A look into L&LI's Wednesday night tradition: Chapel!
Words by Director of Student Life, Kelley Jordan-Taube
Chapel is one of my favorite parts of each week; it's a Wednesday night staple for our Living & Learning program in Ecuador! It starts with a family dinner where we all gather in the same space to eat Chicken Curry and Rice or the famous Burrito Bar with mounds of guacamole. It’s called family dinner for a reason! Chapel is our one pause in the week where our whole L&LI team of up to 60 students and staff comes together as a family. Music is usually playing in the background as students trickle in from internship, studying in their apartment, or coffee with a friend. Each week a few staff and students are selected to cook the meal together and it’s a fun chance for students to learn new skills in the kitchen while building relationship with one another! Food is served assembly-line style and inevitably at least a whole plate worth of food ends up on the kitchen floor. (Picture said guacamole being dragged along the floor by 60 sets of feet.) It’s chaos and it’s messy, just like real family.
But food isn’t the purpose of Chapel night, though I can assure you that the L&LI staff is pretty good at hosting and feeding everyone because WE like to enjoy food ourselves! The night is about community and connection with God. And can I remind you that those aren’t two separate things? They are designed to happen together, which is why our meal is followed by intentional worship through music, teaching, and sharing. When everyone has eaten we head to a larger space where our Chapel Director fights hard to quiet the room as everyone is just so excited to be together. We spend time singing our lungs out in worship and then sit and reflect on teaching about who God is and how that informs how we live.
A moment I'll always remember:
During Chapel we were singing “Reckless Love” and I sensed the crackle of the Holy Spirit in the room. I glanced across the aisle and saw a student with tears streaming down her face. I felt a prompting to go hold her but I didn’t want to intrude on her experience (you know that classic conversation where you doubt what you are being told, come up with some excuses, etc.).The Holy Spirit kept nudging me so I crossed the aisle and placed one of her hands in mine. She immediately grabbed on tightly and then surprised me by pulling my other hand into the pile on top of hers. I didn’t need any further confirmation that I’d been listening to the Spirit.
I stood while she sat squeezing my hand, both singing and crying through the rest of that song and the three that followed. It was an incredibly powerful experience of actually singing God’s overwhelming and reckless love over this student. Those words have never felt more true to me as I felt the battle in her to believe them. Neither of us was ready for the worship time to end.
The next week this student asked me to get coffee and we talked about that night in Chapel. She described my hands feeling like God’s hands holding her and that she had experienced His love in a way she never had before. And that is the neatest part of Chapel -- the worship and connection between God and people doesn’t stop when Chapel ends. We allow the night to end slowly with some students heading upstairs quickly for dessert while others sit with their journal or whisper to a staff member about how they’ve been impacted by the moment. And then those conversations get to carry throughout the weeks, as did mine with this student. This particular Chapel moment is one that will stay etched in my mind for a long time.
P.S. Ecuador Applications are still open for next semester.