The University of Minnesota’s annual spring break trip to Myrtle Beach had a rather inauspicious beginning - a massive, 15-passenger transit van pulling a U-haul trailer.
As students loaded their luggage in the trailer and strategically placed backpacks and pillows claiming their seats in the van, nervous anticipation hung in the air. Would we all survive the 26 hour car ride ahead? Was it a huge mistake to squeeze fifteen people in a fifteen passenger van? Would this somewhat random assortment of staff and students actually become friends?
Every year, Campus Outreach sends students from our Twin Cities campuses down to Myrtle Beach, SC, for spring break to stay at and work on the Summer Training Project hotel, enjoy the beach, and grow in friendship with each other.
The beauty of the spring break trip is how conducive it is to deepening friendships. There’s just something about cramming into a van, driving for two days straight across the country, and spending the following week doing everything together that bonds a group of people quickly and deeply. As friendships deepen, so does trust, making it easier to have conversations about faith even when you don’t believe in the same thing.
The group of students from the U of M who came on our spring break trip represented a wide spectrum of religious beliefs. We had students who grew up in the church and identify as Christians, and we had students who are atheist or agnostic with no interest in Christianity. And yet, despite these differences, we found that the friendships cultivated on our trip created the opportunities for open and honest conversations about faith between students, no matter where they were at.
Every morning, we ate breakfast together and discussed questions about various Bible passages. In all of our discussions, we were trying to answer the question, "Why is Jesus relevant for you right now?" The majority of students at the U of M don’t see a relationship with Jesus as something that is relevant, necessary, or beneficial. We wanted to start a conversation about why we as Christians think that a relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in the entire world. Over the course of the week, we talked about eternal life, relationships with others, and purpose. As everyone became more and more comfortable with each other, it became easier and easier for students to open up, ask questions, and be honest about the things they like and don’t like about Christianity.
As Christians seeking to spread the good news of what Jesus has done to students on a very secular and skeptical campus, we’ve seen that friendship lays the best foundation for honest conversations about faith. Although spending 26 hours in a van together or playing spikeball or exploring Charleston might seem inauspicious, we found that those shared experiences with students provided us with so opportunities to have conversations with students, listen to their stories, and share about how Christ has changed our lives and can change their lives as well.
Campus Outreach Minneapolis
U of M Campus Staff