Students spend Christmas break in Mississippi

“A volunteer is a person who can see what others cannot see; who can feel what most do not feel. Often, such gifted persons do not think of themselves as volunteers, but as citizens – citizens in the fullest sense: partners in civilization.”

Former President George H. Bush stated his views on service during his presidency. More than a decade after his term in the White House, Eastern students have put into practice the values he stated.

From January 7 – 15, sixteen Eastern students and two chaperones took the opportunity to travel to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to assist in clean up efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

“My church gave me money for the entire trip, so I thought it was a sign. It was also going to be my first missionary trip,” sophomore Becky Hewes said.

“I went with the group from Eastern that went in September. After that trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about the people down there who needed help,” junior Melissa Sohl said.

January’s trip down south had students gutting houses, installing drywall and helping rebuild homes.

Aside from the labor, the crew also worked in God’s Katrina Soup Kitchen. According to sophomore Katie Brown, the kitchen was the only place to get food in the region. Donations from all across the country were and are still being sent to the kitchen.

“The soup kitchen had Hope cookies, which were from the King of Prussia Mall, so that was neat to see,” Hewes said.

Affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ, the team worked with roughly 150 other college and high school students from across the country. They slept in a library and moved according to what work needed to be done. This included cleaning trash out of yards, destroying houses and the aforementioned dry walling.

The trip offered two different perspectives on how the students spent their time.

“The trip was fun when we were interacting as a group, yet it was depressing seeing the things and destruction that we saw,” sophomore Corrie Davis said.

Aside from labor, the team also had a chance to walk the streets and talk to residents of the torn town.

“It was good, being able to talk to people, and allow them to tell us their stories and vent about their losses,” Hewes said.

“The town was evacuated before the storm, so there were not that many people to talk to, except for the few that rode out the storm,” Davis said.

The impact that the trip had on several of the members was very meaningful. Hewes brought to light that pictures could not describe the tragedy that the group witnessed.

Davis added that it was amazing to see how the storm impacted so many people’s lives.

“Seeing what people lost and how they are still faithful, it makes me think how we need to be grateful and remain faithful,” she said.

The trip meant so much to junior Hannah Young that she has taken off the spring semester to stay in Pass Christian and continue to help build and repair homes.

“The greatest impact the trip had on me was meeting the homeowners and seeing how grateful they were for our help,” first year Kelly Garland said.

As the students returned from the trip, they reminisced and compared the attitudes of those who lived through the storm to those of Americans who are on the outside looking in at the destruction.

“We talked to one guy and he mentioned how the storm can take his home, take his land, but it can’t take away his faith,” Davis said.

“It is a different world down there. Nothing else matters other than working on getting the town back up and running, and making sure you have food and shelter, and times of worship and prayer. Possessions don’t matter, and most of the stupid stuff that we worry about everyday doesn’t matter,” Sohl said.

Brown also commented on this difference in attitudes.

“Up here [and across America], we are so consumed with ourselves and what can make our lives better, he said. “Down there [Mississippi], everyone asks, ‘How can I serve you?'”

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