So, wow. Our first days in Rochester have been amazing. The stories I have heard from everyone here are amazing. They have been filled with plenty of stress, being tired, and tested by more than one way, but everyone, in the end seemed to be very happy.
My first day was not very hard. My Monday was full of laughter and joy. And how could it not when you are in charge of 3 year old pre-school children, and Dance Dance Revolution.
I have been posted at Nazareth Elementary. Most often I have been working with the “Pre-3” class that they have there (three year old preschoolers) and it has been nothing less than amazing. My first experience was reading with the children, which was a blast. It is nice to have an attentive audience to provide gasps and laughs throughout the story. Perhaps my favorite experience this entire week has been P.E. with these children. By this point we have developed a relationship. By relationship, I mean that every time I walk by the children excitedly scream “MR. BIEDERMANN!” , but of course in their high pitched word slurring ways of three year olds. Also, their P.E. class consisted of a rockwall that the school has downstairs by their gym, and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR).
One memory I am confident that will be with me until the end of my days, is a group of 12 three year olds, standing behind the three participants of the game, dancing and singing along with the music. It was possibly the most heart-warming experience I have had.
Although not everything was a DDR experience so far, it has been an amazing experience thus far over all. I look forward to coming home and sharing stories of the week with all. Have a great spring break. I know I am.
Its Monday night here in Rochester and the day is just winding down, we just finished our evening reflection and prayer and are getting ready to settle into an evening of games with these “crazy sisters” as they have been affectionately labelled.
I am serving this week at Hope Hall, a school where everybody has an auditory processing delay and more often than not it is coupled with some other health issue or learning obstacle. In addition to that, 87% of the students at this school live at or below the poverty line. I have been very blessed in being able to serve at Hope Hall for the last 2 years on this headlights trip as well. This being my third year at Hope Hall I had some sort of an idea of what to expect, but of course you can never know everything. This year I am working in the middle school’s social studies classroom (Hope Hall is grades 3-12) so I had 2 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes. I had some experiences today that really impacted me in a way that I have never seen at Hope Hall. I worked one on one with a boy named Dustin that had just transferred to Hope Hall last week. He is a 7th grader, but at the public schools in Rochester he was locked in a room and served as an aid to severely handicapped kid, he has never really received an education of his own, so his reading level is that of maybe a 3rd or 4th grader. I worked with him on a worksheet to get him caught up with his class and on his homework. It was easy to see that he was discouraged by all that he didn’t know but I could also see that for the first time in a long time he had hope that he might be able to succeed. It was a huge blessing to be able to see that moment in his life. I definitely felt that God used him to show me just how blessed I was in the privileges i had growing up and still have today.
The other moment today that truly touched me was when a girl I had worked with last year asked for my help on her homework because she remembered me, and as she told everybody she encountered when I was around today “she took a picture with me last year.” I cherish the pictures I take with my classes every year but I had no idea that they cherished those pictures, pictures that they never saw after I left the school last year, I had no idea the students remembered those pictures, or even the fact that I had been there before. I don’t know if she will remember me 5 or 10 years from now, but I know I will never forget her excitement or the joy I saw in her that had come from an interaction with me. I saw God in her face today, she found joy in the simple things, and she will never know how much her memory of a simple item such as a picture meant to me.
Hope Hall is a place that has changed my life, it has given me hope, it has made me consider my circumstances, it has encouraged me to open my eyes to the lives of the people around me, it has shown me love, it has shown me joy. I will miss Hope Hall after I graduate this spring more than almost anything else I got to experience during my 4 years at Carroll.
Just while writing this, I was able to have a conversation with 3 girls on our trip that I would never have had if I hadn’t had these specific experiences at Hope Hall. Hope Hall has been a blessing in my life, and I hope that someday you all have a chance to visit a place as wonderful as there, and to know people as compassionate, loving, joyful, courageous, giving, and determined as the people there.
Thank you all for your prayers and support!
Love and Peace in Christ-
ps playing signs with the sisters is incredible!
Greetings everyone! It is a brisk and sunny day in Rochester, NY. We are about to head out to our service sites for the first time! I will be working in an innercity soup kitchen for most of the day, then going to visit elderly throughout the community. I will be working very closely with Sr. Lorraine and couldn’t be more excited.
Upon arriving in Rochester an overwhelming feeling of joy seemed to work its way onto our faces. It was a long day getting here starting at 4:30AM, with three flights, and two long layovers. The Sister’s of St. Joseph of Rochester drive a big white van, and we were all very excited to see it at the end of the day. We came home to a wonderful warm meal and smiling hello from four of the sisters. With fun stories along the way, we had made it to our destination.
Throughout the long day the Rochester crew got to know each other through laughter and naps on the plane. When you get a group of people together to serve, it is almost like there is a unique connection. As the night went on and turned into morning, another wonderful day approached. We prayed over the city of Rochester and the sites which we’ll all be working at. Taking time to slow down and reflect on what it is we were here for and further allowing us to serve to our fullest ability. Through the experience so far, I have discovered that going on a ‘service’ immersion trip is not only about immersing yourself in service; but, also in the loving grace of Jesus. With morning prayer sessions, and nightly reflection with prayer I believe He is bringing us together in a very special way. When you open your heart, small miracles seem to happen. I cannot wait to see what He will bring into our lives today while serving and being together.
Peace and Blessings from Devan in Rochester!
It is Monday morning here in Rochester and most of our group is on their way to their service sites. Taylor and I have a little bit of time before we depart for St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center. I thought I would attempt to summarize our time since departing Helena early Saturday morning.
We arrived in Rochester, NY on Saturday evening after stops in Minneapolis and Detroit. With each leg of the journey, the group’s excitement level grew. Srs. Donna and Marilyn met us at the airport and we happily crammed ourselves into the short bus for the drive to their home in the Southeast section of Rochester, observing the city lights along the way. Srs. Lorraine and Barbara had a warm meal waiting for us on the stove after we found our rooms and made our beds quickly. We spent the evening getting acquainted in the house and our hosts and played many rounds of Catch Phrase.
Sunday morning brought with it a day of opportunities. Our group joined Sr. Marilyn for mass at a local parish. The celebrant talked about mountain top experiences during his homily. I couldn’t help but think about this trip to Rochester as a mountain top experience for myself. This is my second trip to Rochester with Carroll students and often look back at the trip last year as one of several peaks in my life over the past year (a series that includes marrying my wife, Brittany, who is also on the trip this year and the adjoining of our families). After lunch and some relaxation, Srs. Donna and Marilyn led our group on a tour of service sites as we “Prayed the City” and prayed for the sites and our group members serving at the locations. It’s more than amazing to see the impact that the Sisters of Saint Joseph have throughout the city of Rochester. From a daycare center, schools, a neighborhood center, and a soup kitchen to name just a few, these women serve so many throughout the city. (See photos of our service sights at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/carrollheadlights).
Sunday evening was spent in community: dinner with Sister Mary Lou, the congregation president, evening reflection and several hours (and the accompanying laughs) of games in the living room. All of us were amazed at how quickly the time went by.
All of a sudden it is Monday morning and all of us have shared morning prayer together and wished each other well as we have departed to serve this community. I’ll be excited to hear about the experiences later today.
Thank you for your prayers and help along the way. This is an incredible experience for these students. Brittany and I are fortunate to share this experience with them. I look forward to sharing more throughout the week.