The most hardcore move I have even had the pleasure to take part in was in South America. A church in a small town called Coquin de Copan, Honduras needed a new building, so my church got together a group of volunteers and we went and built one for them. While there, I had many eye-opening experiences.
Human beings can be very different as far as outward appearances are concerned, but hearts are universal. I witnessed hearts in action during my visit. I interacted with a culturally different people, I helped build a church, as a direct result of my experiences in Honduras I changed the lenses that I look at the world through.
When we arrived all that was standing were four walls and twelve support pillars. We immediately began construction and at the end of the week, because of the hard work of my team and about thirty local volunteers, we raised over two hundred timbers to support the second floor and laid rebar so that the next team could pour the concrete ceiling. However, as usually happens, the physical portion of the mission was far less inspiring than the human interactions that took place.
Communicating with the local volunteers provided me with an opportunity to stretch my Spanish abilities. Most of my volunteer group were unable to communicate in Spanish and resorted to an intricate game of charades. More often than not, this interpretive dancing sparked laughter across both sides of the language gap. The town of Corquín de Copan, Honduras has very few English-speaking residents. Fortunately, I was fluent in both English and Spanish. I was on a rotating detachment so that all areas of work had me close by to facilitate communication at least part time. I began to grow relationships with many of the Hondurans, they could tell that I cared about them and genuinely wanted to help.
A direct result of my caring attitude was that several Hondurans felt safe around me. The first indication of this came from a Honduran volunteer named Gustavo, who shared his former life with me. Before Gustavo met Christ and became a member of the congregation we were building for, he lived a life of crime. He told me that he was a former drug dealer and was a member of a gang. He showed me the tattoos on his arms and chest that signified his rank, then the ones that spelled out the names of the people he had killed. Then he shared how God had transformed his life and made him new again.
The physical moving was everywhere, moving cinderblocks from A to B, timbers from A to B to C, and various tools from anywhere to everywhere. I learned a lot from my experiences a few borders south to my tan-skinned brothers and sisters.
The advice I can give to students moving to college is to find lots of strong friends that speak English and exchange food and chilled beverages for labor. In addition, get furniture that comes apart, tables with removable or foldable legs is an excellent example. Something else to consider is padding, moving blankets are cheap, use lots of them, you do not want ugly scratches on your stuff.