UCSD Alternative Spring Break in the Navajo Nation.
University of the Pacific Alternative Spring Break in San Diego, CA.
By Sarah Lovejoy
Senior from Shepherd of the Sierra Presbyterian Church
“Come on, ten more minutes!” we beg. It’s four in the afternoon and it’s time to pack up. We’re having spiritual program at the beach tonight, but we’re so close to finishing the awning. Our construction supervisor looks at us dubiously. Do we really want to give up that beach time?
We’ve been working on this awning all week, even installing the poles three times in an effort to perfect them. Our supervisor finally gives in, letting us stay to see it to completion. The entire group grins as we take pictures in front of the awning.
For two years, I have attended SSP’s Alternative Break trips, and these trips have changed my life.
Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue. After I got back from my first SSP trip, though, I knew that I wanted to pursue a nonprofit career.
After I got back from my first SSP trip, though, I knew that I wanted to pursue a nonprofit career.
The most impactful aspect of these trips is the educational component. In past years, my church had spent a week building a house. We didn’t learn much about the circumstances surrounding the poverty we were trying to reverse, or what other groups were doing to help. On my first SSP trip, however, we toured several organizations in Portland, OR that were committed to reversing the homeless epidemic in the area. Being able to see all of the organizations working to make a difference inspired me to take my own work beyond spring break.
My second trip, Los Angeles, focused on building an awning in a community garden. While there, we also toured Homeboy Industries, an organization dedicated to helping gang members turn their lives around. Walking through Homebody Industries, I was struck with an immense feeling of amazement. It can be difficult to see any end to the violence and poverty in our world, but Homeboy Industries is a ray of hope.
I have learned that we don’t need to go far to help people. So many mission trips are focused on leaving the country and working in third-world nations, but by staying in the States, I have learned not to take anything for granted. By going to Mexico, it would be easy to blame poverty on the state of the nation as a whole. In America, though, that excuse is invalid. America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but people go hungry every day. This has made me realize that one small event can snowball and result in hunger and homelessness. These trips have helped me to see the fragility of life and inspired me to combat it.
I want to be a part of that [social justice], and I may have never discovered this passion if not for SSP.
After college graduation, I plan to go into nonprofit work where I can be in direct relationship with people and walk through their struggles with them. Our world still has a long way to go in erasing the lines that divide us and establishing social justice. I want to be a part of that, and I may have never discovered this passion if not for SSP.
It is with great excitement that SSP welcomes Rev. Jeff Lowery as their new Regional Coordinator for the Weekends of Service in the Portland, OR, area.
Jeff is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and is the founder and director of L.A.S.T. (Learning and Serving Together), a mission trip program based in Portland, OR. Jeff has many years of experience having partnered with more than 20 different agencies in mission and service over the past 6 years.
According to Jeff, “the Weekends of Service program is for youth and young adults who desire to make a difference in the world by starting in their regional community.” Participants will get the opportunity to serve in a variety of locations and service settings in the Portland area with a chance to put their faith in action. Folks might serve a meal at a soup kitchen, volunteer at a local food bank, work at a community garden or participate in a project at Dignity Village, a homeless community on the outskirts of the city.
(…) the Weekends of Service program is for youth and young adults who desire to make a difference in the world by starting in their regional community.
Each evening, participants will be led through reflection times that will help them connect their faith to their service. “The hope is that youth will be inspired to look for ways to make a difference when they return to their home communities” says Jeff, sharing his goals for the program.
Editor’s Note: Join Jeff and dozens of other groups this fall, winter, and spring for a Weekend of Service in Portland and Vernonia. Weekends are also held in Sacramento, South Los Angeles, and Phoenix.