This year’s service trip gathered nineteen students and two trip leaders in the GCU parking lot on a crisp, March morning. Before leaving for Goldsboro, NC, we reflected on the fact that the Sisters of Mercy had earned a particular nickname early in their history. The people of Dublin called them the “Walking Nuns” because they were frequently seen walking here and there to visit Mercy on the poor, ignorant and sick. We continued our reflection by recognizing that we would follow their tradition of traveling to serve those in need – only the mode of transportation would change. The Sisters’ walking shoes would now be four rubber tires and a fifteen passenger van!
Our crew traveled to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and their Collegiate Challenge program. The organization is a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry and we were there to build decent, affordable housing for those in need.
Our participants spent the first work day on a house that was nearing completion. Some students insulated the crawlspace, others painted the interior, another group finished the vinyl siding and still another team put railings on the back deck.
The rest of the work week was spent on a fresh start. Our team arrived on a site that consisted only of a cinder block foundation. We quickly leveled the soil in the crawl space and started installing the sill plates and rim joists. The next day we added floor joists and ledger boards. The latter required hammering in awkward positions above our heads. There were many bent nails that day! In subsequent days we sheathed the floor, framed two walls and lifted one. It was quite the transformation from dirt and cinder blocks to floors and walls!
Our students also experienced transformation themselves. The crew began as individuals who barely knew one another and finished as a cohesive and energetic community of faith and service. Through nightly prayer and reflection, our students also grew in their knowledge and understanding of poverty and social justice.
The largest transformation however, may be for the Greene family – the future homeowners of the house we helped build. The Greens are a single-parent family of five. After a serious illness, they found themselves in a single-wide trailer which also housed two other relatives. The trailer is in a high-crime area and the kids rarely go outside to play. When completed, the Greenes will take ownership of the house and a zero-interest mortgage. The kids will then live in a safe neighborhood and have a home to to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Statistically, they will also do better in school and live healthier lives.
Georgian Court University can be proud of our student volunteers and the transformations they have helped to shape. The Sisters of Mercy walked, we drove, together we transformed our part of the world with Mercy.
To see more photos from the trip, visit GCU Campus Ministry on Facebook!