Here's just a bit about my Spring Break service project to Los Angeles (actually, Compton), CA. I went with a group of nineteen students, faculty, and staff from Northwestern. I can't even begin to write everything I learned on this trip. I tried and ended up with 7 typed pages... I'm not putting all of that on here to bore you with, though. If you want to know more about it, feel free to ask! I'd be happy to share!

Here are a few highlights from our trip:

1. That first Sunday, when we went to Faith Inspirational church. It was just such an encouragement and it got us all pumped up for the rest of the week. Pastor Owens took us back to his office and shared his story and his vision for Compton, which was really awesome. Then after the service they had us come up to the front and the entire congregation came and hugged each and every one of us. I have never had so many hugs in my whole life. They called us their “angels” and said that we were an answer to prayer. It was really cool.

2. Monday, we were working on two houses that we fixed up and painted all week. It was just so good to finally be there, serving people. And we worked together so well. Our teamwork that first day of work was amazing. The two women who lived in these houses with their families insisted on serving us lunch three of the five days that we were there. It was kind, but also humbling for us because we knew that they don’t have much money.

House #1 Before

House #1 After

House #2 Before

House #2 After

3. Every morning during the week, our team spent some time in the morning before we started working and three of the guys led us in a time of worship. Every day it was just a refreshing time to get the focus back on God and the reason for being there.

4. Alex was the four-year-old boy that lived next door to one of the houses we were working on. His family had recently moved from Mexico and they didn’t speak any English. Alex liked to play in the fenced area right next to where we were working. Some of the girls, especially Anna, made friends with him with their broken Spanish. He was adorable. Often, whenever we were working on that side of the house, Alex would come running out the back door, wave and yell “Hola!” Then we would try to talk to him and play with him through the fence. On Thursday afternoon, Alex ran over to me and motioned for me to come. I went over to where he led me on the sidewalk. His dad was standing there with a five-gallon bucket full of fresh oranges from the tree in their backyard. He didn’t speak English either, but in broken phrases and a thick accent, he told me “These (pointing at the oranges) – for you. For everyone. Thank you for work.” It was so cool. I thanked him in my broken Spanish. It was just so cool – we weren’t even working on their house and we couldn’t even communicate with them but they still appreciated us and showed us their love. It was just another example of the love, appreciation, generosity, and kindness that we were shown by the people of Compton.

5. On Saturday we got to spend our afternoon off at Huntington Beach. It was so beautiful. I just love the ocean and the palm trees and the sand – everything about the beach, really. After a long week of working hard at the houses and the after-school program and everything else we did, it was a great time to relax, talk about the week, and just have a good time. That evening, we had a campfire on the beach, which was also amazing.

6. This isn’t really a highlight. More like a lowlight, really. When Monday finally came and we had to leave and come back to school, it was so sad. Michelle pretty much got it right when we got out of the bus, back on campus that night and she just said “Ugh, I’m so angry that we’re back.” I was not ready to be back here, back to the same old life of homework, classes, and writing papers. This trip definitely changed me. I think I left my heart in Compton.

I love California, seriously. It’s amazing. Compton is totally not what I thought it would be. I expected falling-down houses, gangs, violence, and drugs but what I found was just another city. Maybe poor, but so kind and generous and loving. I have so much to think about and process from this trip. I don’t really know everything I got from it yet, but I know I left my heart in Compton, CA. I’m back at school, trying to relay everything about my experience back to all my friends here, trying to focus on schoolwork, and trying to process everything. It’s hard. My brain is full. And so is my heart – full of love for the people of Compton as well as for my team. We shared some of the best times of my life, I think. So much laughter and joy in the nineteen of us. Even though we are all here on the same campus, I miss them. And I miss California - the sunshine, the palm trees, the Salvation Army, JohnDon and his cute kids, the chair-bed in the weight room, and even painting trim.

If you want to see more pictures, you can check out :