NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.– After graduation, a group of 12 students and three Westminster staff members journeyed to Alaska for this year’s “Experience Alaska” service trip. This is third year that the Office of Faith & Spirituality has given students the opportunity to not only see the breathtaking views of Alaska, but also the opportunity to spend time reflecting on their own personal journeys and serving the communities in which they were staying.
The group began their trip in Anchorage where they met with Westminster alumnus Matthew Schultz ’95. Schultz is the head pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Anchorage, Alaska—where the Experience Alaska team stayed for a part of their journey. Additionally, Experience Alaska partnered with the Presbytery of the Yukon to organize its service projects for the duration of the trip. These projects allowed the students to volunteer at local organizations such as: Bean’s Café (a shelter for those without homes), Children’s Lunchbox and the Hope Center (a soup kitchen). Other activities included learning about permaculture living at a bioshelter and volunteering at Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Food Bank of Alaska. The team also led worship at First Presbyterian Church in Anchorage and the Palmer Community Church (P.C.U.S.A.).
The educational side of the trip continued in Palmer, where the group toured the Valley Community for Recycling Solutions and learned how landfills and trash affect not only humans, but also the animals and the environment as a whole. Moreover, the Experience Alaska team visited homes in Palmer to learn how people are using more environmentally friendly methods of living. After the group led a church service and visited Denali National Park, they traveled to Fairbanks for the final leg of the trip. There the students and staff volunteered at Bingle Camp with recreational activities and led evening reflection times for a Youth Retreat sponsored by the Presbytery of the Yukon. After a couple days at the camp, the Westminster team spent some time in Fairbanks before returning home.
Experience Alaska takes Westminster students out of their comfort zones and challenges them to see the difference they can make in their own communities and lives. The team will share their experiences during a Sunday evening Vespers service in September.
*Written by Kendall Graham