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  • Writer's pictureAinsley Wiechens

Mission Panama: Serving Alongside Sisters

When I think of Chi Omega, I picture a sisterhood that extends through all areas of life, all chapters of my story. I think of true friends who are there for me during the good times and bad: friends to sit and eat lunch with on the front porch, friends to sip Opus coffee with while studying for the next exam and friends who truly value what I am going through on a day to day basis. After my spring break trip, I realized that the Chi Omega friendships I have made are genuine, intentional and gracious. My fellow Eta Deltas helped me grow as a person and love the woman I am becoming.

This past spring break, I went to Panama on a mission trip with Doulos. Doulos is a Christian ministry that focuses on serving students in Greek life at UF. The trip was led by senior Julianna Chappell (MC ‘18). When I first heard about the trip, I had doubts about spending a week on an international mission trip. Fear of sharing the Gospel with people who did not speak English and who lived completely different lives than I hindered me from looking more into the trip. I ignored my call to go, until one day Julianna asked if I wanted to meet up and talk about the mission trip. After spending an afternoon with her, going through the logistics and hearing her passion for the work that was going to be done, I decided to take a leap of faith. I signed up for the trip, knowing little of what was to come.

There were 20 people on the Panama team, all UF students from different sororities and fraternities. Chi Omega had the biggest group of girls on the trip consisting of Danielle Burrafato, Shailey Klein, Julianna Chappel and me. Before going on the trip, I was not very close with any of the other three Eta Deltas who were there. I would say hello to them in passing, but our conversations never went much deeper than a "how are you” and “what do you have going on this week”. After spending a week serving alongside these girls and sharing my testimony with them, I realized how much there was to appreciate in those friendships. The values we shared helped me see the ways I needed to change certain things that I was prioritizing here in Gainesville. As I was learning more about patience, grace and unconditional love, these girls were by my side supporting me. Even though they did not know the ins and outs of my story, they were always ready to listen to what I had to say and encourage me to share. They valued my opinions but also challenged me to dive deeper into my faith than I had in a very long time. Thanks to these girls who I grew close with and formed deep connections with, I learned more about the importance of prioritizing friendships with my sisters and loving myself the way that we are called to love others.

The trip Danielle, Shailey, Julianna, and I took to Panama exemplified certain aspects of the Chi Omega Symphony that unite us all as a chapter. As sisters in Chi Omega, we are called to place “character before appearances” and be “lovable rather than popular”. The girls valued me and did not care if I had spent a day sweating in the sun or was covered in dirt from playing with kids. They still told me I was beautiful and worthy. We spent a week loving on the people of Panama, installing water filters and sharing the Gospel. I saw the true character of a Chi Omega shine through my sisters in Panama, as they so passionately cared for the people we were serving and were selflessly showing love, grace and dignity. I will forever cherish the way they poured into me and showed me what true friendship looks like.

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