ASB Update: Mahnoor Asghar

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia have been busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they take the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. Mahnoor Asghar, one of the ASB-ers this year, reflects on her experience with Feeding America and Grandin Court Baptist Church from Wednesday.

Salaams lovely brothers and sisters,

Today [ed: Wednesday] was our second full day of service at Feeding America, how exciting! We were all feeling enthusiastic, especially since we knew what to expect after our first day. During our break, we discussed our intentions and how important it was to refresh them constantly, instead of getting lost in the routine of the work or the conversations we had with each other while sorting food. We reflected on our experiences while snacking and enjoying each other’s company, making our breaks just as essential to our trip as the actual service work, albeit in a different capacity.

The highlight of our day was definitely dinner. The food, a hearty meal of salad and lasagna prepared for us by the Grandin Court Baptist Church, was fantastic, but the company was even better. We dined with several members of the church community, including Pastor Kevin and his wife, Reverend Brandon, Reverend Melissa, and Patti. We took the dinner as an opportunity to get to know each other–the interfaith dialogue was refreshing! It was fascinating to see how both our faiths have overarching themes of God-consciousness and self-improvement. We discussed some of the sectarian differences and traditions in both Islam and Christianity and how it’s a bit unfortunate that religion can be so divisive when it is meant to be a great unifier. However, it was encouraging to see that this was one challenge we have in common and that we can hopefully overcome together.

During dinner, our church hosts kept expressing their appreciation of us spending our spring breaks doing service in their community. Honestly, we are undeserving of their praise. It’s complete coincidence that we are packaging the food instead of receiving the packages; the status we are born into in society is arbitrary, and we can only take responsibility for how we spend our time and wealth.  If anything, the GCBC deserves praise for their hospitality. Everyone here has been so considerate and there have been multiple occasions when we’ve walked into the kitchen to find it stocked with snacks and baked goods for us. To be honest, I think we were all a little taken aback by our hosts’ genuine kindness and conscientiousness; their generosity is unexpected and their open-mindedness inspiring. We should do our best to implement such a welcoming environment into our own communities!

While we might call this a service trip, I think we all gain just as much as, if not more than, we give. Holistically, our trip consists of so much more than just the hours we spend sorting food in a warehouse. It is defined by the people we meet, from James, our incredibly enthusiastic quality control manager, to Dr. Kevin, the eloquent pastor of the GCBC. It is defined by the relationships we build with communities and organizations like our host church and the local businesses we visit. It is defined by the companionship and camaraderie with our fellow ASB members, which is strengthened by our daily reflections and nightly games of Taboo. Perhaps most of all, it is defined by our intentions to grow closer to Allah by serving a community and by our goal of carrying these sentiments of service and compassion back to our home communities after our trip comes to an end. Until then, we look forward to the rest of our time in Roanoke, Virginia!

ASB Update: Sarah Khan

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia have been busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they take the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. Sarah Khan, one of the ASB-ers this year, reflects on her experience since arriving on Saturday, March 2nd.

Grandin Court Baptist Church introduced us to the true meaning of Southern Hospitality. With their homemade treats and accommodating facilities, the people there have been nothing short of amazing in their generosity and kindness. We were fortunate enough to be invited to Sunday service, and for many of us it was the first time we’ve been able to sit in on a service. It was a new experience that I found enjoyable. In the church we had complete strangers coming up and personally welcoming us. This treatment reminded us of the importance of being kind and of how as a Muslim community we need to welcome and encourage others outside the community to join us, whether socially or in worship.

The service itself was interesting; we constantly outline the differences between our religions, when in fact there are tenets that hold true in many religions. The sermon was about outer and inner cleanliness and how our status is not an excuse to treat others poorly, themes that as a Muslim I know well. The service was filled with singing and music–a unique experience for me, yet one I enjoyed. There was a genuine sense of community and family within the church, and even as a visitor from Michigan, I still felt accepted into the community. The Grandin Court Baptist Church deserves a great big thank you for giving us an incredible experience and hospitality.