From Holland, Michigan we made our way to Berrien Springs. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I was skeptical that Berrien Springs would be a terribly memorable and exciting experience on our road trip. Thankfully, my skepticism was quickly conquered.
We were planning to stay with Adelina, a friend of Beth-Anne’s brother, Jason, which was slightly unnerving for me because I had never met her, and I tend to be quite shy in situations where I’m not comfortable and don’t know people. That in itself was reason enough to be wary, but what really made me begin to withdraw into self-isolation was the fact that Adelina was hosting a Friday evening vespers for a bunch of her friends, an end of the year gathering for good friends. I felt rather out of place and extremely shy. So I found a good corner, stuck close to Beth-Anne and Emily, and tried to be unnoticeable. In hindsight, it was somewhat ridiculous for me to have imagined that I could go unnoticed as one of three unfamiliar faces in a small group setting of close friends.
Thankfully, everyone who had come to the vespers was extremely friendly and made efforts to talk to the three of us even though we were kind of crashing their party. At one point I had to laugh to myself because I thought of a conversation that my friend Alex and I have had a few times.
On several occasions Alex has teased me about the fact that I ought to move to Berrien Springs and hang out around the Seminary, seeing as I am a nice, Adventist nurse who happens to be single. Whenever Alex makes ridiculous comments along those lines I remind him that I am not qualified to be a pastor’s wife because I don’t play the piano. He then will often laugh and tell me that can be fixed.
Anyway, as I was sitting in my corner, I began to realize that the great majority of the people in the room were Seminary students. Shortly after I had come to the realization that I was a single nurse among many pastors, one of the guys there began talking to me. He asked what I did, and I told him I was a nurse. I kid you not, his very next question was, “Do you play the piano?” I had to hide my amusement as I informed him that I do not play the piano.
The rest of Friday night was really nice. After we ate, we began to sing songs. They even humored Beth-Anne, Emily, and me by singing from the hymnal. Then began the Bible study. I enjoyed a great deal of the conversation, but unfortunately, I was quite exhausted, and I’m afraid I fell asleep at some point. When I woke up there was a heated debate beginning about wealth. The debate became rather intense, too intense for my liking, but thankfully at the end of the study all was well and all were still friends.
Sabbath morning, Adelina set out a small feast for breakfast. After eating we headed off to Pioneer Memorial Church, which was really nice, and much smaller than I remembered. After church we walked around campus just to take a look, took a few pictures, and then made our way to a picnic spot for lunch with some of Adelina’s friends (a few of whom we had met at vespers). After lunch, we decided to go see some dunes, which I was really excited about.
I don’t recall which dunes we went to, but we hiked from the parking lot in over some sand to the shore, and then quickly spotted the highest dune we could find to climb. We left all our sandals at the bottom of the dune and began our ascent. At the time, this seemed an adventurous and brilliant plan—to climb the highest dune in bare feet; however, we grossly underestimated the sizzle factor of hot sun on sand.
I’m pretty sure that our record for number of steps we managed to take in a row before collapsing in pain on the ground was approximately 13. To say that the sand was hot would be like saying that Antarctica is chilly. I honestly felt like I was stepping on hot stove burners; I’m not exaggerating, really. We probably looked absolutely absurd because we would “run” ten or so steps up this super steep slope, turn around, and promptly sit down while trying to lift our blistering feet off the sand. After regaining our breath and bracing ourselves for the pain, we would repeat the cycle. Many cycles later, we finally made it to the top, from which point we would supposedly be able to see the Chicago shoreline (this turned out not to be the case as it was quite hazy). Thankfully, at the top of the dune there was some shady, cool sand where we gathered and enjoyed each other’s company. We also took some pictures. I must say that Beth-Anne is THE master self-timer picture taker of all time. She managed to hang her camera from a small tree branch, avert the swaying of the wind, and get everyone in the group shot in a mere two takes. She also successfully repeated this process when Jonathan, a latecomer, made it to the top and was saddened to hear that we had already taken the group photo.
Once mostly recovered from our trek up, we did the only thing there is to do once you’ve reached the top of the highest dune: run down with reckless abandon. It was exhilarating, and it lasted all of 45 seconds. Running down made every minute of the grueling hike up worth it. And once to the bottom of the dune, we headed for the ice-cold water to soothe our blistered feet. We walked in the water along the shoreline for a while, and once back to our belongings, we dove in the water. Swimming in Lake Michigan was very fun, but really, really cold. Immanuel decided he did not want to swim in the cold water, so the girls rather cleverly plotted against him. I felt like I was in high school again, helping them throw him in, but in all honesty, it was rather well planned, and he suspected nothing. Adelina asked to borrow his phone, while the rest of us pretended to be done with the cold water. A few of the girls started talking to him, while a few others snuck up behind him, and the rest you can imagine.
We ended our day at the dunes with a classic dune-jumping photo shoot, and then hopped in the car on to our last venture: Chicago.
Berrien Springs surprised me; I really expected it to be low-key and rather mundane, but it ended up being one of my favorite days of our road trip because of the wonderful fellowship we had and the great friends and memories we made.. But the people we met were really incredible people. They were super fun and so warm and welcoming.