More Than Just The Destination – Axtell, NE


After a short three-hour drive, we were finally there. Axtell, Nebraska. I always go back to the moment our group found out where we would be spending our service trip at. We put together some letters and saw that is spelled out “Axtell, Nebraska.” I remember reading this with a feeling of emptiness. What could we possibly be doing in Axtell, Nebraska?

Our first day was perhaps the most memorable for me. It was Sunday, which meant church. We had just gotten a tour of Bethphage Village, a campus for intellectually disabled individuals, where we were spending the week. Our group split up so that we could begin transporting individuals from their homes to church. We had heard about the church before, but no one could have prepared me for the service we were about to attend.

It was hard not to be overwhelmed when I first entered the church. There was so much going on around me. The music was loud, people were yelling, and I couldn’t figure out where I should be going. And yet, it was in this moment that I knew I was in for a treat. Everyone around me was happy. I looked around and all I could see was smiles and laughter.

Throughout the service, anyone and everyone could join Pastor John while he was preaching. If you wanted to stand next to him throughout the service, you could. No one was going to tell you no. If you wanted to go dance while the music was playing, you could. Dancing was actually encouraged. Noises and comments were made throughout the entire service, even while Pastor John was preaching. But yet, no one cared. Pastor John continued throughout the service. It was one of the most welcoming and accepting environments I’ve ever been in. You could see its impact on the people in the church. Every soul within that church was glowing.

axtell

A couple days later, myself and another member of our group went to go hang out with some of the people at their home. Most of the people who lived here were nonverbal. We didn’t really know what to do. We tried to find different activities that we thought some of the people there might have liked. At first, we improvised a game of Apples to Apples. We both picked a partner and off the game went. We would read the category, and have our partner pick the card they wanted to play. This went on for a long 15 to 20 minutes, before we lost the interest of our partners. What next?

Next, we tried a puzzle, hoping that this would be more fun than the Apples to Apples game. But, as we opened the puzzle, no one wanted to put it together with us. We were out of other ideas, so we went ahead and started the puzzle anyway, hoping that someone would eventually join us. Not too far into the puzzle, Tracy joined us and helped us finish it. And it was so much fun. Tracy got us to sing, told us the funniest jokes, and was the best at putting the puzzle together. All we had to do was get the puzzle out.

After reflecting on the my time spent in Axtell, I can’t believe that I let myself feel so empty at first. Instead of being excited to spend a week with amazing people, I let the location determine how I felt. I often catch myself thinking about the future. And that’s all I think about, instead of enjoying the moment. But, throughout my week in Axtell, I was forced to think about the present. I was forced to enjoy the moment. And I saw so much more.

Now back at Creighton, I think about those times where I was forced to live in the moment. At church. Making a puzzle. Singing songs. All these moments were so simple, yet so pure. It was these simple moments where we were the happiest. And it’s those simple memories that I’ll remember.

Ethan O’Hair
Class of 2020

 

The SCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the SCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.