A Week of Life-Changing Experiences.

By: Lauren Tadych, Sophomore

It can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone. It can be challenging to sign up for a weeklong trip with 10 people you’ve never encountered. But, after doing it last year in North Carolina working with Habitat for Humanity, I knew I had to sign up for another BREAKAWAY trip this year. I decided to go on the Washington D.C. trip with Center for Student Missions! For me, it was important to choose a place where I have never been. D.C. is very similar to Chicago in that there is gentrification. Basically, the neighborhoods are increasing in price and people who once could afford to live there no longer can which forces them out and as a result many of them end up on the streets. As a team, we quickly realized our purpose for going on the trip to D.C. was the same—to gain a new perspective and to be able to impact a life.34409837326_1097a482f3_o

Every day was a jam-packed schedule. It was a program set up so we could use every bit of time that we had to get the most out of our experience. One of the best activities we did was actually the very first one. We each packed a lunch and went to the train station to share a lunch with someone who looked like they could use the company. Two other girls and I decided we would walk together, and we met some wonderful people by simply offering them lunch and company. These were people who lived off the street and as we joined them in conversation they were genuinely caught off guard that we were talking to them and treating them like real people. I took time to think about our conversations and realized that it didn’t matter what we were talking about, it just mattered that we approached them and got the opportunity to speak with them. Even though talking with them made my day so much better, I know they appreciated the company even more.

34291765932_c3b2b18d5a_oWe also had the opportunity to help at a food kitchen that served breakfast to the homeless community every morning. I met a beautiful soul named Tony who had so much friendly energy—he could put a smile on any face. I got the opportunity to share a meal with him as he willingly opened up to me about some pretty serious things. He told me about his sobriety from heroine, his illnesses, about his kids who he doesn’t get to see often, and his relationship with God. He really opened my eyes to what matters the most in life and what really doesn’t. His positive attitude helped me see that nothing is so bad if you can take it and turn it into a positive. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to meet him and get to talk to him even for a short period. Meeting Tony is something that I’ll never forget.34409747246_2eb3eea9b8_o

I had so many life-changing experiences while in D.C. for one week than I’ve had in my entire life. I built friendships with people who believe in the same things I do and some of them who don’t, and I got to make connections with people who I never would have known. I got to see the beauty of D.C. and I got to strengthen my relationship with God.

So stepping out of what’s comfortable, meeting a group of strangers, traveling to a new place, talking to the homeless, serving in new ways…well, it’s worth it and you should try it too.

Just How Lucky I Am: Reflecting on my BREAKAWAY Spring Break Service Trip

By: Jack Bronec, Sophomore

Hi! My name is Jack Bronec. I am a sophomore at North Central College studying marketing.  I am on the Men’s Basketball Team and the Vice President of Communication of American Marketing Association. I grew up St. Charles, IL where I live with my mom, dad, grandma, two sisters Margaret and Molly, and my dog named Guinness who is a Boston terrier.


I first heard about BREAKAWAY from my mom. She said to check it out since I didn’t have plans for spring break and basketball had just ended.  After checking out BREAKAWAY on the website, I was really interested in Habitat for Humanity in Clemson, SC. Our team was made up of leaders, Kaitlin and Brittany and six other students Joy, Laura, Sophie, Noah, Mason, and me.

8In short, it was a GREAT trip, and I made some friends for the rest of my college career. This trip helped me break out of my comfort zone as I traveled to a new city, got to know new people, and donated my time to helping others. It was fulfilling to hear “thank you” so many times. It made me realize that I CAN help change people’s lives and this trip gave me so much perspective on just how lucky I am. I go to a great college. I have a great family who is not only physically healthy but mentally healthy as well, and we have good relationships. When I look at the Clemson/ Pickens County area, I see people struggling to make ends meet and simply put food on the table. I am so blessed that I am in the position I am today, and I take this for granted all too often. I need to make the most out of every situation in life and be grateful for what I’ve been given.

For your reading pleasure, below is a short summary of our week with some pictures!

DAY 1 – Travel Day 1

Saturday March 18th, 2017 – We started our trip. The first leg was from North Central College to Knoxville, Tennessee. We stayed at a church. There was a game room, basketball court, and a big area were everyone slept for the night.

DAY 2 – Travel Day 2

Sunday March 19th, 2017 – We stopped at a local 1donut shop—Markers donuts—and made our way to Clemson, South Carolina driving through the  Blue Ridge Mountains. That evening, our main Habitat for Humanity host, Cindy, cooked us lasagna and garlic bread and helped us settle into Clemson United Methodist Church for the week

DAY 3 – Work Day 1

Monday March 20th, 2017 – Today was the day—WORK DAY 1.  The house we were assigned was about 40 minutes away from the church. We met our contractor Art who gave us duct tape to make name tags. The goal for the week was to law down hardwood floor throughout the house and put up trim around the windows and doors. One of the Habitat board members owns Wendy’s so we got to enjoy as much food as possible for dinner that evening, too, and explore the river walk in downtown Greensville.

DAY 4 – Work Day 2

Tuesday March 21st, 2017 – We finished up the flooring in the bedrooms then moved our way to the hallway and kitchen and family room. Once we finished up the bedrooms we7 put a cleaner, flooring paper, and cardboard on the floor to protect them. We walked down to a little place called Hagood Mill to eat our lunch were there was a blacksmith, a mill where they used the river to make flour, and a moonshine still. For dinner, we went to Clemson University’s Church were we engaged with their Catholic student group and some faculty too. We toured campus and were able to go into the football stadium!

DAY 5 – Work Day 3

Wednesday March 22nd, 2017 – We conquered a lot this day. We finished up the flooring after many days of hard work. During our evening church dinner, I met some people that lived in St. Charles until 2014. I couldn’t believe how small the world really is and how you can relate so much to someone simply because you lived in the same place.

DAY 6 – Work Day 4

Thursday March 23rd, 2017 – Details were our main focus at the worksite with flooring and starting the trim work on the windows and framing the doors. Cindy took us to talk with some current Habitat homeowners and hear their stories—to help break down the stereotypical view of someone who may need a home. Cindy also have us a lot of the background on what it takes to get a Habitat house. She also took us to her home on a farm where she hosts weddings and more! While relaxing that evening, everyone randomly wanted to how to dance to Footloose. We spent an hour trying to practice it. We did an ok job!

DAY 7 – Work Day 5

Friday March 24th, 2017 – Our last day of work was a half day so we could hike and explore! We finished up majority of the 11windows and doors trim work. We were proud of ourselves. Cindy gave us a picture of all of us and the house in the background. I have it hanging on my wall by my desk. Art took us on a trail he blazed himself, nowhere to be found on a map, with a great view of water falls. And after that hike, we went to another trail (mapped) and found another waterfall which was huge. We all had a great time just lying in the sun, listening to the water, and reflecting on how lucky we were to be in that place, in that moment, and on that trip.


When a Place Becomes a Home.

By: Kaylie Rosenkranz, Student, Spring Break Service Trip Participant


Community. Prayer. Simplicity. Service.  Bethlehem Farm’s four pillars couldn’t describe the farm’s magic more perfectly.  Bethlehem Farm was not just a service trip. It was a home.  From the very beginning when we arrived, the caretakers met us in the driveway and hugged us saying “welcome home.”  So many names were introduced to me all at once, I thought no way was I going to remember 30 other people that I’ve never met before. Yet, by the second day not only did I know their names, but their hobbies, talents, and personalities.  The caretakers, fellow students from UIC and Father Ryan High School, people of West Virginia, and us made a community a home.

Community. Yes, I expected to make some friends with others from different schools going on this trip, but I didn’t expect to make friends with the people living in West Virginia.  Community night was a night when neighbors on the mountain or people who the farm was helping with home improvement were invited to dinner and prayer. 17309382_10212062506618830_5165753652914561977_n  These people welcomed us into their community, told us their life stories, and shared their talents with us.  One man brought his fiddle and played music for us after dinner.  After everything they had lost, whether from last summer’s flood, fire, or unemployment, they still came with a smile on their face ready to enjoy great company and good food.  I learned something that night.  As long as I have faith, it doesn’t matter what challenges may occur, with His help, I will never be alone.  I will have a community that will help me.

Prayer.  We prayed before every meal, before we left for a work site, and with the family of those we were helping at the work site.  We also started and ended the day with prayer.  It was sometimes led by the caretakers or sometimes led by our work groups.  My favorite prayer was the one my group led.  It was closing prayer on the last day so we all felt like we were family. Out topic was love: love of ourselves, love of our neighbors, and love of God.  We talked about how all these types of love strength each other and help our faith grow.  We also found these types of love in the work we did at the farm.  Everything came full circle and we ended the night saying that we loved each other.  We truly did.

Simplicity.  This pillar was perhaps the hardest one of the week.  There was no technology meaning no phones, computers, or television. We even had an electricity fast one night.  The first day was rough, I was constantly reaching for my phone to text my friends or check the time, but then I realized that I didn’t have my phone with me.  Then, I asked myself the question, “Why do I need to know the time?”  It’s not like I knew what time the next activity was going to start. Time somewhat become pointless.  The concept was liberating.  I was free from the restraints of having a schedule which is something I always have at school.  Simplicity also meant saving the environment.  We had saw dust toilets and bucket showers.  I used both.  Bucket showers are now one of my favorite ways to take a shower.  The first time, it was only 30 degrees outside, but looking up at the sky while showering was amazing. A once in a lifetime opportunity to appreciate nature. the food we ate also reflected simplicity.  Most of the food was organic and came from neighbors.  This meant that we weren’t harming the soil with harmful chemicals or harming the air with CO2 when trucks drive produce to stores.  Bethlehem Farm taught me that I don’t need the comforts of luxury to enjoy life.  Everything I need is provided by nature God created.

Service.  The chores are never done when living on a farm.  We started the day with chores and then went to our work sites for 7-8 hours.  I feed chickens, raked leaves, cooked, pulled out nails from old wood, finished the siding of a roof, and started a foundation for an extension to a home. Even though it was hard work, I found joy in working with my friends and knowing that I was helping those were needed it.  Not only were we serving others, but we were ultimately serving God. We could see him through the people, food, and nature surrounding us.  God was present everywhere.

Without a doubt, I would go back to Bethlehem farm.  It’s a second home.  At first, I was looking for some big gesture or evidence of God’s presence while I was there, but then I realized that God comes silently.  I can feel the grass now.  We are on top of the hill looking out onto the vast landscape singing “Here I am Lord.”  Here I am.

Because I Went Anyways…

By: Nikki Merriss, Senior


“Change begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Roy T. Bennett

The quote above is on the back of a t-shirt I was given for a service trip with BREAKAWAY and I’m sure can be found in many other places. There’s a million reasons this quote is important, but I’d like to focus on what it means to me at the moment. Right now, this doesn’t just mean doing things I feel uncomfortable doing. I’m pretty accustomed to discomfort at the moment as far as my life is concerned. As a student who has worked as a camp counselor and orientation leader, has played a college sport, and has been a student leader for groups on campus, discomfort has become a way of life for me. For these reasons, I hold this quote near and dear to my heart. I’ve learned through my involvement that good things such as learning and personal growth develop out of stepping into the unknown. We learn from the scary experiences of doing things we’ve never done before, etc. Even with this knowledge, I still struggle with stepping into the unknown myself sometimes.

That being said, I have yet to seriously regret a time where I’ve stepped into the unknown. While sometimes I may not expect much from a situation or event, I always leave with something I value. It could be a friendship, maybe a lesson, or possibly even a new path directing me where to take my life next. But defining discomfort through the unknown is putting it too broadly. Sometimes we think we know how something’s going to be and make decisions based on that. This, I believe, is even more dangerous than simply deciding to opt out of something because of fear.

This brings me to defining what the quote above means to me at the moment. As a typical human, I attempt to predict the future and make decisions based on those predictions. The problem here is, people are really terrible at predicting how something might be. The average human who views the world with tunnel vision has a difficult time seeing beyond their idealistic predictions that skew reality. 30986589663_a0e9bf30ce_oLike any average person, I’ve done this too many times in my life. I’ve said to myself, “Well, it’s a waste of time to go here because it was boring when you went to a similar place.” But how similar are two places really? Aside from the typical McDonald’s chain kind of place, most places are pretty unique and unpredictable. Additionally, does a place really matter? Isn’t it the people that you go to a place for anyways?

Well, as the typical human I am, I once again made a poor prediction. I was asked about a month and a half ago to help lead a service trip with Appalachia Service Project in Jonesville, VA for BREAKAWAY. Right away, I took the opportunity because I was excited to work with the chaplain at my college, and I knew it would add to my experiences as a leader on campus. As the trip approached, I began dreading it more and more. In all honesty, I just wanted to stay home, work, and maybe watch some TV. I recently finished a long term at school, and all I yearned for was a little relaxation. The fact that I couldn’t back out from my commitment was the only reason I woke up at 5am to load up in a van and help drive our group of nine to VA.

I guess I could have come up with excuses to not go. Maybe I could have said I was having family issues, or I might have even said I simply didn’t want to go anymore. Based on the situation, I wouldn’t have chosen to opt out and I am absolutely thankful for that. Because I went anyways, I built deep relationships with eight other wonderful humans, I was able to serve an amazing family, I learned some valuable lessons, and I made some amazing memories. Going anyways, and doing anyways is what stepping out of your comfort zone is all about.

Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t always mean doing something even though you’re nervous. It doesn’t always mean doing something you’ve never done before. I live in the Appalachian Mountains, I’ve served people before, and I’ve worked alongside the chaplain to lead students before. Going on this trip didn’t add a ton of newness for me. I wasn’t nervous, I didn’t go anywhere I’d never been before, and I didn’t think I’d be doing anything I’d never done before. Because of this, I didn’t believe, at first, that I would be missing much if I didn’t go on the trip. I didn’t expect to gain a ton from going, but I’m glad that this trip showed me how bad I can be at predicting how something might be. The trip I had over DTerm to Jonesville, VA was nothing short of spectacular and I am overwhelmingly blessed to have gone. I made friends, made memories, and learned a ton.30955340264_5c8a992814_o

So I guess what I am trying to say here is that stepping out of your comfort zone is about doing it anyways. Doing even though you don’t always feel like it, doing even though you aren’t sure what it’s going to be like, and doing even though you’re afraid of the outcome. To me, there’s nothing more important in life than experience. We can choose to go out and learn by living, or we can just stay in and watch others live as the time passes us by. While sometimes it’s nice to just stay in and watch my favorite show, I am much more thankful for the times I decided to go do something even though there was a comfy couch sitting at home. By venturing out, not only do I have the chance to add a little something to the world around me, but the world around me also has a chance to add a little something to me. So next time you don’t feel like doing something, just do it anyways and see what happens. Maybe it’ll suck, but maybe it’ll be awesome. The 50% chance of it being awesome is totally worth it.

From Doubts to Denver and Back

By: Terra Johnson, Sophomore

This past Spring Break (2016), I went on my second BREAKAWAY trip. Along with eight other girls, most of which were complete strangers, I traveled to Denver, Colorado to work with Center for Student Missions.

I was so ready to jump into a new city to help the homeless population in whatever way I could. While this is what I was told I would be doing, helping them, I believe that they helped me. The week was much more than giving food and other necessities out to those who are in need. It was about forming relationships and building a bridge between “us” and “them.” Listening to people talk about their struggles changed my mindset about homelessness. Many people get involved with drugs and other messed up stuff, yes, but so many people are just handed the worst of luck, and through everything the have endured, they are strong and faithful and refuse to let their current status destroy who they are. Each person I came into contact with took away some of my ignorance and inspired me to put a halt on my initial judgements about any person.

 (We are pointing to where we are from individually and where we are, in Denver.)

 If I could tell students that were interested in BREAKAWAY one thing, it would be that committing is the hardest part. Actually deciding to go is the most difficult decision within the entire trip process. Once I was on the trip, everything fell into place. We became a family, and I learned about myself, the world, and God’s people. Looking to where we are as a group now versus where we were as a group when we left, I laugh to myself thinking that I had any doubts about enjoying the trip. Looking back on my own path before the trip, I realize how breaking out of my comfort zone has changed my outlook on my future and how God might lead me on a more service-filled path than I originally thought.

(This is, obviously, me with the group in the background, looking off in the distance majestically.)

Wisdom From the Mountains: Part 2

By: Nathan Kiehn, Sophomore

Part 1 covers only a section of the service trip I took with other North Central College people to the Appalachian Mountains. This is Part 2, continuing the lessons that I explored in Part 1. So much learning, so much growing over the week. This is a little longer than Part 1, so bear with me as I explore more facets of the Appalachian Mountains.

 A house is a system made up of interconnected parts. So is your life.

We worked at a couple of different sites over the week—three specifically—and one of these sites was the house where a man named Bill and his wife lived. We did a lot of different jobs around their house in order to make it more livable—painting siding, ripping up tile, installing a front porch, moving dirt and rocks—and we did a lot of those jobs under the careful and loving instruction of a grandfatherly man named Larry. He was our Gandalf who helped us face the Balrogs of daunting responsibilities, a selfless leader who didn’t just dole out tasks but worked with us side-by-side. And, somehow, he always managed to thread a life lesson into what we were doing in the most proverbial ways possible. We quickly grew fond of him and his considerate personality, to the point where we freaked out in excitement as he pulled his truck into Bill’s driveway on a day we thought he wasn’t going to be there.

                                                                              Bill’s house 

Eating lunch with some of us on that same day, Wednesday, he started a conversation by explaining the type of roofing Bill had and how it helped out other areas of the house. His point was that you couldn’t just view a house as a singular unit; you needed to see it as a system (this principle is very much modeled by his own house, which he graciously invited us to, a home he built himself and has incorporated elements that will allow him and his wife to live there for several years and not just accommodate them for the moment). Similarly, Larry added, our lives needed to be seen in the same light. Just like a house, our lives are not defined by one element, one characteristic, one event. There’s a lot that goes into the shaping of who we are as individuals, as people, and as Christians. We are systems in and of ourselves. I’m not sure if anyone since Jesus has woven such interesting parables that are so relatable. Once someone pointed out how frequent Larry’s wisdom was doled out, I couldn’t help but constantly overhear tidbits of knowledge.

Your hands are your primary tools.

This is a paraphrase of a quote I heard from one of the students, and it pretty much defines what we did during the week. We accomplished a ton with our hands. At Bill’s house, we stacked wood, moved dirt, tore up tile, and made a front porch, complete with steps and railings. At a community center, we replaced ceilings, scrubbed floors, battled glue, washed cabinets, and constructed a couple walls. At the house of another man named Denver, we repainted walls, installed shelves, placed carpeting, and fixed a bathroom. And a lot more that I’m probably forgetting or haven’t mentioned. When we weren’t working, our hands pulled our bodies up the side of a mountain, felt the cool touch of cavern water, rubbed rocks, prepared food, batted balls, and slapped down cards in heated and tense games. We used them to shake hands, hi-five, slap backs, hug.

                                                                         Moving dirt and rocks.

 Until I heard that line, I hadn’t really thought about how much my hands had done. I hadn’t seen them as tools, and I hadn’t considered all that we had been able to accomplish with only ten pairs of hands. We had other tools with us—hammers, drills, saws, paint brushes, brooms—but all of those required the use of the first tool God created. Now, having been stretched beyond the limits I thought I possessed, I personally know I can do so much more with my hands than I had ever allowed myself to do in the past.

“We are friends, we are family.”

 This is a quote taken from a Facebook post I wrote in regards to the trip. This isn’t me tooting my own horn or anything by quoting myself, but I wrote this to hit the nail on the head that this group is a family. My absolute favorite part of high school was my friends. I love them to death, and college had yet to provide me with another close-knit group of incredible people until this trip. Most of us started out as total strangers, but we’re all friends now. We spent hours driving in a big red van, asking questions, playing games, napping when we needed to. We chowed down on restaurant food, snacks, and food we prepared together and later cleaned up. We shared jokes and solved riddles. We took pictures as groups, as pairs, as individuals. We climbed a mountain, we explored the depths of a cave, we stunned each other with powers of wit and observation, we took in breathtaking views. We played fierce card games (seriously, these guys are crazy competitive), we smacked balls, we ran bases. We accidentally threw water at each other and purposefully dumped water on each other. And this is all without mentioning the hours of work we accomplished together.

                                           The gang after the drive up Spruce Knob.

Most importantly, we were there for one another. We stayed by each other when we weren’t feeling well, we endured dark roads, we checked on each other. We offered comfort and closure. We caught a darn mouse that had been terrorizing our room for a few days and gave it a name before letting it go. We listened. We cried. We sometimes just talked. We were open with each other, human with each other. Tender and loving and kind. That’s what friends are for, what families are for, and what these people were able to be to me during the week. We’re not perfect, we have differences, we probably teased too much or said wrong things at the wrong times. But friendship goes past that, and I think we were able to represent that kind of friendship pretty well.

“You always see the best in me”

One of my favorite songs ever is a soft rock ballad called “Best In Me” by Christian hard rock band Sent by Ravens (seriously, check it out when you’re done reading). I was jamming to it all week long during the trip, over and over, and I’m actually listening to it as I write this. It’s a beautiful song. Fantastic vocals, amazing instrumentals, and incredible lyrics. My favorite lines come from the second half of the chorus and go “I’m not that strong/Honestly, I’m not/But You always see/The best in me.” To me, the song is about being human with God specifically and other people as well, forgetting to be perfect because we can’t be. Not that we’re allowed to purposefully act like jerks or simply accept wrong things about ourselves and other people (“Well, I’m imperfect, so I better not try to be better”), but that we know we will fail and will be loved anyway. That is what Christianity is about, and this whole group showed that kind of love over Spring Break. Despite our flaws, despite our mistakes, despite our weaknesses, we showed love. We made each other stronger.

Honestly, there was absolutely no better way for me to spend my Spring Break or prepare for Easter. Like I said, I doubted. I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. But all those doubts were wiped away by the people I was with, the people we served, the service we did, and the God who sent me on this trip. Thanks to all who went, all who prepared, all who led, and all who made the week in West Virginia so special to me. It was a ton of fun, an awesome time, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it. Another line in “Best In Me” asks God “Am I something You can be proud of?” We know He is. With us, our work, our fun. That makes the toil, labor, and small amount of pain completely worth it.

Copyright: March 30, 2016 (Service Trip 2016) as published on keenlinks.com

BREAKAWAY Highlights Reel

By: Karli Saner, Assistant Director


BREAKAWAY is a student organization that serves as a resource for domestic and international service trips during D-term, Spring Break, and Summer vacation. BREAKAWAY seeks to foster educational, cultural, and spiritual growth opportunities for students as individuals and together as teams involved in these life-changing experiences.