Marianna Florida

Malvern juniors went on a service trip to Evangel Church in Marianna, Florida to assist a community in their tornado relief efforts at the end of January.
Marianna Florida

In January, 16 students and 5 chaperones traveled to Marianna, Florida, a small town in a remote area of the Florida Panhandle, for a Christian service trip to help with tornado relief. During this adventure, we learned a lot about ourselves and other communities far from our own. 


The trip started at 6 am at the Philadelphia International Airport with a bunch of eager kids ready to embark on a long day of travel. When we arrived at Evangel Church many hours later, it became apparent why we were there. The town of Marianna was devastated by a tornado just a week before we arrived. Even though the town was struggling, the spirits of the people were still high.


Everyone we came across expressed gratitude that we were there and were so happy around us. When we came across people from the town, they thanked us for the work we were doing, and it was really nice.


Walking around the church’s campus, where we were going to stay for the next week, we saw all the buildings that were on the ground, trees that were torn down, and debris everywhere. We got a short tour of campus and saw all the work we would be starting in the coming days. We finished up the day having dinner all together at “The Hub”, where we ate every night.


The first full day started off with a church service at a non-denominational church, and that was unique. The service was in a theater of sorts, where the band and preachers were on a stage, and all the congregants were in chairs on the floor. I went in not knowing what the service would be like at all. I liked the different experience, and other students had different opinions about the service. Malvern Junior Sean Martin discussed how this service differed from Malvern mass.


“The [mass] was very different from the Malvern mass, so it was very interesting to get another experience of practicing faith,” Martin said.


Throughout the entire week, there were three different services at the church. There was Sunday service, a youth group on Wednesday, and a service for recovering addicts. Going to all these services was very different from my normal experiences at a church. I liked these services; they were much more upbeat and loud than our normal Malvern mass. Seeing all these people gathering multiple times a week to celebrate God was pretty cool. The way these people celebrated God was very distinct as well. A lot of the congregation was chanting, singing, and dancing.


Later that day we went to CHROME, which stands for Christ Helping Rescue Oppressed Men Everyday. We learned all about religion based recovery, and I never knew about this type of rehab. Hearing all about how many people have been saved from the dark places they were in was pretty inspirational. During this visit, we also played tennis baseball with them, which is a very popular game there. We all got very into the game, and it was very competitive with all the students and some of the guys from Chrome playing. It is a good opportunity for those guys to get out and active during their busy weeks. 


On Monday, we started our work on the campus. Throughout the week, we spent hours each day doing manual labor. The first two days we spent demolishing an office building that got soaked all the way through from the tornado. For most of the guys, it was harder work than anyone had experienced. Spending the days ripping up carpet and ceiling tiles was exhausting and physically taxing. Malvern Junior Nini Sindoni talked about what this work meant to him.


“It was hard work, but overall it was nice because you would see the people you helped but also know how much we were helping would make you feel really good,” Sindoni said.


Knowing how thankful all the people in the town were was really cool. Watching this building be taken apart in two days compared to if a company did it it could take a week or two was great. It made us feel really good and accomplished. 


Throughout the rest of the week, there were many other small projects such as cleaning debris and moving water-logged furniture into dumpsters. These were gigantic desks, and it was so hard to carry these massive desks outside. The workers at the church are so busy all the time. They did so much to help with whatever we needed, like cooking, or getting us more supplies, on top of their normal roles. They were always having meetings and building things too. It was very inspiring to see and know how much help and work we put in for the town and church. 


The biggest project was putting up walls in the donation shelter. The church received a bunch of donations from townspeople, and all these items were put under a big roof. The walls, however, were just large tarps to keep rain and wind out. So for the entire week, groups of kids would go to frame walls to transform this roof into a full building. At the end of the week, we finished up the walls, and it was really cool seeing what we made. This thing that was just covered in tarps and a roof was now a full building because of our work. 


On top of all the work we did, all the guys got a lot closer. I went down to Florida with three of my close friends, but the rest of the boys I wasn’t super close with. After the week of hard work and living together, I got much closer to everyone, and it was really fun. Not knowing what this experience was going to be like, and a lot of the trip being new experiences and manual labor was really cool, because at the end of the day it was a really great experience.


At the end of the week, a woman came over to our cabin and told us all about how much help we had given, and how important it was for us to be there and give our time to help people. Malvern campus minister Mr. Goyer weighed in on his experience.


“When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and you imagine what it would be like to be served and cared for in the way that you did that for someone else really sums up the whole experience,” Goyer said.


Walking around campus the last day, and looking at all the work that we did in such a little time was very uplifting. I loved how it felt to help people in need, and the whole trip was overall a really rewarding experience.

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