The Elms College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams spent three days at the Agape Community in late August, put together through the assistance of Elms College Campus Ministry for a combination of reflection, community service, and team bonding, all while learning about sustainable living and living in peace.
Morning Prayer was followed by a morning run, the afternoon consisting of outdoor work, bookended by delicious organic vegetarian meals. Evenings, a time of discussion and team bonding activities and games, led senior captain Emily Taylor to sum up her thoughts: “I had many joyful experiences such as working in the garden, working and bonding with my teammates, getting to know the wonderful people at Agape. Not only has the trip brought my cross country team closer together, but has provided me with an experience that I won’t ever forget.” Sophomore, Ashley O’Brien, concurred: “It goes to show that you don’t need technology.”
Our first day consisted of splitting, stacking, and transporting firewood that would heat the community during the winter. Junior captain Adam Kuzdzal writes: “A unique bonding experience where our work will noticeably be of use in the coming months.” From gardening, to harvesting, to clearing brush, to road maintenance, to preparing a ditch for a bicycle rack, each task, once completed, left us with a feeling of satisfaction—hard work, with bare hands.
Elms Director of Campus Ministry Sr. Carol and student leader Andrew Mercado lead discussions and it was during these times of reflection that the team was truly coming closer together. Assistant Coach Kerry Ashe ’14 remarked: “The freshmen came into the experience with open minds, especially after just moving into school. The trip speaks to how our team not only practices becoming better athletes, but better people as well.”
The immersion offered an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the beauty in nature, but also the beauty and talents of our friends and teammates. Jackie Quetti, A junior and spiritual leader on our team puts it quite simply, “Being closer to nature brings us closer to God”.
Through this closeness to the Divine, we were able to gain not only a little more peace within ourselves, but also a closer bond with each other.
Matt Dyer, is Head Coach of Men’s & Women’s Cross Country Coach, Elms College, Chicopee, MA