I am currently finishing up my last semester of university. This semester has been a crazy ride full of both new and familiar experiences. This past week we had our spring semester reading break before the last six-week push of paper writing, presentations, and finals. On past reading breaks I have gone on short road-trips with friends or stayed at home pretending to catch up on homework (but mostly just watching netflix). This year, however, I found myself signed up for a trip to Hawaii with a team from my school. Over the past 15 years, TWU has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and twice a year a team goes to Hawaii (mainly Oahu) to contribute in a very practical way. As a team, we spent a lot of time discussing short terms missions trips: there is such a fine line between helping people and actually doing more harm than good, despite good intentions. And even while we were there, it was hard not to be discouraged just because there was so much more to do and there will always be so much to do. We spent our time helping renovate a shelter. The shelter is quite large and the purpose is to take families and individuals off the streets and help begin the transition for them into life off the streets. Job training and resume writing and a safe place to sleep are all parts of life in the shelter. And then after a certain amount of months, if the people kept their end of the bargain, they were moved into an apartment of their own. But this shelter was so run down. It used to be an army base so it was concrete and sturdy but not in great shape. While we were there we took about 15 rooms (bedrooms, community rooms, and a computer room) and we painted them and painted on new floors and put baseboards in and helped with some electrical things. And then a couple of the ladies on the team sewed curtains for all of the rooms. And while there was a tangible difference made, it was hard leaving when there was still so much to do. We did such a small fraction of the rooms and all of the hallways and laundry rooms and kitchens still needed work. It was hard to leave knowing that most of the people were still living in dirty rooms. And that even in the rooms we redid, people were still going to sleep and put there babies on mattresses that were dirty and cockroach infested. While somewhat discouraging, the our time at the shelter was also incredibly eye-opening and such a profound learning experience. Getting to talk to and learn the stories of the people in the shelter really reminded me of the commonness in humanity. Even though our circumstances are so different, we feel such similar things. I was telling a good friend about the trip yesterday and she summed it up so well: “you gained that empathetic understanding of their circumstances.” That was the game-changer. It’s so easy to think in terms of “us” and “them” but it was really a unifying experience in terms of how I view and interact with people of all social classes.
On a lighter note it was so beautiful in Hawaii and swimming in the ocean was the coolest thing ever and the team was awesome. For the first time, it was an all-girls team which I appreciated so much more than I thought I would. The dynamic was awesome and no one was worried about impressing anyone which can sometimes happen with it is a coed team. And the work on this trip was perfect for a female team. Normally there is a lot more heavy construction but this year it was a lot of painting, moving furniture, and general indoor renovating. It was just so cool how God orchestrated everything and all of the aspects of the trip fit together so well. On top of the ten students on the trip, we had four married couples join us and they contributed to the team dynamic in such neat ways. They helped balance things out and brought so much laughter to all of our everyday activities. I am so grateful for all of the relationships formed over the past week and I am so glad that it worked out that I was able to go on a Global Projects trip in my last semester of university.
Thank you to everyone who supported this trip. From all of the people who purchased photo shoots to help support me financially to those who prayed for us and encouraged us, it was all so appreciated. This trip brought so much joy and laughter to my life and I loved all of it. It was so hard to leave Hawaii and everything that Oahu held. I loved the relaxed culture, the disconnection from the online world, and the feeling of going to bed each night knowing we had worked hard. And it was so wonderful getting to explore the island on our days off. I can’t wait to go back one day.
Colleen took pictures all week of the many outfits that we wore. Check out her hilarious pinterest board with all of the hottest trends for non-profit volunteer works!!
On most days, we had about an hour before dinner after we finished work. So on our way back to the base we would make the most of that time and stop at this beautiful beach. I loved swimming in the warm ocean and playing in the waves.