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2024 Spring-Break Service Trip Recap

As the final weeks of winter persist and the last moments of the Lenten season soberly prepare us for a resurrection celebration, we find ourselves at a wonderful point to listen to the restoration stories that are taking place now, even as we wait and yearn for the final and ultimate restoration. One of the ways we get to witness this current restoration is through the reflections of students who were recently immersed in the work that Christ is doing in the rural landscape. 

Over the Grove City College Spring Break during the last week of February, a group of sixteen college students, representing all class years and a diverse range of majors, set aside rest in order to serve churches partnered with the Center for Rural Ministry. Visiting three churches and four pastors, the team glimpsed the fruits of faithful service and steadfast love being lived out across radically different contexts and challenges.

Serving and Learning Close to Home

New Castle, a neighboring town to Grove City, is home to many families who hail from long lineages of rural living.  From contributing to a basement demolition to leading worship for the Sunday service, the team got to witness how the body of Christ at Christ United Church continually invites the community to step into their church.  While in this region of Pennsylvania, the team also got to have dinner with another local pastor (Jim Moose of Unity Presbyterian Church) and hear a testimony of resilience and enduring devotion to serving God’s Church. Reflecting on these experiences, Victoria Kim, a multiyear trip participant and leader shares, “What hits us the most is when the pastors are really real about the hard struggles they’re facing.  You can’t help but be drawn into wanting to serve, but at the same time your heart breaks for the hardships there.”

Students join pastor Jason Schepp and congregational leaders in prayer at Christ United Church.

Learning from a Young Pastoral Couple in Indiana County

Pastor Eisenhuth leads a discussion in Marion Center, PA.

In Marion Center, the youth in the local school district are hungry to learn who Jesus is. Serving in a school outreach that has grown from six to sixty kids, Kyle Eisenhuth, a young pastor at First Methodist Church at Marion Center, is passionate about reaching the marginalized. Hungry to hear about the team’s thoughts on youth ministry and youth culture, many brainstorming sessions filled the time that the team spent with the First Methodist Church. 

While in Marion Center, the team also ministered to a nursing home and the church body with worship, prayer, and devotionals as they learned about the context surrounding the church. “One thing that stood out to me after hearing Molly [Eisenhuth’s wife] talk about conversations she’s had with people about ghosts,” shares senior trip-participant Grace Anne Shaw, “is that there are aspects of pagan culture still alive and well in the U.S. Realizing this is a wakeup call to rethink Christian mission in the U.S.” (Catch a glimpse of the group's heart for small congregations and their conversations in Marion Center by checking out our video on the trip.)

The Power of the Gospel in Jeannette

Students lend a hand at Mosaic Community Church in Jeanette, PA.

In the final days of the trip, the team visited Mosaic Community Church in Jeanette, Pennsylvania. Jeanette is a striking town to set foot in—once thriving and successful, the town produced much of the world’s glass supply. However, when the industry moved overseas, the economy of the town collapsed, and its ripple effects continue today in the form of formidable poverty rates and racial tensions and crumbling family units. (For more on the story of Jeannette and Mosaic Community Church, check out our video "The Long Haul.")

Stepping into and serving Mosaic Community Church, the team was exposed to the blessings and hardships of cross-cultural ministry.  In a town where an abundance of children don’t know when they’ll get their next meal, a safe place to eat, learn, and be loved is their favorite place to be. Filling a deep, persistent need, Mosaic’s after-school program is a powerful and difficult place to serve. Having spent an afternoon with these kids, one of the ICO leaders, sophomore Nevada Pacifico, remarked, “The Lord has had those kids on my heart ever since leaving there.”

What Sets This Trip Apart?

A week of serving, listening to, and caring for God’s Church is the mission of every Spring Break service team that Grove City sends out—so what makes the CRM spring break trip unique?

Participating in the work of the CRM means that the context the students serve in is the context they live in while at Grove City College. Senior trip-participant Anna Ortiz expressed, “I learned a lot about the context of Grove City through learning about other rural contexts. It’s crazy how unknowledgeable I and probably most people at Grove City College are to what Grove City actually is.”  Immersed in a rural context even while on the college campus, Victoria Kim shares the most vivid takeaway from the trip: "We never leave our mission field.” 

With a weekend left between the end of the trip and start of classes once again, many members of the team stayed on campus and continued to serve—from attending an outreach event at Christ United Church to leading worship and a devotional at the Grove City Nursing Home, Shaw remarked that it “felt like the trip kept going but we were in our home context.” The CRM spring break trip is distinct because “the people who are doing this trip are not doing it because its apparently flashy and exciting, but because they’re excited to serve and learn our context and what God’s doing in this region,” expressed Shaw.

Looking Toward the Future

If you are a Grove City College student, you have the opportunity to join the team next year and learn how to serve and love the Body of Christ right where your feet are.

If you are a supporter of the CRM, you have the opportunity to financially support the mission of the CRM spring break trip; to find the CRM giving page, click here.

This trip is free for students to participate in so that students may continue to be unhindered in their pursuits to serve and learn from faithful ministers in often forgotten, local places. Your monetary contributions will enable students to more easily devote their break to listening to and learning about their context and about what faithful service looks like rural Pennsylvania. In this week, they see what it looks like to lay aside church consumerism and bear the cross of loving the Body of Christ well even when it’s hard and unglamorous. And the impact of the experience doesn't fade after the week is over. Echoing again and again in each of student-participants’ reflections is the sentiment that this week-long trip has had a massive, lasting impact on their understanding of how to live out long-suffering love and service as faithful laypeople of the church.

Emma Ruby, raised in central PA, is a writing intern for the PRM and a senior studying English, Christian Ministries, and Redemptive Entrepreneurship with the hope of spending a lifetime doing vocational ministry.