Janelle Cammenga-Staff Writer
Bonding usually means doing normal activities together, like watching movies, commiserating about homework and bowling.
But sometimes, bonding means you take turns holding a mason jar filled with water and a goldfish on a six-and-a-half hour-long car ride to Lac Courte Oreilles, WI. Or maybe it means dressing up in weird thrift store outfits. Or maybe it means turning a two-day paint job into a week-long job in order to have more good conversations with a woman who lives in a trailer.
There’s no bonding quite like PLIA bonding.
As is Dordt’s custom, teams of students—15 PLIA teams, 117 students—departed from the college the first Friday of spring break to spend their week off serving in locations ranging from Shiprock, NM to New Orleans, LA.
This year, Alex Geleynse, Dordt’s discipleship coordinator, encouraged the teams to share their testimonies with each other.
Senior Kami Crabtree, three-time PLIA participant and a leader of the Cary, MS team, loved this part of the trip.
“A couple of strangers who didn’t know each other a couple days ago were pouring out their lives to each other,” she said.
Crabtree and her team came face-to-face with poverty in Cary, as 50 percent of that population lives under the poverty line.
For Crabtree, seeing such poverty “makes me rethink the life I live.”
But the trip was not all about serious reflection. There were plenty of light-hearted moments, especially when the team helped out in a thrift store.
“One of the guys dressed up in this froofy tutu thing,” Crabtree said.
Freshman Carolyn Liddle experienced PLIA for the first time this spring break. After her honeymoon excitement of signing up for PLIA died down, she worried that, as a nursing major, she would only tire herself out by not going home during break. In the end, however, she did not regret her choice.
Liddle participated on the team that traveled to Inez, KY. Though this location was not her first choice, as she wanted to work with kids during the week, it turned out to be the right place for her. Among her many experiences, one day Liddle and sophomore Kaileen Runia helped a woman named Norma paint her bathroom, a job that should have taken no time at all.
“We came to help with painting, and she just wanted to sit down and talk,” Liddle said.
Through these conversations, they heard Norma’s life story and how she quit her job in order to care for her grandson, Braden. Braden has NKH, meaning his body produces too much protein, and his father is in jail for drug usage. Because Braden needs much care, Norma cannot work. She survives off welfare and food stamps, and she lives in a trailer.
Liddle and Runia admired Norma because, in spite of her circumstances, she was not bitter. She thanked God for the little she had – “I don’t know what I would do with more” – and especially for Braden. She even showed Liddle and Runia an example of her generosity.
“She had nothing, and she wanted to feed us,” Liddle said.
PLIA is a time of lessons, serving and being served, no matter what team a student is a part of.
During the past week, Crabtree learned to be flexible and willing to follow God’s changing plans. She said that things never go as expected, even when you think you know what’s going on.
“Just accept whatever God throws your way,” she said.
While PLIA is well-attended, the group faces a dilemma: A large majority of their planning leadership graduates in the spring. Crabtree is one of these leaders who is moving on. She graduates in December.
“I don’t think I can really put into words what PLIA means to me,” she said. “I’m gonna miss it so much.”