Formation. It is a word that we use frequently, in dozens of contexts. There can be a formation of rocks, a formation of cheerleaders, and formations of people. However, what occurred before the 2011 Fall Break Service and Justice Trips was not a stagnant group of stones or a organized group of people. It was a process. A process that is intended to prepare a group of eager, apprehensive, worried, and excited individuals alike for a week-long experience into a community they are more than likely unfamiliar with.
This formation took the face of coordinator preparation, general meetings, individual group time on and off campus, and a send-off service. As these groups of students came together and potentially met each other for the first time at the first general meeting, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that you cannot throw strangers together into a program like a service trip with no concept of what the intention of the trip is. This formation is preparation. Preparing each student with the tools needed to have an open mind, to understand that they will be in a new, foreign community, build a community with their individual group as well as with the larger FBST groups, and to explore the 7 pillars the Center For Service and Justice are founded on. Without these tools, we would be strangers in a foreign community, hoping to “make a difference” with some students I hardly know.
Saturday evening I arrived back at the Harper Center Parking Lot from my trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the Capuchin Community. After having a truly amazing week, I think back to where my group was at before we left. Yes, it is true that we learned and were shaped in a way throughout our trip, but we could not have learned in the same way if we were not at the educated, exposed, prepared position we were in when getting into the van that first Saturday morning.
Before we left, we watched and discussed a movie on homelessness, came together as a community to be missioned at the Send-Off Service, were educated through pillar presentations as well as guest speakers, and established our love for laughing through the meetings the past month. As a coordinator, I would not have been able to break open and expose everything we did in those meetings through one week of reflection (without taking the entire van ride to attempt it as well) and by having that time set aside beforehand, coordinators can apply and relate instead of merely teaching or explaining. It also took time for our small community to come together and learn about each person’s story and character, and without the preparation of coming together beforehand would most definitely have been in a different place on the trip. Formation can be a process, and it was through that process that our group was ready to embark on a week that was, personally, extremely influential and a week I will not forget.