To the 184 college students who are setting out to serve on Spring Break next week:
First, you deserve credit. You have chosen a particular experience for this week that many of your peers do not choose. While they are on a cruise, or sleeping in at home (both fine choices in their own way), many of you will sleep on the floor. In Camden, 18 of you will share one bathroom. All. week. long.
I commend you for taking this week to learn and serve around the world.
Second, may I give you some unsolicited advice?
You are a guest. Just like a houseguest is a welcome joy, but also some work and inconvenience to host, you are being hosted by a partner in locations far and near.
You are temporary. Each of you will meet people who serve in that location full-time, year-round, 52 weeks a year. Your partners have been in these communities long before you; they will be there long after you.
You are [somewhat] expendable. There is nothing about this week that needs you, really. At first, that may seem sad; we all want to be essential. But knowing you are not essential to the work has the potential to free you up to bring what only you can bring–your self. You were not invited for your skills; you are not needed for your skills. You were invited and you are needed for your story.
No one else has your story to tell. Share it with your team, your hosts, and the people you meet this week.
In turn, hear their story. You cannot know the story of the displaced Haitian population in Miami, or the locals in Antigua, or those experiencing homelessness in Seattle. You cannot know the stories of hope, empowerment and healing that your non-profit and ministry partners have experienced in their work. This week is a chance to hear their stories.
This year we challenged you to let 2% of your year–one week–shape the other 98% (and beyond, for that matter.) I believe that is most likely to happen when you enter into the stories of those who do life in that community 100% of the time.
You are loved and prayed for as you travel.