Photo by Jesse Drake.
A group of Lewis students attend a mission trip to Goshen, Ind. hosted by University Ministry.
Lewis University offers a lot more than just academic opportunities to its students, as most of the student body knows. The number of sports, clubs, and other organizations where like-minded students can gather and create a unique experience is fundamental to college life, especially here. However, one such organization, Campus Ministry, may not receive recognition for such things because of a nontraditional manner of functioning. Rather than just gathering on campus and providing the space to bond with each other in a more private manner, this group challenges its members to actually branch out beyond the confinements of what they already know in order to learn and grow.
Campus Ministry puts on a few different trips known as LUMINATE, which stands for Lewis University Ministry Alternative Trip Experience. Students travel out of state to different communities that need their help, generally with volunteer work, and work in accordance with five core values.
However, many students at Lewis know very little about these trips, or the new understanding of the world that generally follows with them. To better understand what these trips do, Jake DeMarias, the Coordinator of Ministry Service, agreed to an interview about his own experiences with mission trips, in his now professional setting, but also as a student.
“My first college mission trip was to Washington DC, where we stayed at a homeless shelter,” said DeMarias.”But a unique element was that we were there during President Obama’s inauguration for his first term. This created a really interesting dynamic, because here we were, eating and living alongside many African-American homeless people, while the first African-American president was being sworn in. So, while it seemed like the U.S. was taking a major step forward to many, I realized we still have so far to go.”
This created a new understanding for what service means to DeMarias, and is something that is emphasized in the trips offered at Lewis. “On the trips, we have students lead by other students,” said Demarias. “The goal with that is to have leaders and members encounter other people and places and learn from them together, at the same time. We don’t have the relationship of superior versus subordinate; they are peers and both recognize they have something to offer in conversation — and something to learn from each other.”
Travel is a major aspect of what service means to Lewis Ministry. “Students take a journey together, and when that happens, it gets people outside of their comfort zone,” said DeMarias. “It can be difficult, but eye opening. They might be familiar with poverty in Joliet or Chicago or elsewhere in northern Illinois, but to see it in a rural setting can make them realize how much poverty affects every corner of our country.”
Overall, these mission trips are about education in a social way. Students bond through hard work as volunteers, as well as conversation with those they are providing for and through the overall community they are working to benefit. Service goes beyond religious and spiritual growth; its a commitment to justice, and knowing that there actually is something we can do for people in need. And possibly, along the way, there might be something that those people can do for you.
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