The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia kept themselves busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they took the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. In our final 2013 MSA ASB post, Shamole Ahmed and Farhan Iqbal, our two site leaders, share some closing thoughts about the trip.
As you’ve probably heard by now, this year’s Muslim Students’ Association’s ASB was an amazing experience. Besides being able to enjoy the Southern hospitality provided by the Grandin Court Baptist Church, we got to work with Feeding America in their Southwest Virginia center, where we cleaned, sorted, and packaged food to be distributed to food banks nearby.
Others have already mentioned many amazing parts of our trip together. We would like to recap some of it, adding our own perspective about our work, our journey, and most importantly, the people we were with.
It didn’t take longer than the car ride down to Roanoke, Virginia, for many of us to get well acquainted with each other. While some of us may have known each other before the trip, most of us didn’t really know each other. The car ride down was a good opportunity for all of us to have to interact with each other more.
The first thing we did upon arrival was to attend a church service, which Sarah Khan recapped. For many of us, it was our first time attending a religious service of a different faith. It was eye opening for many of us, and we highly encourage people to go out and attend services of a different faith. Whether it be at a church, synagogue, temple, or another house of worship, you will likely learn something new and have a good experience.
What we got out of the service was complemented by the hospitality that the members of the Grandin Court Baptist Church (GCBC) displayed. Some of our ASB-ers agreed that never in our lives had we been treated so well by people who 1) weren’t family and 2) didn’t even know us. As the other blog posts mention, we found baked goods in the kitchen for us every day after work, and the church members even cooked us dinner one night. However, it wasn’t the tangibility of their kindness that shone through. It was the fact that they wanted to sit down and get to know us as individuals; that they took the time out of their day to come chat with us on a regular basis – different people on different days, just checking in to see how we were doing. It was as if we had left our pampered lives in Ann Arbor to be even more pampered in Roanoke. They spoiled us–that’s for sure. And we did nothing to deserve that level of hospitality.
As our work week began, we started to appreciate the size of our group. The 14 of us were able to develop a somewhat substantial connection with everyone else. We tried our best to keep ourselves all together, and we felt the benefits. We were always in the same places, doing the same thing, eating the same food, and so on. It made us feel this sense of brosterhood that would probably not have existed had we separated for anything. The most beneficial part of being together, though, was definitely the ability to pray five times a day together. Prayer in groups is beautiful, and it is even more beautiful when it is with such an awesome group of people. Alhamdulillah.
Our work itself was indirectly rewarding. We had cleaned, sorted, and packaged food to be distributed to food banks in the Southwest Virginia area. It was somewhat tedious, but I think most of us got through it by reminding each other about the impact we would be making. Ideally, we wanted to see our work benefiting someone directly, but this was definitely affecting a larger group of people, which is what matters more than our own personal selfishness of physically seeing the rewards of our efforts.
Overall, the bonds we made with each other by cooking together, praying together, and, well, doing everything else together, are bonds we hope will only strengthen as time goes on. We enjoyed being able to get away from Ann Arbor, and we encourage everyone to capitalize on this opportunity in the future, whether it be through the Muslim Students’ Association or going on one of Ginsberg’s separate ASB trips.