Puerto Ricans had already lived through the infrastructural stress left from Hurricane Irma mere weeks before Hurricane Maria struck with the strength to incapacitate the entire US territory. With the failing of the entire electrical grid, inoperable water systems, and the eradication of thousands of houses, the Category 5 Hurricane left almost none of the 3.3 million population unscathed in some way. As donations flood the island from all directions, the need for additional manpower must does the same.
During the Thanksgiving school break, three GAC mission teams ventured away from home to serve those in need of more than turkey. One of the groups, appropriately called the ‘Go where God leads us’ team, traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to aid the local nonprofits enduring the demand-swell for services.
While there, the team of 30 middle and high school students worked with two nonprofits focusing on environmental stability, community organization, economic development, violence prevention, and orphanages.
“I feel there is so much more we can do,” trip leader Kristen Wright said. “I may go back to leading a team that changes locations based on need; but for now, I think this is where we are needed the most.” For a team that responds to the greatest need, the work still undone will not be accomplished easily nor quickly.
As the “Go where God leads us” team was just one of the three GAC mission teams active over the Thanksgiving break, close to 100 students created powerful bonds with others while serving.
The other two teams served the local Atlanta population with the nonprofit 7Bridges serving the homeless and addicted of the city, and in Mexico with Cuidad de Angeles serving an orphanage. These relationships can become the foundation for yearslong relationships with nonprofits and the individuals benefitting from the work done.
“I sponsor a little girl named Cristina,” Junior Ashley Meyer, who served on the Mexico trip, said. “It is so cool seeing all of the relationships the people who have never gone [on this mission trip] before are building.”
Ongoing mission opportunities not only allow students to serve others throughout their time at GAC, but also gives teachers another avenue to be more than just a teacher. Senior Sarah Kester knows the prolonged impact that the GAC community has had on the populations that she has visited. “Some of the teachers I had in elementary school are currently sponsoring kids or are on the board. [We can have] a profound impact all the way in Cozumel.”
Not only do teachers regularly continue to contribute to the nonprofits or lead trips after one experience, but they also are able to see their own faith through a new lens. Atlanta trip leader and high school Anatomy teacher, Tim Ball said, “When you go down and serve alongside with the 7Bridges Ministry, you begin to understand what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
GAC students and faculty alike serve whenever possible, even if that means sacrificing their own familial traditions to make another family’s better.