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.

Called to be a Light

By: Alexander Dungan, Sophomore

I would like to think that my faith in God has only grown stronger over the past years. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same about my faith in Christians. I grew up with the church as a second home but, nowadays, I hear so many stories in the media about ways in which the church is hurting people in our world.

Then comes along a conference like Imagine What’s Next 2016.

13718574_1292801030744970_5593908471131663083_nWhen we first walked through the doors, Shane Claiborne (future Lux Veritas speaker) was already part way through his presentation. He talked about religious freedom. He talked about the Mexican border wall. He talked about people going to jail. And what he said reminded me just what exactly the church was meant to do.

Instead of using religious freedom to advocate for legalized discrimination, Shane talked about invoking religious freedom to serve communion to the homeless even though sharing food was against the city laws. The communion bread eventually turned into pizza but it was still the body of Christ, right?

Instead of using the border wall as a means of division, Shane talked about how there was an organized event where people would gather together from both sides of the wall and sing worship songs. They served communion too, chucking pieces of bread over the wall.

When there were no public bathrooms and homeless people were arrested if they went outside, Shane and his group marched with toilet seats around their necks and signs reading “Pee for Free with Dignity.” The also hung banners outside of a vacant church that homeless people weren’t allowed to sleep in that said “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and turn one away on Monday?”


He also told a story about a nun he looked up to as a mentor. After hearing her “final goodbyes” when she was sick, he called to see how she was doing. Apparently, this old nun had gotten better and even gotten arrested for activism a few days earlier.

I have to admit that I wasn’t at that conference for more than 15 minutes before I was subtly trying to hold back tears. It was amazing to be able to hear all of these stories of people breaking the law and getting arrested and wearing bathroom products in the name of Jesus. That’s what the church was called to do: help people by being a pesky nuisance to those in charge. From my time at North Central, I have learned to respond to stories of people getting arrested with “Wow! That’s awesome!” rather than “Oh, I’m sorry.” I also learned just what ministry can be. I knew puppets and Sign Language and marital arts could be used for ministry but I never thought of sculpting, or drawing in sand, or Scrabble, or bird poop could be used for such amazing purposes. People who say that their gifts can’t be used for ministry no longer have any excuse.

Throughout the conference, I heard so many amazing stories of the wonderful things the church has done and can do. At the Center for Civil and Human Rights, I got to have discussions that so many people try to avoid and it was spectacular.fb_img_1479224839700 I even made a few friends on my own which is not easy for me to do in less than a year. Surrounded by weirdo, social justice warring, Jesus freaks, I felt like I didn’t need to be cautious when approaching people. I even took a selfie with some random guy because I liked his shirt! It was different than the usual. I mean there was a Ferris wheel, and polar bears, and Olympic-themed parks, and unlimited foreign soda but I still felt as comfortable as I did at home.

Overall, I think that if I can take one thing (because there are really millions) away from this conference and North Central in general, it would be that I am not called to be a silent church-goer. I am called to make noise. I am called to get in people’s way. I am called to get arrested like a crazy, old nun. I’m not just called to be; I’m called to be a light, an annoying, imposing, purple strobe light, but a light nonetheless.