Hope’s Campus Ministries team organizes corporate worship (chapel and the Gathering), small group Bible studies, campus events, and an annual tradition called Immersion Trips.  On these trips, groups of students travel across the globe to serve God and be immersed in new cultures over spring break. 

Last year, my friend Millie and I signed up for a trip to Nashville, Tennessee.  We didn’t know anyone else going on the trip, but hoped that traveling and serving would bring us new friendships.

We had no idea that some of our closest friends today would come from the group of about 20 Hope students we grew to know and love over the trip.

our team in Nashville!

In Nashville, we worked with different nonprofits every day, primarily serving people experiencing homelessness.  As we cleaned soup kitchen shelves or picked up trash in public parks, we learned how to better love our neighbors.  This experience taught me that my neighbor isn’t just my sibling or roommate.  It was all 20 of us on the trip, even when we were crabby and had been in the car for hours.  It was the long-term mission workers we interacted with at different sites.  And, of course, it was each person we encountered who was experiencing homelessness. Even when we weren’t sure what to say or how to act, we learned to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Coming home, I carried these lessons and experiences with me.  I came back different.

at one of the serving sites, The Branch (a food pantry)

Our team stayed in an old church called Mckendree for the week.  All the girls slept in one big room, and the boys in another.  We lined up our mattresses and treated it like a week-long sleepover.  Every night when we got back from serving, we would have a time of worship.  It was simple– we would circle up on the floor, sitting on the edge of our mattresses in the girls’ room.  Through the week we listened to each other’s testimonies, watched one another serve and grow, and learned to love our neighbor a little better.

the girls’ room!

Since spring break, these bonds have endured.  Over the summer, we drove to meet up, and streamed Lemonade Mouth together on Disney Plus.  We watched fireworks together on the fourth of July, and sent snail mail to one another.

Immersion trips are an amazing opportunity at Hope. They allow students like me to deepen their faith, strengthen their relationships, and learn more about the world around them. My trip to Nashville taught me how to love my neighbor, no matter who that neighbor might be.  It also taught me the joys of living in community with others.  I am so thankful for this opportunity and for the people I was blessed to meet along the way.

members of our team reunited at the last Gathering of spring semester

Published by Audrey Wells

Class of 2026 Hometown: Portage, MI Majors: Communications & Spanish Minor: Social Witness Ministry & Global Health

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