For me, spring break has always been about travel.
I wanted this spring break to be different, so I made the split-second decision to sign up for a Spring Break Campaign. It was definitely a leap of faith because I didn’t have the money to pay for the trip and there were only three weeks left to raise it. But I felt called to go.
So I joined the SBC to Salem, Ore.
With the help of several generous donations I was able to pay for the cost of the trip. March 8 we flew to Portland and then drove to Salem.
It was a week of service, unexpected adventure and a lot of doughnuts and coffee.
Because it was spring break, we did reserve some time to enjoy ourselves. We spent our first Saturday at the coast. We ate seafood, trekked around tide pools, saw a lighthouse and took pictures by the rocky coastline. We even went whale watching, which soon turned into “no-whale” watching. But it was still fun.
We also made a few trips back to Portland. While Salem is the capitol of Oregon, Portland is the largest city and has a very different environment.
Our days were spent working with a church called Soma in the Edgewater district of West Salem. “Soma” means “body” in Greek. The Soma church focuses on being a physical expression of the love of Christ in an area of the city that has dealt with challenges, such as poverty and drugs.
We helped out with kids in an after-school program. We deep cleaned the church building, moved furniture to a women’s shelter and cleaned a child development center. We also passed out fliers around Edgewater and participated in a family outreach event for Soma.
We also spent a good bit of time working with the homeless. They prefer to be called “urban campers,” because many of them have made camps within the city.
One of our biggest projects was to clean up one of these camps after some of the inhabitants were flooded out. We weren’t just picking up trash and litter. We were picking up the remnants of people’s lives. We picked up all of it: clothes, packages of food, broken tents, bags of who-knows-what. Most of the garbage was moldy and covered in mildew. We had to wear heavy-duty gloves to protect our hands from glass and other sharp objects. We were warned to be on the lookout for hypodermic needles. Thankfully we didn’t find any.
One thing stuck with me from that day. Some of the urban campers were cleaning with us. One of them asked the camp leader if he was having a good day. The leader responded with, “Every day is a good day.”
Of all the people I met on the campaign, the ones who had the fewest possessions were the most content. They gave of what they had and assured us they were certain of their futures, because their futures were destined in Christ.
I went to Salem to serve and minister, but in the end I wanted to thank the people I was serving. They taught me a lot in a week.
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