Over spring break, 54 Hillsdale stu­dents spent their week doing service projects for the local com­munity. At one point, stu­dents boarded up houses in Detroit. Gabe Listro | Courtesy

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.”