Faculty and students reflect on spring break

by Emily Kauffman – Horizon Features Editor

Several groups from Hesston College enjoyed new and exciting experiences during the week of Spring Break. Here are some reflections by both faculty and students on their individual experiences.

Pilger, Nebraska

“Working with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in Pilger, Nebraska and getting to help rebuild a community with others who all had such great attitudes was such a great experience.  The best part of the trip was getting to know the people in the community as well as the other group that worked with us who were a group of young adults our age from Manitoba, Canada.  We were able to grow very close to the other group, forming close friendships and having so much fun playing games and going on adventures.  It was fun getting to work with new friends as well as old ones.  We learned all about Pilger and Nebraska.  My week with MDS was one of the best and rewarding weeks of my life.” –Rose Yoder ‘16

Hesston students Shelby Miller, Garrett Woelk, Ben Rush, and Rachel Shenk work together with others on the roof. Photo by Desiree Corona

“The eight Hesston College students and I had a great week in Pilger, Nebraska with MDS. The weather was beautiful every day so we were able to get a lot of work done on the homes that MDS is building. The tornado that went through Pilger last June destroyed much of the small town of 400 people. We did some shingling, siding, putting sheathing on a roof, insulating, and working on soffits and fascia on four new homes. Some of our group even got in on some case work, working with Paul Unruh in making phone calls to local folks. We were joined during the week by a group of mostly young people from MacGregor, Manitoba and had a lot of fun with them. It always is special to talk with the homeowners, hear their stories, and share meals with them.” –Russ Gaeddert, Disaster Management faculty

Hesston students Shelby Miller, Rose Yoder, Johanna Burkholder, Rachel Shenk and Ben Rush enjoy playing music along with those from Manitoba. Photo by Desiree Corona

“Spending spring break working with MDS in Pilger, Nebraska was a powerful experience in many ways. Even six months after the tornado, the town still contained reminders of the damage such as stripped trees and vacant lots littered with broken glass. We were there to help rebuild hope. Throughout the week we roofed three houses and then started to insulate, put up siding, and did some dry walling as well. We were blessed with good weather, great leadership, and a group of 12 or so Canadians who were there to volunteer as well. One thing that stuck out to me was a picture hanging in the MDS office taken just after the tornado. It depicts a yard covered with debris, but in the middle of the pile is a small plaque that reads “Sometimes, the important things in life aren’t things at all.” I think most of us came back to Hesston with the satisfaction that we had made different in Pilger.” –Garrett Woelk ‘16

Selma, Alabama

“The Hesston College Civil Rights spring break trip was both an inspiring and an overwhelming experience for me because of the people we met and talked to, the 8 Civil Rights museums we visited, and the other events we participated in which all told the story of the people of color’s struggle and nonviolent “fight”  for equality and justice through unbelievable pain and suffering at the hand of white supremacists while continuing to hold onto the hope of The Dream about which Martin Luther King spoke.  There were two themes we heard over and over during the week:  everyone needs to exercise the privilege of voting in each election and all, especially those who are young, need to be taught the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and then they need to continue telling the story and stand up for justice so that history is not repeated.  We had the opportunity to hear the stories of Joanne Bland, Lynda Lowery, and Roscoe Jones who were children or teenagers in 1965, and who all participated in The Movement including the marches from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote.  They all emphasized that the children and the teenagers need to be honored as the true heroes of The Movement—they were the real “foot soldiers” willing to risk their lives for the Cause.  We were challenged over and over again to commit ourselves to working for equality and justice for all throughout our lives.  It came to me during this trip that it is very sad that there was even a need for the Civil Rights Movement—human rights should never have to be fought for; human rights belong  to everyone equally at all times.” –Margaret Weibe, library director

Micah Raber, Irena Xhari, Tony Brown, and Cynnandra Luttrel pose for a picture by Martin Luther King Jr’s famous words. Photo by Larry Bartel

“Traveling for seven days around Alabama, specifically in Montgomery and Selma, around Mississippi and Tennessee- all places closely related to the Civil rights movement- was certainly a learning experience and a great opportunity to be rightly educated.

I was exposed to a part of the American History that is not easily thrown into a school textbook. There were many lessons that I learned by walking down the streets that hold bloody memories and walking into churches that have been witnesses of injustice and yet continue to trust in God while full of hope and vision. However, the highlight of the trip for me was listening to the story of Joanne Blackmon Bland. Joanna and her sister currently are running a school in Selma, Alabama where they educate children that are in need for education. Their vision is big, but the conditions are not the best. Joanna also tours different groups of young and/or passionate people that are want to learn more about the civil rights movement around Selma. She and her sisters were about 17-18 years old at the time that the Civil rights movement took place. Joanna was one of three hundred people that marched from Selma to the capital building in Montgomery, to ask for Social Equality. She was one of the ordinary people that contributed to something bigger than her. During our tour Joanne took us to a special spot and told us to pick up a rock and hold it in our hand. So we did. Then she told us, the young people, to hold the rock in our hands and to take from it the strength of the great people who stood in that rock. She encouraged us to stand up for what is right. That is the powerful message I learned during the trip—that change and the need for improvement comes from ordinary people. Without the using power that normal people hold it’s impossible for great things to just happen.” –Irena Xhari ‘16


“I did not know what to expect when I came to Russia. The Russia we (Americans) see on the news is very different than what the country is like in real life. Everyone was friendly, or at least polite, and they were curious as to why we were there. The strangest part for me was visiting all these historical sites and knowing how ancient they were. America is still a very young country compared to Russia, and this trip really put that into perspective. Russia isn’t normally the first place people choose to visit, but it should be high up there.” –Abby Musser ‘16

Shannon Bechler, Abby Musser, Lindsey Brazil, Brianna Lamb, and Caroline Kauffman pose in front of the Smolny Monastery in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Photo by Gregg Schroeder


“Visiting Arizona with a team as fun and unique as this year’s softball team was such a rad experience. We were able to work hard and grow as a team on the softball field and strengthen our relationships as friends. The highlight of this trip was definitely the 3 double headers we played and the goofy bonding time afterward. We fought hard in the hot Phoenix weather and came up victorious in a couple games which was fulfilling. We also grew so much closer as we hiked the Grand Canyon and saw the Angels (woot woot) play against the Cubs in a Spring Training baseball game. Overall, spring break was crazy fun.” –Makenna Grow ‘15

Ladies on the softball team pose for a picture by the Grand Canyon. Photo by Makenna Grow



“Our Oklahoma trip was very important for our team. We got closer as a group and we got to form unique relationships that might not have been there before. I think that having to travel, sleep, eat, and play baseball with each other every day for a week builds a long lasting bond that you just can’t forget. We definitely picked up our game while we were in Oklahoma. Like last year you could tell that we are all starting to get on the same page with each other which makes us a team that is very hard to beat. I’m going to miss hanging out with 30 of my best friends next year for spring break, but I know that the process that makes everyone come together will continue to happen.” –Nick Mitchell ‘15

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