First Days

Sorry for the blogging delay: computer troubles.

We’ve been working hard and having fun in Marion.

Saturday we prepped for the week by going grocery shopping and setting up at Gethsemane Episcopal Church and the Incarnation House, where we are staying. The Incarnation House is an intentional community of current and former Indiana Wesleyan students. We also visited Marion’s park to play Frisbee because we knew we would be indoors most of the week.

Sunday we helped Gethsemane serve lunch to people in the community. We also had a Seder dinner, a traditional Passover meal. It involves eating different representational foods, like parsley (life), matzah (unleavened, rushed to leave Egypt), salt water (tears in life), and extremely potent horseradish (the suffering of the Jewish people).

On weekdays we go to St. Martin’s to cook, serve and distribute food, hang and sort clothing, and clean. The kitchen is full of hard working volunteers who come every day to keep St. Martin’s running. They plan the food for the entire week, empty truckloads of donations of both food and clothing, and serve them. They also run a food pantry where people can get food once a month. I don’t know how they keep up with all of their work when they don’t have 13 extra volunteers.

In the mornings it is fairly slow. Some older patrons come for breakfast, and others come to receive free food, like loaves of bread, chips, onions, grapes, etc. The food depends on what is donated to St. Martin’s that day. We work on preparing food, setting up the tables, and crushing and baling cardboard boxes. Lunch, on the other hand, is bustling. People stand in line long before we start serving at 11. We serve until 12, technically, but usually we serve much longer because people continue to line up. On Friday we served 300 meals.

After lunch we sweep, mop, clean the bathrooms, and put away food. St. Martin’s closes at 1, but the thrift store remains open later so we continue to work there. We helped to sort and hang thousands of clothes that were in storage. This gives more space for food. In the process, at least two students nearly went mad searching for pant hangers.

In the afternoons some students also go to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club to play with the kids. Hannah says it is a good place for kids to learn to entertain themselves, rather than sit at home and watch TV or play video games.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we attended additional church services at Gethsemane for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Some students participated in a Maundy Thursday vigil, a watch over the altar with the Eucharist remaining from earlier services. Spending so much time with the Episcopal Church setting, something most team members have not experienced before this trip, makes us think about our faith differently. Episcopalians have methodical church services which are typically very similar in nature. They take communion at every church service. I have never had communion this many times in one week before, yet it is still powerful to think of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

Talking to people from the community has been enlightening and enjoyable. People from all backgrounds come to St. Martins for breakfast and lunch.

One man, named Ron, bonded with Jessie and Brady. He had a twinkle in his eye and looked like Santa. He in fact likes to wear a Santa Hat around Christmas time. He likes doing little things to make people’s day. He buys fancy buttons and gives them to people who look sad. He is not well off, but still thinks of how to make other people’s lives better. He seems better for it.

That’s something I’ve noticed about this trip. The more you serve, the happier you are. For me at least, the idea of serving is not the most “fun” thing I could be doing. But it turns out that it is much more fun than anything I could have planned for this break. It’s surprising how serving becomes natural after only a couple days. Providing for others seems to provide for oneself too.

Today two teams of students helped clean houses in the community. More on this coming soon!

Some thoughts from the trip:

You can pray whenever and wherever you are.

Serve, but consider how to be effective without hindering those you serve.

God provides.

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