Spiritual Life at California Baptist University creates local service projects for students to participate in each school year. These urban excursion trips are an opportunity for students to serve the Southern California region in various ways.
An all-women’s team of students visited the female inmates at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility on Nov. 16 on an urban excursion day trip. Students had the opportunity work side-by-side with the chaplain during part of the chapel service, share the gospel with the residents there, and invest in fun activities with the residents, such as art, basketball and fellowship.
Julie Dobbins, director of Compassion and Women’s Ministries in Spiritual Life, explained the goal of this trip was to make the young women in the ward feel loved and cared for not only by CBU students but also by Christ.
“We wanted to be a community that shares truth, life, conversation and fun with the people that were there,” Dobbins said. “We have so many opportunities for students to engage in conversation with people who have had very different life experiences, which helps them to grow in their confidence to share their faith, expand their understanding of different circumstances and hardships and be aware of how we can serve others around us.”
Spiritual Life regularly partners with nonprofit organizations in need of assistance from urban centers. This allows CBU to gain knowledge of the best ways it can serve the community. There are many areas in and around Riverside that are in need not only physically, but also spiritually. Urban excursion trips expose students to the needs of their community and give them practical ways to make a difference.
Rio Guzman, senior sociology major and intern in Women’s Ministry at Spiritual Life, explained how she was impacted by this experience in Ventura.
“My favorite part was getting to know the girls and hear their stories, how they have committed their lives to Christ, and about how they want to grow more spiritually,” Guzman said.
Kathryn Spangenberg, senior early childhood studies major, said she has been on an urban excursion trip with CBU every year of college. One thing that surprised her about this Ventura trip was how she was able to relate to the residents there, even though they lived completely different lives.
“This trip was an extremely eye-opening and humbling experience. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, challenged me and gave me a completely new perspective of that environment,” Spangenberg said. “These people are just people. Even though their circumstances are different, they themselves are not very different from us. This experience broke the stereotypes of correctional facilities and their residents.”
Spangenberg also explained how this experience was spiritually encouraging for her because she saw that these residents were so grateful to have chapel services and to have a relationship with God. Even when they are unsure of what to do, many of the young women find their hope for a better future in Christ.
This trip not only allowed students to serve and make a difference in the community of Ventura and its youth corrections system, but it also allowed them to gain new perspectives and refresh their faith.