Jesuit's Communications Assistant, Mark Stine '15, was one of the chaperones for the Jasper, Ga. service immersion mission trip from June 1-8, and he wrote about his experience below:
Rarely do I look forward to a nine-hour road trip.
But for months before the service immersion mission trip to Jasper, Ga. departed on June 1, I was giddy with excitement.
This was my second year as a chaperone for the week-long, summer mission trip, and I had never been more prepared to face a drive along a 500-mile strip of tarmac, as well as the Atlanta traffic, to get to our destination in the Appalachian Mountains of rural northwest Georgia.
The energy on this trip is different than others I've been on. The drive up to Jasper is where, as a group, we pack into passenger vans, lay down our concern for ourselves, and prioritize the concerns of a community. It was evident that on this year's trip, all 23 attending students did this.
Greeted by a welcoming youth center for shelter and a delicious, hot meal provided by parishioners of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, a beautiful give-and-take relationship was rekindled, building on a what was established 10 years ago on the first Jasper Mission Trip. (This was the ninth time that Jesuit students have served the Jasper community).
The first day was powerful. The students broke up into small teams and deployed around the region to help with tasks such as painting, pressure washing, and various forms of yardwork. They quickly realized that the mission trip wasn't about the work as much as it was about the people they did it for, many of whom are older and retired.
This rang especially true in the case of two students who were sent to simply give a dog a bath. The gentleman who owns the canine suffered from a bad back, disabling him from bending over, and his wife was in critical care in the hospital. While small, this example showed all of us that meaningful service comes in many forms.
It didn't take long for the students to realize poverty comes in many forms, as well. Whether it be financial, physical, emotional, familial, or spiritual poverty, seeing the students realize that a meaningful conversation can mean as much as, if not more than, the physical labor they provide was most satisfying.
For the majority of these teens it was their first time in Jasper, and you could see their perspective of what it means to be "Men for Others" evolve with the completion of each task. For six students - Ryan O'Sullivan '23, John Lebron '24, Devin Stevens '23, Carlos Pasquotto '24, Lucca Rodrigues '24, and Lucas Sallet '23 – their return to Jasper for a second year thrust them into leadership roles, and they commonly took charge and taught others on the job.
By the end of the trip, 30 households, 5 community centers and a small business were helped by the Jesuit students in some capacity, as they completed more than 600 hours of community service. In addition, they also experienced the region's natural offerings through a whitewater rafting excursion on the Ocoee River and a Sunday at the lake provided by an OLM parish family.
None of the work would have been made possible without the incredible compassion and reception from Fr. Tri John Bosco Ngyuen and the parishioners of Our Lady of the Mountains.
In addition to the church providing shelter and food throughout the trip, several members of the parish's chapter of the Knights of Columbus helped with the mission trip's organization, transportation to job sites, and on-job supervision. One Knight in particular, Matt Moore, annually plays a vital part in organizing the many job requests submitted by Jasper residents. On the trip's final evening, he addressed the students.
"You all set an example for this community to follow," Moore said. "Christ brought people of all communities together, and that's what you've done here."
View below a photo slideshow from the Jasper mission trip, and below that is a listing of all of the participants.
Students on the Jasper mission trip: Daniel Dewey '25, Ethan Gillet '24, William Gray '24, Ronald Hardin '24, Sean Hyer '24, Christian Irvin '23, Robert Johnson '23, John Lebron '24, Landon Lee '25, Alex Mastandrea '23, Alex Nocco '25, Ryan O'Sullivan '23, Carlos Pasquotto '24, Gian Pastore '25, Eric Rein '24, Kai Rodrigues '23, Lucca Rodrigues '24, Lucas Sallet '23, Devin Stevens '23, Chris Tan '23, Tony Tejedor '23, Connor Vance '23, Lorenzo Viteri '23.
Chaperones: Matthew Kuizon '11, Frankie Machado '21, Mark Stine '15, Corey Perich, Fernando Rodrigues.