NOLA

I thought that as a first year college student I’d go to Florida or South Carolina with a group of friends for spring break and hang out on the beach all day. We would relax, not worry about school, and get a tan going. God had other plans for me, plans that were so much better than my own. In November, He was already leading me towards His House Spring Breaks. Later that month I turned in an application for a trip, the next Friday I got a call from my soon to be team leaders. I was going to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Sunday we got back from our breaks, Pastor Josh told us think about how we would answer the question “How was your spring break?”. He told us not to answer with “Good!” or “Awesome!”. This question would be an opportunity for us to share our experiences and how God worked in our lives the past week. Even an opportunity to share the Gospel. I experienced so much in NOLA, I’m almost speechless, but God provides words when I cannot.

When taking a 15 passenger van to Louisiana from Michigan, it is expected that something will eventually go wrong. Even though it might have been the most uncomfortable 27 hours of my life, God had our backs on the trip there and home. Prayer is a pretty amazing thing. Before each leg of the trip we prayed for safe travels and that must have been what God wanted to. Before we even arrived in NOLA, I could see how God was working in our trip. The people we met were so kind, we prayed for a few of them, one offered to fund part of our trip, and all of them commented on how we were doing such a good thing. However, it seemed odd to me to receive a compliment like that before I had even attempted to serve God and His people. Was I really going to make an impact, and would I really be taking the actions God expected me to take?

New Orleans, Louisiana is the most cultured city I’ve ever seen, but also the most hurting. I was amazed to see how immense beauty could exist along side devastating poverty. Culture shock hit me hard. On one side of the street was the world famous Cafe Du Monte and on the other side I saw homeless people stumbling drunk through the French Quarter. These were the people we had come to serve and I was terrified. Each night we had planned to walk to streets and over passes handing out hot meals and talking/ praying with the homeless. I could see my fear reflected in the faces of my fellow spring breakers. I’ve always lived my faith in a passive style, waiting until people came to me or until I was in the proper setting to talk about God. Now I was supposed to walk up to a stranger, most likely drunk, and talk about their faith. Again, terrifying. But, God gives me words when I have none. I prayed with and spoke to several people in the short time I was in NOLA, but instead of me teaching these people about God, each one of them taught me. Homeless men and women who were almost too drunk to stand started quoting scripture at us and explaining how they weren’t worth God’s love but they were so thankful that He loved them anyways. The told us of their small acts of kindness trying to keep their friends warm and fed. Everyone wanted to pray with us. How humbled I felt to listen to them. Never could I imagine living a life with such hardships and still maintaining the faith these people had. They inspire me to pursue a deeper relationship with my God.

I couldn’t have made it through the week without my incredible brothers and sisters in Christ. They held me up when my heart was breaking after all I saw. They encouraged me in my faith and led by example. My team leaders Bethany, Crystal, and Caleb urged me to push further and do what scared me most. The men on our trip showed us women how we deserved to be treated and they watched our backs all week in a dangerous city. Thank you to every single person who decided to take the long road to NOLA. Each of you has shaped me in some way and helped me become a stronger woman of Christ.

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