Waking up is like the sun exploding.
I know I start out each of my posts with some complaint about the early rise, but let's think about this for a second. Spring break is typically a time of relaxing and laughter on a beach with some friends whom are more than acquaintances. It is about taking a break from reality to sleep in and enjoy life. For STLF, this difference makes a difference. We wake up early and go to bed late to serve the amazing communities across the United States. Or in our case...just down the east coast :)
At 8:15, we giddied out of the church's parking lot and split into two groups on the bus. About 20 of us were to be dropped off at Hope Thrift Store in a strip mall in town to help out with some organizing, cleaning, and moving furniture for some customers. The other 25 traveled a little farther to the Hope Church: a non-denominational Christian church just outside mainstream Richmond. The building is absolutely beautiful, inside and out, and doesn't look like the typical place to ask for help and volunteers, especially for nothing but cleanup and organization. The Hope church is fairly new, founded only a few years ago. In the past six months, the average attendance for events and services has jumped from about 400 to 1500 people, and the seven-person staff is struggling to keep their head above the water. With no money to pay a custodial staff, the building usually goes untouched unless they find some free time among planning, organizing, developing, mediating, and reflecting with the community.
Needless to say, we took a load off their backs without even knowing the half of it.
And they let us know with a wonderful lunch from McAllisters that was delish :) We met Pete, the main pastor at the church, and he welled up with tears while telling us the impact we've made, and it made it very real and emotional for us. We took off southeast down the highway when they revealed the next city through a little bit of Mad Gab and hints
Wilmington, North Carolina. Home of the set of One Tree Hill.
The bus ride was so much fun. I sat with Tay-Tay and we had a nice heart-to-heart before playing bus games and trying to figure out riddles with everyone. A bus ride that was about 4 and a half hours felt like it took 10 minutes. Times flies when you're in good company :)
Arriving in Wilmington was like a dream. It was a mixture of beauty and culture all culminated into one city - and I didn't even see the whole thing! The entire bus walked down by the beach, when split off into a few different groups, even though we all ended up at pretty much the same restaurant (at least the same area) for dinner. This cute little Italian restaurant caught our eye, and 11 of us got a table out back to enjoy the sunset while enjoying our dinner. It was so beautiful, even though we didn't get our food for an hour. But the experience was still wonderful with the great company.
The bus took us to where we were staying for the night, which was a school of some sort with a big gym and upstairs rooms with couches. I claimed a couch, of course, and played frisbee, soccer, and volleyball until night activities began. Tonight was a complete reflection on our time together. From the service projects and the trip in general to simply thanking some people for little things they've done, we put it all out on the floor. Some students had a much different experience than I did, but the most important thing is that we did it together and enjoyed every second. I couldn't have asked for a better group to share this experience with.
The reflection took 4 hours, just like the activity the other night, so this post is much delayed. Just goes to show that I'm experiencing so many incredible things that something as tedious as blogging is put on the back burner.
And it only gets better from here (believe it or not).