Anecdotes for the Road

Our spring break trip to Grant County is over, but I thought I’d share some stories from our time in Marion and at St. Martin’s.

Basically, our mission on this trip was to hang out with people. It’s true that we also served food and hung up clothes, but at least for me, that was the real focus.

There was one guy I met, I don’t even know his name because I never got to sit down with him, but he was a real kidder! Whenever I gave him food he would always ask for just a little bit more in a joking tone. “Please!” he’d whine, putting a hand on his heart and pouting his lower lip. I’d put a little more until he finally was satisfied. One day I was serving strawberries, so when he came through the line I put a single berry on his plate. “Oh, come on, girl!” he cried petulantly. I raised my eyebrows and put one more. “Oh, really? Please, more!” Things continued like this until he had more than a normal serving of strawberries, but that was okay. It was hilarious!

On Friday as I ate my lunch, I sat with a little family I had noticed coming every day. The mother looked to be in her twenties and her two kids were seven and four. They were so adorable – they both had dark brown hair (the boy’s was curly and poofy) and dark eyes that seemed bottomless. I had barely sat down when they began talking to me. “Are you going to eat with us?” the girl asked. “Yes, is that okay?” I answered. “All right,” she said. Immediately she began chattering about her kitty that was blue but had red paws. They looked like mittens, but they weren’t because it was just the fur changing color, she explained to me. “Look, she’s on your lap!” the little girl exclaimed. “I think she likes you!” She grinned at me happily. “I like her too!” I said. It was incredible how she was so excited to talk to me, and didn’t even know my name!

Next the little boy came up to me. He smushed himself so close up to my chair that I could barely eat! I began crawling my hand up and down his back and head like a spider, and he giggled. He ran around the table as we continued playing like this, and he laughed and laughed! The next day when I saw the kids again, they were excited to see me too.

On Friday I went with a group of team members to a house nearby. Our plan was to help clean the house and we expected to be dealing with perhaps a packrat problem or very unclean conditions. The other group who did a home visit certainly faced that, but we faced something else. Before we could knock on the front door, it was opened by a bunch of kids, many that I recognized from serving lunch at St. Martin’s. When we entered the front room, there were so many kids running around and playing loudly, I started wondering how many lived in there! (It turned out there were seven kids, coming from two mothers, and living with the grandparents – a whole family tree in one house!) As I stood there, not sure what to do in the face of the pandemonium, one of the girls grabbed my hand. She was about eleven years old. We began talking and told each other our names. She seemed so happy just to have me there! As we began cleaning the house, she asked if she could help me. I was surprised by her offer, but let her scrub walls with me as her little brothers periodically came up and asked if they could help too. The girl’s grandfather walked by at one point and said, “What’d you tell her to get her to help you clean? She hasn’t done a minute of work in her life!” He walked away laughing, but it dawned on me then that these kids didn’t care if they had to clean, as long as they got to spend time with us. They were so hungry for love, for recognition, for a caring hand (Cassie just held one of the kids for hours, and he was perfectly content). I had been a little begrudging in coming before because I was already tired from a day at St. Martin’s, but after meeting the kids, I was so glad I had come.

We finished cleaning quickly (there really wasn’t that much to do in that house), and went outside with the kids. We played with them for two hours – piggyback races, regular races, snowball fights, swinging them around in the air – and they loved every minute of it. One of the little ones (he was about four), found a funnel and filled it with snow. He’d walk up giggling and swing it like a baseball bat, and the snow went flying out. This went on for probably an hour, and it was hilarious every time! We were sad to go, but we saw them again at St. Martin’s the next day, and they were so happy to see us!

These are just a few of the experiences we had, and they don’t come close to encompassing everything that happened at St. Martin’s. There are so many people I don’t have time to mention here, but they are just as important to us as the others.

It is so true that this trip changed us more than it changed anything in Marion. But that’s okay. My heart has been captured by these beautiful people, and I know there are many others in our group who plan to go back to St. Martin’s on Saturdays and keep up the connection. That’s the beautiful thing about this trip – it’s not really over, even though we’re back at Taylor.


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.