Last month, eight St. Norbert students spent their spring break serving in South Carolina through an organization called Christmas in Action. This alternative break was part of St. Norbert’s TRIPS (Turning Responsibility Into Powerful Service) program. Christmas In Action is a non-profit organization whose vision is to assist in the prevention of substandard housing. They achieve this vision by remodeling homes of the elderly, disabled, and otherwise disadvantaged. The St. Norbert group worked on home repair projects alongside other volunteers and community partners. The trip was led by Emily Vetter. Below is a reflection of their time in South Carolina.
By Emily Vetter, Trip Leader
Our group truly ‘lived simply’ during our Elderly Outreach alternative break in South Carolina. Enoree First Baptist Church graciously gave us a place to stay. The members of the congregation and community were very accommodating and thoughtful.
We arrived late Saturday night to the church and were warmly greeted by Pastor Steven. Sunday was a day filled with bible study, service, exploring the city of Spartanburg, and meeting Ingrid Belue, Program Coordinator for Christmas In Action. Having the chance to experience a Baptist service was very eye-opening for our group and something we were happy we had the opportunity to attend. The city of Spartanburg was very quaint and beautiful; we stumbled upon a unique coffee shop housed in an old Masonic Temple. And meeting Ingrid was wonderful. Her stories of how Christmas In Action has been able to help others really got our group excited for the week!
On Monday we had a full day at Lowe’s where we were given crash courses on home construction. The workshops at Lowe’s were very helpful and the workers were happy to answer all of our questions.
Tuesday was our first day of service with Christmas In Action. We split into two groups, one was assigned to building a handicap ramp and re-tarring a mobile home roof, the other was given the task of remodeling a bathroom for an elderly woman. Serving at the home site was a great opportunity to get to know Pastor Steven better, along with having the chance to build relationships with other members of the congregation. Building the ramp required the four of us to obtain our PH Ds, or duties as “Post Hole Diggers”. Regardless of which project we were working on, throughout the week we were able to build strong relationships with those we were serving.
Each and every person we met in South Carolina constantly expressed their gratitude to us. From the Pastor and congregation recognizing us at their Sunday service, to Ingrid and everyone involved with Christmas In Action continuously restating the powerful impact we were having on the homeowners. We were truly blessed by the people we met. Seeds of Hope, Christmas In Action, Enoree Church, and St. John’s Lutheran Church willingly provided dinner to our group each night and each person we interacted with sent prayers our way.
Along with the generous hospitality, another aspect of this trip that had a powerful impact on all of us was the passion each and every person had for his or her faith. There was not one moment when they were acting for anyone but God. Every morning at the ramp site we would pray and give our thanks for the opportunity to serve God. Each night we would give thanks for the service we were able to do and for the meal we were about to have. It was astonishing to see how up-front and alive they were in their faith. The generosity displayed by each and every individual was incredibly inspiring.
We had amazing accommodation, awesome work sites, incredible bonding opportunities and we created memories that will last a lifetime. This was the first year an SNC trip worked with the social justice issue of Elderly Outreach and I think it was a tremendous success. We hope this trip continues to make an impact on those in Spartanburg, SC as much as it made an impression on us.
We look forward to continuing our service and plan on bringing our experiences in South Carolina back to campus and the surrounding community. This trip will forever hold a spot in our hearts. We cannot wait to see where our futures in service take us.