The Office of Spiritual Life is providing students with an opportunity to serve in their local communities through Urban Excursion trips to San Diego, Feb. 26-27, and San Fransisco, March 11-16.
Two trips are offered every semester for students to see their community through different eyes. Teams of 10 to 30 students travel to help churches, homeless shelters and other outreach projects through the partnership of local churches and nonprofits.
“The biggest benefit is the perspective to see the need in the local community which we often miss,” said Lisa Cross, graduate assistant for Compassion Ministries in the Office of Spiritual Life.
Cross said she encourages students to have an open mind and heart and to be willing to serve and be flexible.
Applications are available the first day of each semester for the trips that will occur in the following months. Most trips take place within California to allow students to connect to urban areas close to the university.
“I wanted to have my eyes opened to the needs of people near us,” said Matthew Reyes, junior exercise science major and member of the fall Los Angeles Urban Excursion team. “For some reason, it is harder to serve the needs of local people, perhaps because the spotlight is usually on overseas ministry rather than on local ministry.”
During the fall Urban Excursion trip, Reyes had the opportunity to serve a Japanese senior nursing home by making crafts, playing bingo and sharing the gospel. The team also visited the residents of Skid Row, downtown LA’s largest homeless community, to serve and aid them during the trip.
“I loved how grateful and kind the homeless people were to have people serve them, give food to them, and especially listen to them,” Reyes said. “This showed us that they are people just like us, people who cherish when others treat them as individuals who are valuable and made in the image of God.”
Joshua Koster, sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major, served on the San Diego team during the fall.
“San Diego has one of the largest homeless populations in the nation,” Koster said. “Urban Excursion changed my outlook on my surrounding communities by showing me that there is a lot of need wherever we go.”