Today marks the end of our group’s service at St. Martin Community Center for the week. We can hardly even believe tomorrow we’ll be back at Taylor. Looking back, this past week has been a roller coaster of memories and fantastic opportunities of service and sharing with our local community.
We started every day at 7 a.m. with prayer, then enjoyed breakfast at St. Martin’s before receiving our instructions for the day. Board Member Mary Jackson aptly observed, “There’s no such thing as a ‘normal day.’” Each time we walked through those doors, center operators Mike and Teresa presented us with a new adventure. Our work alongside the regular volunteers created a comfortable, communal atmosphere for the people of Marion. We cleaned pantries and coolers, organized clothes, stocked equipment, demolished boxes and even served food directly to the people. So much work is put into this well-oiled process, especially since all but four of the workers are volunteers!
The volunteer community and those whom we served were all so welcoming and eager to talk with us. Everyone had a story to tell. With every conversation, we gained a new friend and a new experience to share. Some of the tales were heartbreaking. It was very educational to understand the position of the people of Marion and the importance of aiding this very community in which we live. It was also uplifting to see other people just like us, living life together each day, and worshipping God even just a few miles away.
Because of the large amounts of work, our group split into subsections each day to cover more ground. This allowed our small group to do intensive work with each other member eventually throughout the week. Our nightly debriefings were even more colorful because we each had a different vantage point depending on where we were and what we were doing that day.
Some of the week’s highlights were our dinners and evening conversations with those who allowed us to serve this week, including our hosts (Josh, Emily, and Bailey), the operators of St. Martin’s (Mike and Teresa), the priest of Gethsemane and his wife (Father Jim and Kresha), Josh and even Dr. Cramer one night. Because we were not merely a group of college students living in some hotel, going to the facility, and returning each day, we were able to meet some of the kindest and most influential people in Marion, and discuss our values and purpose with them. God works in so many different ways through so many people, but His persevering love can be seen in all of us. Our experiences only further proved this point.
Our group has grown extremely close after all we’ve shared this week, and we have a lot to take back and share on campus. We surely will not forget those we’ve met in St. Martin’s and hope to advocate the need of volunteers for such an amazing organization creating a God-centered environment in a broken town.