Life as a Hawk

Official blog of the Xaverian Hawk

Xaverian Global Encounter 2011: West Virginia

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By Chris Swansey ’12

I had a really hard time describing to friends and family why I was excited for my April break this year. That’s because I gave up my April break to go on a service trip with eleven other Xaverian guys down in West Virginia. I told them that I would be without a phone or ipod doing physical labor all week, and I’d only get to take two showers the whole time. I was excited for the opportunity to serve the people of West Virginia.

Bethlehem Farm is founded on the four cornerstones of the gospels. They are prayer, service, community, and simplicity. These four cornerstones shaped our lifestyle on the farm. We would have two major prayers everyday in the morning and evening. We were also fortunate enough to attend a Methodist prayer service. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us as most of us haven’t been to a worship service outside of the Catholic faith. Also being Holy Week, we went to mass three times during the week.

My favorite part of life on the farm was the “campfire” style community we lived in. Since we were removed from all of our distractions like phones and ipods, we really got to know one another a lot better by spending so much time together.

Living on a farm founded on service, we were given the opportunity to make a difference in the local community. A common theme that week seemed to be working on metal roofs. My first service site was just that. My work crew consisted of four guys and myself. On our first day we drove up a mountain and ended up at the home of Bill and Joyce, a retired West Virginian couple. Bill had a metal roof that had been leaking due to big patches of rust and lots of rusted nails. we were given the task of removing all the rusted nails and replacing them with new clean screws.

The most captivating part of this experience did not come when I was trusted with a power drill, or even a power saw. Meeting Bill was among the most amazing experiences of my life. He had the most amazing land and scenery on top of that mountain, but all he did was “thank the lord everyday”.

Living in simplicity was more difficult than most of us had at first perceived. It was more than sacrificing our daily showers for the week. After every meal we were told to compost what was left on our plates instead of instinctively throwing it away. We washed our dishes by hand, and we were used one cup for the entire week. Living in simplicity is not a pretty lifestyle. But the lifestyle and the how much the farm reduces its impact on the environment was beauty to me.

The farm is mostly self-sufficient, growing most of its food on the land. All Everything else was grown or bought from local farms. We all developed a taste for the fantastic food that was produced from organic ingredients.

Our Global Encounter Trip made a significant change in all of us. We may have joked around throughout the week, but we were all serious about the change that Bethlehem Farm is bringing to the world. I know that now I always have another home in West Virginia.

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