Meeting and interacting with our international community


Melissa Bronder led the ABST trip to Haiti this past year where they met with a series of growers in the Salvador Urbina area and learned about the coffee growing process and fair trade.

Melissa Bronder

One of the biggest ways we can encounter God and spirituality on Gannon’s campus is through seizing the opportunities Gannon presents for broadening our worldview.
For me, this came in the form of attending or leading an Alternative Spring Break Service Trip (ABST) every year. In John 13:34, we are challenged with, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” What better way to put our challenge of love to the test than encountering others of different races, backgrounds, identities and cultures and seeing them through the eyes of God.
It may be easy to love those of similar backgrounds and identities with the same morals as you but looking past our similarities to find God in our differences is a challenge the ABST program sets on students every year. The next challenge is then broadening your worldview and living your life differently to keep loving the ABST communities we return from.
My most memorable encounter was my freshman year, traveling to Haiti.
Prior to coming to Gannon, I hadn’t related much to anyone out of my circle of friends and family, and essentially only people of the same culture. I was comfortable loving those around me as God called me to and didn’t yet realize how God was calling me to love the world.
Haiti has suffered from harsh historical and media representations in the past as a country not worth discussing and an awful place to go.
After traveling there and encountering extreme poverty, my heart was opened to the inequality of the distribution of wealth in the world and the heartbreaking pain of figuring out how best to support these individuals. Seeing the eyes of God in the Haitian children and their families illuminated me to the love God has, not just for the wealthy in the United States, but for the small, malnourished child who doesn’t own shoes, but still runs around his neighborhood every day with the silliest grin on his small face.
After seeing God in our global community through opportunities Gannon presents, the desire to live my life differently to support those individuals became a necessity and a natural path. This particular Haitian community painstakingly grew fair-trade coffee in a co-op, struggling to escape the slavery and exploitation of some large-scale coffee farms.
Arriving back at Gannon’s campus, the next logical step was a launch of the Neg Mawon coffee program in partnership with Just Haiti, Out of the Grey Coffee and Metz, offering Haitian grown coffee that is roasted right here in Erie, at coffee locations on campus.
This Neg Mawon is grown by the Haitian families who welcomed us into their hearts and homes during our trip, and who receive fair trade plus wages for the coffee we drink every day. This empowers them to send their children to school and escape exploitation.
Looking at something as simple as what coffee I choose to drink in the morning means the difference between exploitation of workers and empowerment of small-scale growers.
After seeing the eyes of God in the Haitian community, it is impossible to not love my neighbor every day in my cup of coffee.
This similar encounter occurs in the hearts of Gannon students returning from trips all over the globe, and they all have a new question to answer for themselves, “How is God calling me to live my life differently and love in a new way?”

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