Hillsdale College students participated in the spring break mission trip in Hillsdale and found fellowship, friendship, and the body of Christ. The group started the trip on March 8 and finished on March 14. There were 54 in the group, and everyone was divided into a team with whom they shared testimonies, volunteer duties, and devotional reflections.
“I just saw God’s faithfulness revealed over and over again,” sophomore Caroline Walker said. “It should not have gone as well as it did, honestly. It was by the grace of God that scheduling went the way it did, teams worked out the way they did, that hearts were changed.”
This was Walker’s second time on the mission trip, and the second time only served to renew the original conclusions she had come to on the first trip. Seeing the body of Christ working, unlikely friendships begin, and seeing Christian love work in the hearts of the students and Hillsdale community members were just a few of the things that she experienced on the trip, Walker said.
“It was a renewal of last year but in an even greater way,” she said. “When I’m in a leadership position, I see all the applications being made and the teams being made. Seeing how people with completely different personalities, people you think wouldn’t work together well, all coming together around the central idea of Christ’s glory and showing his love was really cool.”
During the day, the teams visited different places within Hillsdale to either volunteer or spend time with members of the community. Hillsdale High Rise, schools in the area, and the local county jail were just a few of the places that the students visiting.
While volunteering at the county jail, senior Abraham Paternoster met inmates who were roughly the same age as he was. Their disparate situations left him unable to imagine what he would do in the same situation, but still able to find common ground, he said.
“I found myself reflecting on it over and over again afterwards,” he said. “That one hit me because I can relate to these guys. And yet, they’re in a completely different place than I am.”
Volunteering and interacting with the community demonstrated the healing power of Christian principles, according to Paternoster.
“You see a lot of brokenness in the community, and you learn about sin and the need for repentance,” he said. “OK, so things actually are really messed up, and that’s why we need to turn to God, and then we follow that up with grace. God loves his people and loves the world and is bringing healing and redemption and we can be instruments of that.”
The themes from each night were repentance, surrender, grace, and community and discipleship. The devotionals for each day were created by junior Gabe Listro and senior Calvin Kinney. According to Listro, the format for each one included a universal prayer, a scriptural reading, and a group of reflective questions for each team to discuss. Each night, the students would attend a talk on the theme for each night from the different churches around Hillsdale.
The devotionals played a role in grounding Walker throughout the trip.
“It reminds you of what actual love looks like, what is this grace that we’re extending, what redemption truly is,” Walker said. “It helps you stay focused, and not get sidetracked from having to go rake leaves.”
Listro said the devotionals were “the questions I didn’t want to ask myself.”
“I tried to make the questions very direct,” he said. “In the solitude of silence, we spent two hours reading this text and then sitting in silence. Some of the questions we put in there were, ‘Do you believe God is real?’ and ‘Do you want God to speak to you through this trip?’”
Sophomore Logan Pentecost said the trip showed him how expectations can change.
“I just want to be able to serve God and be able to reach out to people,” Pentecost said. “It’s interesting how in serving God, He is really just working in my heart the entire time. And I was served more than I was able to help.”
Walker also spoke to the great benefit the trip has on college students, who can very easily get stuck in their own world.
“My schedule revolves around me; even when I volunteer, it’s on my terms, like everything that we do here,” she said. “The mission trip pushes you outside of that. It pushes you to acknowledge that there is a greater purpose.”