40 Hillsdale stu­dents spent their spring break serving the com­munity, including local children. Hannah Hayes | Courtesy

Over spring break, 40 stu­dents inter­acted with and served the Hillsdale com­munity. The group made its way to Detroit, the High Rise, the Com­munity Action Agency preschool, the Hillsdale county jail and several indi­vidual fam­ilies in the com­munity.

Stu­dents spent their nights at the churches around the com­munity and spent Friday through Thursday serving.

Sophomore Hannah Hayes said she felt that this trip was a way to give back to the com­munity.

“I really wanted to get out of my own head and just do some­thing for someone else,” Hayes said. “I feel like I’ve been so selfish at school lately, and that I’ve only been doing things for myself, and this was a way to just tan­gibly give back to others.”

Tra­di­tionally, the group has devo­tionals every night which focus on a section of the New Tes­tament. This year, however, the leaders chose to focus on the Old Tes­tament book of Amos, which deals heavily with divine justice.

“We were all a little bit hes­itant to make that the devo­tional theme, even for someone who is mature in their faith, but also for people who weren’t Chris­tians at all,” team leader senior Hans Noyes said.

The team leaders, however, decided to make that the devo­tional. That idea of divine justice affected people dif­fer­ently. Freshman Car­oline Walker felt that this concept was dif­ficult to under­stand at first in their service.

“A lot of us had a hard time con­necting Amos to what we were seeing because every­thing we were seeing wasn’t simply, ‘You did this, therefore, this is God’s judgement on you,’ that’s not the way it works,” Walker said. “But, overall, you saw the bro­kenness of the world and then the ultimate healing that Christ brings which was the same both in Amos and in Hillsdale.”

From trav­eling to the impov­er­ished parts of Detroit to vis­iting the Hillsdale county jail, the stu­dents encoun­tered the nature of injustice.  

“A lot of the time, all we can do is accept injustice, knowing that we can’t change it all the way and entrusting that God has meaning in what he does and he can redeem injustice,” Noyes said. “Ulti­mately, he is the one who judges.”

All of the stu­dents spent time at the Hillsdale county jail. All they could bring into the room was a Bible and their  own expe­ri­ences. Sophomore Ethan Visser found his own sort of accep­tance in his inter­ac­tions with the inmates there, some of whom were his own age.

“I probably didn’t change their life and they didn’t change mine,” Visser said. “But by lis­tening to them I treated them with dignity and respect and was able to glorify God in doing so.”

During the trip, one of the stu­dents noticed that one of the children he had met at the com­munity action agency preschool was one of the babies who was saved from abortion at the preg­nancy center. This con­nection, however, brought several ques­tions to everyone in the group.

“He was com­menting that you’ve saved this person from abortion and now he’s in this program but what if he becomes someone who’s in that prison we went to,” Noyes said. “How is that just? You saved someone, you did an act of justice, but that doesn’t always produce justice and so that was a big question that he was wrestling with.”

While the group may have not figured out why evil happens in the world, they did learn that good can come from injustice.

“One of the strategies that we learned throughout the week was how to rec­ognize it and say, ‘Yes, there is injustice, not to downplay it, but to not call that injustice mean­ingless or without purpose, both in the sense that if you’re someone who is in jail, you know that’s a place of help and can be a place of help for you,” Noyes said. “God can use that injustice and bring people to you and Himself to you and com­mu­nicate to you in that time.”

For sophomore Gabe Listro, dis­cov­ering the meaning of justice took on a dif­ferent meaning after the trip.

“There’s a really good verse in First Corinthians, ‘if I under­stand all mys­teries and all knowledge but have not love, it’s nothing,” Listro said. “If I under­stand exactly how to best relate to every single person and all their problems in this whole circle of poverty, from Detroit to Crisis preg­nancy center, this whole lifespan of poverty, and cul­tural injustice, it doesn’t matter. If I under­stand that, ‘what’s the point?’ The point is that I’m called to love them.”