For me, spring time is something that I look forward to from the first day it falls below freezing. I long for the warm weather; where going outside isn’t considered insane due to the freezing tears you acquire walking across campus. To my pleasure, spring has crept up. And even better than spring itself is the break that comes along with it.
Each year Northwestern sends a couple hundred students across the nation and the world to serve during spring break. These opportunities are called Spring Service Projects (SSPs), and I had the privilege serving on one this break. I went to Jonesboro, Arkansas, with 16 fellow students and 2 faculty members.
What a week we had. After climbing in the van at 6 in the morning last Saturday, it was a non-stop adventure for 8 days. As we made the 12ish-hour drive down South, we began to interact and form friendships right from the start.
We partnered with City Youth Ministries (CYM). It’s an after-school program for underprivileged children in the city of Jonesboro. Kids come Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. They get to play but also have classes, and get fed before going home.
When we were with the kids, we helped with Bible and gym class along with tutoring sessions. We also danced and played some sports with them. Boy, did those kids love to dance! I kid you not, they would be running around everywhere, and someone would play a song and the majority of them just stopped in their tracks and did the dance in unison. It was incredible. They tried to teach us some of the dances, but our team wasn’t on their skill level.
Throughout the week, our team created relationships with some of these kids and poured into them. We got the chance to interact with the staff there as well. I got to know the Bible teacher, Jordan, very well. Jordan is a student at Arkansas State in Jonesboro. He has worked for CYM for two years. I was truly inspired by Jordan. He loves those kids so much, and no matter how poorly they behave in his class, he is always patient with them and looking for ways to share the gospel with them.
Another great opportunity our team had was to help fix up City Youth's facility with a lot of cleaning and painting. We were able to paint big planters outside the building, transforming them from black chipped paint to vibrant beautiful colors. We also repainted walls in the gym and art room and did some fixer-upper jobs around the building. It was so incredible arriving, and then leaving seeing real progress being made at CYM.
At the end of the week, we had a day off. Our team went to Memphis, Tennessee, and we had such a blast! We went to the iconic Beale Street, and there happened to be a massive St. Patrick’s Day parade the day we were there. That was an adventure! We all ate some real Memphis BBQ, which was absolutely glorious. To cap off the day, we explored the largest Bass Pro Shop around, and it just blew my mind.
During the whole week, I really enjoyed getting to know a group of people from Northwestern that I might not have met if I hadn’t signed up for the trip. Throughout the trip we had the opportunity to share our testimonies. It was such an amazing experience to hear what God was doing in each and every one of our team members as individuals. It was cool to have all these amazing experiences in a different state with a group of students I can now call close friends.
Sadly, the week had to come to a close. Although we thought the trip might have been over, we made a stop at Thorncrown Chapel on the way back. It’s a chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and it will leave anyone with a dropped jaw because it’s so beautiful. The chapel is completely made out of wood and glass, and it’s truly a building of wonder.
This trip was one of that I won’t forget. I saw God work in CYM, my team and in my own life constantly over the course of that week. CYM has just done a phenomenal job sharing the gospel and showing how God’s love trumps the violence that the kids are raised in. God worked in our team as we bonded together and worked so well as a loving group of individuals. And lastly God showed his faithfulness to me and showed that even though there is sadness and darkness, God’s light always shines through.