By Lindsey Carter – Horizon News and Features Editor
Students who accepted a spring break invitation to Georgia got more than something to do for the week. For many, it was an education.
“The trip was such an eye opener to me,” sophomore Zenawit Nerae said. “It made me look into life in the eyes of the less fortunate.
It all started when Anton Flores visited Hesston College as pastor in-residence earlier this year. He and campus pastor Todd Lehman dreamed of bringing students to Alterna, an interdependent community comprised of undocumented and documented people in Georgia, which Flores co-founded. The dream became reality when Flores officially invited the Hesston College community and Lehman organized a spring break trip. Nerae, Asbel Assefa, Cee Cee Wingo, Delmer Reyes, Adrian Rosas, Michel Anderson, Issei Tsuji, Dani Klotz, her husband Nata Fontan, accompanied Lehman.
For the first couple of days the students visited Koinania farms in Americus, GA, where they learned the organization’s history. Even before the civil rights movement, this farm and intentional community were committed to paying all workers, regardless of color, the same amount. While in Americus, the group was also able to attend a Sunday school service directed by Jimmy Carter and tour his childhood home. On another day, they visited with Latino families, had a cookout, and had the opportunity to hear their stories.
“The story of Koinania was really inspiring,” Klotz said. “The founders left all they had and started this place where they wanted to be an example of love across racial divides. And even when they faced threats, excommunication from churches, drivebys and economic boycotts, they stayed and remained a witness to the community around them.”
On the third day of the trip, the group traveled to Lumpkin, GA, where they stayed at a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center. Lumpkin is a town of 1300 residents in addition to more than 2000 living in its detention center. It was hear where the group visited with undocumented immigrants who faced deportation.
“Their story of how they got caught and how they’re waiting for deportation to a country they haven’t been to in so long was just heartbreaking,” Nerae said.
Later, the group stayed in LaGrange, Flores’ home town, and stayed in the homes of a few Mexican families. During this part of the trip, the students observed the customs of the host families.
“My favorite part was how we got to play with the little kids,” Delmer Reyes, a sophomore, said. “It reminded me of how I grew up.”
On the last day, the group traveled to Atlanta, GA, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and visited the church where King preached.
“It was a really cool feeling to be in the same church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached,” Reyes said. “It was much smaller than I imagined.”