemingly small tasks, they had a deep impact upon Fran, an 88 year old widow who lives alone.
Another woman was deeply moved when she learned the students were not receiving any class credit for their service, but doing so simply because they wanted to be a blessing.
Many of these college students are currently studying to work in fields of service such as nursing, occupational therapy, and nonprofit management. One student reflected, “I’m in school to be a nurse and my experience this week has made me re-evaluate my life and realize that the most important thing in my education should be God’s Word.” We love these kind of testimonies because at the core of all we do is our knowledge of the Word. One of our goals is to inspire students to grow in their knowledge of Word, recognizing it’s importance to serving God in whatever field they pursue.
This is, in fact, one of our favorite things to offer: not just service opportunities, but inspiration regarding why we serve who we serve (because of God's concern for the vulnerable). Though this group hadn't originally requested facilitation through their Bible or worship times, Bible studies and conversation about the Word happened naturally, leaving them to remark on their week of service: "I just learned so much about Jesus this week!" Or, "Their stories and words on why they serve were so passionate and Christ-driven, it changed my whole perspective on service."
Don't get us wrong, we love every group that we host through SLAM service weeks. But, we'd be wrong not to say that this group holds an extra special place in our hearts. Thank you Campus Ministry students from Grand Valley State University! We so appreciate you!