Lessons from Santa Barbara: Student Reflections #comments4kids

Last week Anastasis Jr. High spent the week learning and serving in Santa Barbara, California. Below are their reflections from the trip.

 

Whether we were tackling each other in the sand, riding bikes through the rivers, sliding down waterfalls, or hiding beneath the stars, my lips were constantly lifted into a smile and my heart was beating in a rhythm of joy; Santa Barbara will always be a place of memories and echoes of laughter in my head. When plunging into the cold water my spirit plunged into a zest for adventure. When the tires of my bike slowed in the mud my mind seemed to slow, which caused me to live in the present, not the past or future. When we served the people who didn’t have homes, my heart felt like it was the one being served. Two of the adventures that stood out to me the most were the Seven Falls and chapel at the Rescue Mission. The Seven Falls not only allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, but also allowed a new communication throughout our class. We struggled a little, but then we found our strength. Encouragement and hands reached out to me and helped me get to the top of the falls and the excitement and water did the rest. I saw the beauty of God’s creation not only in the holes of water, but in the care of my classmates. At the chapel, my soul felt alive. While hearing the worship songs be sung, I listened to the lady clap in front of me; it was beautifully off beat. I could see the true love and gratitude flowing out of her, and the room seemed to brighten. Sometimes I sing the songs and read the verses, but my heart only sways slightly side to side; in this chapel my heart danced. Each year Santa Barbara holds a different experience and every year I come back wishing I never had to leave.  –Megan

Going to Santa Barbara is a great time to get out of our comfort zones and build community. Getting out of your comfort zone is important because we will get new experiences. We have so many chances to step out of our comfort zones, but do we take hold of that opportunity? Over this trip I got that chance to step out of my comfort zone. On Tuesday of this trip we went on a bike ride, and we crossed rivers and rode around and through big rocks. This made me step outside my comfort zone a little because I wouldn’t normally choose to do something like this. On this bike ride I got to connect with some of my class mates and get to know them a little bit better. Even small things like getting to know someone better can build community. Community is a great thing, I really got to connect and build community with my class at 7 falls. We really helped each other out and showed community. This trip is so fun and I love going ever year to build community and get closer to my class. — Lauren

Santa Barbara, California is a beautiful place to visit, both to the eyes and to the soul.
Yes, the area was full of palm trees and beautiful horizons, which is wonderful, but I got to experience something more amazing than that, too: community. I met new people like Jon (our guide) and his family, and I got to strengthen my bonds with my classmates and teachers. We had a great time, no doubt because of adventures like biking and surfing, but absolutely because of friendship. I had a bunch of laughs when Macie put some kitchen liquids in my hair and spiked it up, not to mention when Alli and Lauren kept copying me when I spoke, but I also had a great time when Jack, Mitch and I decided to take a small adventure by sleeping outside for a night as opposed to wear we normally slept. Community is what really made the trip enjoyable. — Jackson

Sometimes the best way to feel alive is when you are in a new place, with new experiences and people to do them with you. Santa Barbara was not only a door to exploring, but also led to friendships and teamwork. A specific adventure strengthened my views on what it means to work as a team and build one another up. We went to 7 Falls and had to hike upstream in our tennis shoes and eventually climb up natural rock slides. The rocks were slippery and everyone struggled  to find that boost of endurance to keep them going. Finally someone made it to the top and immediately provided a helping hand. Each of us hoisted one another up onto rocks trusting that someone would hold us so we wouldn’t fall. We learned it was not a race to the top, but how we could use our strength to empower, help, and trust those around us. We learned to not be discouraged by our failures, but simply laugh at them and get back up and try even harder. The 7 Falls hike was not only beneficial to my character, but to our bond as a class and I am assured it has strengthened it in the process.   –Macie

Learning outside of the class room walls is the best way to get an education. In school we learn about math, science, language arts, history, but when is school going to teach you about life? Santa Barbara was an amazing trip that I gained so much knowledge on. Serving at PATH was an experience I will never forget. Talking and hearing these homeless people’s story’s is what will stick with me my whole life, not an A on a test. It’s beautiful to see a community with such wonderful stories gather together. Helps me realize that they shouldn’t be called the homeless but the hopeful. Each one of them showed hope through everything that they were going through. That’s something that a test at school can’t teach you. Learning outside of a class room also allows you to step outside of your comfort zones, to face your fears head on. In Santa Barbara I faced my biggest fear of sharks by swimming in the ocean. It helped me get over this idea of being eaten by a shark just by swimming in the ocean. Can sitting in a class room teach you that? Teaching people the word of God to people who have lost it is something you can only do. It’s showing others your faith in the Lord and possibly changing their loves forever just by expanding the class room walls to the edges of the earth.  –Angelina

Having a heart is more than loving yourself. It’s being able to look outside of the glass world you live in and putting a smile on someone’s face. It’s noticing when someone’s having a bad day and needs a kind word kindly spoken. Kind words spread across your heart, but kindly spoken words get rooted deep where no one else can find them. While we were in Santa Barbara, we discovered everything from little creatures at the depth of the sand floor to the water slides at top of a water fall. We didn’t just turn Santa Barbara inside out looking for adventure and activity, but we turned ourselves inside out looking for community and love. While we were looking for community and love within ourselves, what we were really looking was a family that was waiting for us to jump aboard. Santa Barbara is a trip that I will never forget, and it will be the trip that I remember as when I searched deep within myself but found something better in others. –Mak

God is good, and that definitely showed in many ways during last week. I got to bond with all of my classmates, form stronger relationship with my teachers, and have the best time trying new things I’ve never done before. It was so much fun I want to stay for another week. Just because we couldn’t that made our time together so much more precious. I don’t have a favorite part about this trip because all of it was equally amazing. I got to surf, play sand volleyball, cliff jump, have lucky charms at midnight, mountain bike, and many more activities. But if I didn’t do any of those activities and just had my classmates and teachers sitting down together talking and laughing I would be just as fun. My friends were the trip. We bonded so much I am in a loss for words. Since most of my classmates are  graduating this year we really had to be in the moment and not think about the future.”Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.”-Unknown. All my friendships with my classmates and the memories that we made together are impossible to leave behind us. I will forever remember this trip and so stoked to be going again next year.  –Chachi

Santa Barbara was not only a trip where I can laugh, learn, and bond with new people but it is a place where I can grow my relationship with God. Santa Barbara is a place I will always remember and never forget. Through out this trip I never had a frown on my face ecept maybe when we played bean boozed. I was always laughing with some one weather it was laughing when Lauren got stuck in the quick sand or just laughing in the van. Every day I learned something new. When we were hiking the 7 falls hike I learned that we need each other to help us acomplish something. I also learned that team building is a very important skill to have. It is important to communicate and solve problems by useing each other’s ideas. On this trip I bonded with new people I only knew on a serfice level. I got to talk a lot with Maddie on this trip on the bike ride. As we were walking our bikes across the river we laughed and had a great time. My biggest take away of the whole trip was getting to know God through different prospectives. By doing the bike ride, surfing, and being in nature without my phone I got to experience God through simple things, like listening to the ocean or birds chirping. Overall this trip had so many highlights and lessons that I will carry with me through out my life.  –Alli

I walk out on this rocky path and explore. I explore beyond the 10 percent of who I am, who my neighbor is and the world that I am standing on. I start to see groups collide and start being transformed into one. I can feel the positive energy rise, and when the energy starts to drop I know it will rise again quickly. I experience caring, laughter and bonds of friends becoming one big family. Finally I slide off the rocky path while facing a fear. Then I open my eyes and realize that I am standing in a stream of water, with sand at the bottom of my feet and with a new family who is with me when I am afraid and when it’s time to go on another adventure while making memories.  –Maddie

At Santa Barbara we did not go just to play but we strengthen our community through these adventures and serving others. On the first day we got there we strengthen their community by climbing up these falls with no steps nor anything to hold onto, we just had to boost each other up and trust each other, that they have had our backs. We also had to trust the rocks like we have to trust God.
You had nothing to stand in your way except for yourself because you could do it if you believed in yourself. Even though you might not want to do it you would regret not doing it. We strengthen community by getting away from technology and not  always having our phones in our faces.   For example Lauren and I had nothing to talk about on the way there but on the way back we were full of conversation. Also getting to know people with out the stress of daily life and just being in the moment revealed a new side of each person. Over all I would go back again thousands of times and learn more about my classmates.  –Lauren

Going to Santa Barbara was an adventure to remember and to build community. Building community with classmates that I rarely hangout with made me grow stronger trough my friendships. I remember when Jackson, Jack, and I went outside to spend a night outside. We all learned to go out of our comfort zones. Climbing up the water slides on the seven falls hike made our community better and better. I know that this was my last time going to Santa Barbara but at least we spent our time well.  –Mitch

Reflections from a Pilgrimage by Team Fink

After a phenomenal discussion on our 2nd religious pilgrimage, I asked the students to write a succinct one to two sentence take away from our outing(s).  I thought it might be interesting for you to read.

Pilgrimage #2 takeaway: (Buddhist and Hindu Temple)

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

Religious are wonderfully different.

By knowing more you’re seeing more.

I don’t know how it’s going to work and how I’m gonna get there, but what I believe I know, that’s faith and through God and faith I’m gonna get to where I need to be.

We may have different beliefs or practice different religions, but still we are all people and human.

By knowing more about other religions you become closer with other people.

The more we don’t know about someone, the more we dehumanize them.

Discipline can draw us closer.

Religion is yet a great way to get closer to spiritual realm and can live life in peace and love and giving to others. At the same time Religion is like a war, a battle within.

The absence of knowledge is fear.

We have different beliefs, yet we are all human.

Differences can be beautiful.

A few other quotes we have been discussing:

“What if, instead of casting ourselves as people who can explain God to others, we viewed our lives as a void into which God speaks?”  –Selmanovich

“Religion is not the pearl, but the shell that holds the pearl.”   –Samir Selmanovich

“The human heart is an idol-making factory.” — John Calvin

“God rid me of God”.  –Meister Eckhart

Reflections from Costa Rica…

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Some Costa Rican reflections from the 8th grade class of Anastasis Academy:

“Reciprocal Evangelism”
Missions, evangelism, spreading the gospel.  What does this mean?  Are we called to convert people or simply love people?  How should we witness? Christ associated with all, served humbly, engaged in conversations, and showed compassion and love. They will know we are Christians  by our love.  We are the hands and feet of Christ. St. Francis advised us to, “go forth and preach, and if you have to, use words”.  God, thank you for  Riana, Caleb, Edith, Camilla, Johnny, Jherson, Mario, Walter, Marco, Fiorella, Alan, Bianca, Melody, Christian, Eric, Caesar, Sebastian, Ruth, Alana, Krsna, Fernando. — and so many more Ticos who encouraged and loved us.  Perhaps they were the true evangelists. Our prayer is that we were able to encourage and love them back.

“Universal Language”
When I commonly think about people speaking other languages, a barrier comes to mind that lies between the different languages because we can’t ‘communicate’. Then again, does communication have to be limited to talking? My 8th grade class all traveled to Costa Rica together, and we were able to first hand experience the universal language. This language could even be soccer. While some of the Tico’s and our class played a game of soccer we all found a common interest and joy. This language could also be music. While in the car, the radio was playing the song, Titanium by David Guetta in Spanish. Although, our class all sang it in English and the Tico’s sang in Spanish. This single moment was extremely powerful to me because we didn’t need to have a translator or use our hands to get a point of joy across. Everyone just was jamming to the music and having a good time. After this trip, I go back to the thought of the barrier and why it feels like there is a limit to each other. One day we went to a school and played games, made crafts and just hung out. At this school I meet a boy named Marko. Marko sat away from the other kids, so I went and sat with him asking if he needed any help with the craft. Although Marko spoke zero English and he spoke way too fast for me to even kind of understand what he was saying, I just sat there as he made his craft. I could tell he was unique and special. He made me feel very happy while I was with him, the kind of happy that words can’t amount to. This was a sublime moment I don’t think I could forget. This universal language only consists of emotion, because that is something every single living thing shares. Communication doesn’t only consist of the words to say, but the attitude and openness you share, so truly there is no barrier.

“Costa Rican inspiration”
Over the week we were in Costa Rica there were many things that inspired me, such as the attitudes of the Ticos. The attitudes of the kids in both the schools we went to were amazing, the people on the streets we saw on the first day, and our new friends from Conexion where amazing. The kids had little to nothing, yet they still had such amazing attitudes. They always had a smile on their faces. One day we went to a school and we played soccer on a patch of dirt with an old torn up soccer ball and two broken off slabs of concrete for each goal, and yet the kids still had a smile on their faces. In the U.S., the ball that they were using would be considered garbage, but they didn’t care it made them happy so they played it. Some times I wonder if its bad to have life as good as we do with all that we do, because all it brings is greed and anger.

On the first day we walked down the streets and nearly every person we saw had a smile on their face. When you are in the US and you smile at some one a lot of the time you  don’t do it because you care, but when you are walking down the streets of Costa Rica and some one smiles at you, you can just tell it is genuine. I want that to be me when I walk down the street and smile at some one. I want that smile to affect their day. And last but certainly not least our Conexion friends. Specifically Jhairson, Johnny, Mario, Caleb and Jonathon. These guys specifically had the most impact on me because they were always so welcoming and willing to help. They always made and served us our breakfast and dinner no matter how early or late we needed it, they also did it with a good attitude. When we were playing soccer no matter how bad we were, they always made us feel like we were doing ok. The way all these people acted inspired me to have a better attitude and help people more with a good and joyful attitude.

“Enjoy Coca Cola”
Simplicity is bliss. While in Costa Rica, my class and I learned about the simplicity of life in the Tico’s point of view. Their way of life is one full of joy; seeing the world as a pleasure, seeking the Holy Grail. They find pleasure in not the superficial things but the in-depth view of life. When we first arrived, we had lunch at a family’s house. As we ventured out of the van, I was confronted with a group of young kids playing baseball. Not only was this baseball, but the bat was a coke bottle and the ball a dog toy. Most American kids would expect a great bat and a real baseball, but not these kids. They make do with what they have and don’t complain. I truly believe simplicity is bliss and we take advantage of the things handed to us; instead we should find joy in little things.

“An Orientation of Sorts”
The sun was shining brightly, and we all were feeling optimistic, nervous, and exhausted all at the same time (But mostly optimistic). The Costa Rican air held traces of the sea and the sun (and livestock) as we wandered around the ginormous marketplace. Everyone around us was speaking Spanish, however, it felt natural in a way. As we threaded through the crowd, we were feeling exhilarated and ready for anything. Eventually, we stopped at La Parque de Central, or Central Park, to eat some fruit that we had purchased earlier, and eagerly surveyed the bustling streets of San Jose. We stopped at a large market full of interesting items, and ended up spending a large percent of our day there buying souvenirs for our families. As we rolled away from the beautiful, busy city that was San Jose, we were deeply satisfied with our day, and were excited for our short stay there in the gorgeous country of Costa Rica.

“It’s the Little Things”
Mission trips are often misinterpreted. The ‘normal’ Christian mentality is that we are going to go hand out bibles and convert everyone we see. But what is it really? I believe it’s the little things, like holding a child’s hand, or trying to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language, or simply making the effort to be loving. It is encouraging others and taking the initiative, not necessarily converting others. During our trip, I felt the most encouraged when I was speaking to this little girl named Camilla in Spanish about her doll she was making. We quietly sat there together as I watched her draw the people she cared most about.

“God laughs and plays”
Edith, one of the older volunteers with Conexion, was an inspiration to our team.  She did not speak a word of English but the joy of the Lord and the fruits of the spirit overflowed from her.  She always had a smile, went out of her way to serve, and did the jobs no one else wanted to do.  She prepared the arts and crafts, she swept up the room after the activity, she painted by hand the places the brushes weren’t reaching, she sang, she played soccer, and she worshipped God through her actions.   I had a standing joke with her that if she spoke her Spanish ‘mas rapido’ (quicker) to me, I would better understand.  She would carry on with the joke, speak super fast so I would be clueless, and then burst into laughter.  I saw God laugh, play, and serve through his Costa Rican vessel.  Thank you God for Edith!

“Meeting Alana”
It was our fourth day in Costa Rica, and we were driving down to help out at a school. We brought our art for the nations bags and laid out different activities for the kids. Micah and I were partners, and we didn’t talk as much to the kids as I intended to. Our fourth group came and it was a group of four girls. Once they sat down,  I remember thinking to myself, “Ok I am going to talk to these girls”. Well it turned out that they knew some English, and they kept asking me questions like “Where do you live”, or “How many siblings do you have”, etc. As the more I talked to them, the more I focused on this little girl. Her name was Alana, and she was the cutest little girl ever. She had brown hair, straight across bangs, big green eyes, and the most vivacious laugh. I still have the vision in my mind of her waving her little hand at me saying hello or goodbye. Alana reminded me as myself when I was little, just the way she laughs and smiles when she sees someone new. How loyal and welcoming she was just kind of reminded me of myself. The moment I knew we were friends was at the end, and we were all taking a picture, and I kneeled right next to her and she wrapped her arms around my neck and held on as tight as she could. Till this day, I can still see her smiling at me and I will never forget her.

“The Conexion team”
During the whole trip to Costa Rica, we were with an amazing team called Conexion. Everyone that is on the conexion team are volunteers. Yet what made this team special was their attitudes. Some of the Ticos, couldn’t even speak the same language, yet there were the most outgoing and amazing people. For instance, Johnny was our driver and sort of our tour guide. No matter what time in the morning he would be there and he would do everything with us. The day we left, our flight left at 6:30AM, but we had to be at the airport by no later than 4:45AM. When he showed up at the compound at 3:45 he still had an amazing attitude.  Another example would be with Jonathon and Caleb. They did not speak the same language as us, yet they still became our friends and had a huge impact on all of us. They always played soccer with us and would joke around with us. None of us cared if we spoke the same language because we could use the language of the world. Never let a language barrier stop you from letting you connect with others.

“Nature through my eyes”
God works in mysterious ways in nature. My first time in Costa Rica, and I saw more vegetation than I ever have before. Costa Rica’s nature is so breathtakingly beautiful that you can’t even comprehend it all.  Sure there may be garbage and stray dogs, but if you look deeper, you see Gods array of colors and beauty. A couple of people from my class and I went to walk on the beach one evening, and a stray dog started to follow us around. At first we were obdurate towards the dog and tried to get him to leave, but when we noticed that he never intended to hurt us, we let him tag along. It turns out he was full of energy and was pretty good at making sure no harm came to us. These little things make you think differently about a lot of what’s going on in others lives besides our own. When we made it to the beach that night, I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to, but the smells and sounds made me feel at peace with everything. Humans never seem to live in the moment anymore and that really can cost us later. The one thing I regret from being in Costa Rica is not taking in everything and not continually ‘living in the moment’.

“Pura Vida”
The skyline gates, the dirt ground, the children in this school, and the sun shining so bright.  These kids can have their days lit up by a simple smile from my face. Their simple lives are inspiring, with such little they have, I was blessed to have the opportunity to even play soccer with these wonderful kids. A little girl named Melody and I were making beaded bracelets and I showed her how to braid the string with beads. She made my day with how every time she added a bead she would tap my shoulder to show me with her bright eyes and huge toothless grin. She inspires me everyday to be aware of how a simple smile can change a person’s attitude for the day or even the week. The second school I went to, I was making paper chains and a boy named Christian came up to my station and asked me to make him a flower. I tried my hardest to make the best flower possible. I later saw him give his paper flower to a little girl from a younger grade who was sitting alone and the smile on her tiny face was unforgettable. After that, children came up in dozens asking for flowers! It was amazing how a mere paper flower can make these kids, with near to nothing, smile. These experiences make me think how good I have my life as far as shelter, clothes, water, food, and family. God can do great things.

Thank you to Conexion, Impact, Sascha, our parents, and our school for supporting us and allowing us to do this unforgettable trip!  This opportunity gave us a great dose of “Pura Vida” that we will not soon forget.

Mr. Fink and the Great 8!!