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A gift earned through giving

For more than a decade, the Rev. Dr. Diane Mowrey, Queens' chaplain and professor of religion, has taken groups of students to Guatemala during spring break. The goal of the Guatemala outreach is to build relationships and to deepen one's exploration of faith. Over the years students have built bathrooms and roofs - and even a rabbit hutch - but most importantly they've forged relationships with the people they visit.

Participants have come back with a better understanding of who they are, about God's role in their life and of how God works in a world beyond the one they've known, Mowrey says.

Senior Allison Gaskin shared what she'll always remember about the recent trip:

"Sometimes it is not what you give, but instead what you are given. "Not to be served, but to serve" is the motto Queens embraces and a motto that people of a different ethnicities, cultures and countries understand.

In our preparation for our trip to Guatemala, many members of our group thought that it would be us serving indigenous communities. However, it was quite the opposite.

The Guatemalans we built relationships with weren't raised in a materialistic society nor wealthy homes, but instead thrived off love, kindness, and joy. It didn't matter that there were sometimes bugs crawling on a kitchen table, nor that the chair they asked us guests to sit in wobbled.

Their kindness extended to the food they prepared for us; food they worked hard to supply.  It was about the love they showed through letting us in their homes and giving up their beds to us, total strangers to them. The joy that spread across their faces as the language barrier was beaten down with laughter through spoken attempts at English and Spanish.

While we did our part at serving, through hoeing terraces, chopping fertilizer, and painting, that is not what the Guatemalan mission trip was about. Members of this trip took home, more likely, a bigger gift than we left behind.

The Guatemalan people are humble and the fact that they are willing to give despite the little they have is unexplainable. Their actions serve as a lesson to the members of the 2011 Guatemalan mission trip, to understand and remember the joy and love that comes from serving and the impact simple acts of kindness can make.

We will take these lessons and not only apply them to our lives, but also share them with others. Part of serving others is continuing to share what you have had the opportunity to learn. By teaching others, we can only hope joy, kindness and love will be remembered, embraced, and never taken for granted."

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