Three weeks ago, 16 fellow Northwestern students, two staff members and I loaded up two 15-passenger vans and drove about 19 hours to Rockport, Texas. It was my first Spring Service Partnership (SSP) experience, but I had been on plenty of mission trips before, so I had my expectations set. God must have laughed at those expectations, because he had so much more planned for our team.
Rockport is about twenty minutes from Corpus Christi, near the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Harvey demolished the town late last August, the wind tearing off roofs and trees, and the flooding leaving people with a few feet of water in their home. Despite Houston getting most of the media attention, Rockport, a town of about 11,000, was and is desperate for help rebuilding their infrastructure and boosting morale.
Because of the volume of projects to be done, our team was able to do a variety of work and meet so many incredible people. Our work included sorting clothing donations, installing insulation and drywall, painting, tearing down walls, cleaning up debris, and just spending time listening to people tell their stories.
There are so many things that God revealed to us throughout the week, and he continues to use the experience to bless us now that we’re back. However, these are the things that I really felt God speaking to me while we were in Texas:
1. Sometimes all people need is someone to listen to them. The people we were helping often times just wanted to talk about what they experienced during the hurricane. We were able to be a blessing solely by being a listening ear.
2. Gratitude blesses everyone. Many of the people we helped had been waiting months to receive any sort of government or volunteer help. People were even more grateful when they heard we were from Iowa, because it reminded them that they weren’t forgotten in other parts of the country.
3. It’s incredibly rewarding to see your hard work come to fruition. Something that made this SSP different than most mission trips I’ve gone on is that we were mostly doing physical labor, so we could see all of our hard work come to life in front of our eyes. We saw entire garages being knocked down, sheds being emptied of debris, semis of donations being emptied, and tiny homes being insulated.
4. You get really comfortable with people when you spend ten days together and are a thousand miles from home. I would encourage anyone, especially freshmen, to go on an SSP – it’s such a great way to make new friends from different departments, teams, and dorms. I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and I’m so thankful for the new friendships formed. A few weeks later, and our Snapchat group is still going strong making breakfast dates and weekend plans!
People we worked with were baffled that so many of us gave up our spring breaks to serve, and even more baffled that Northwestern had many other groups serving around the country and world. I can’t thank Northwestern’s Campus Ministry enough for coordinating these trips that are too fun and spiritually uplifting to put into words!