20 Years After My BSC Experience

Reflection shared at BSC 20th Anniversary Celebration by Melissa Primus, First Year BSCer who served at Jardin de los Niños

It’s hard to believe that it is just a few months shy of 20 years since I left Iowa on a Greyhound bus bound for Denver. Denver was the stopover, and then on to Las Cruces, NM and a year with the Border Servant Corps.

When I left Iowa, I had no idea what I was getting in to. When I started considering a volunteer year, I applied to the Urban Servant Corps in Denver. Having spent a semester of college in Denver, it was at least a bit familiar to me. But then I was asked if I would consider a year with the Border Servant Corps in Las Cruces – a place I’d never hear of before, in a program that was just getting started.

I can’t tell you why I said yes at the time. Maybe a sense of adventure, maybe a feeling that it was my only or best option at the time, maybe an attempt at avoiding the corporate job market for a while longer, maybe some sort of sense of call that saying yes is what I was supposed to do. Reflecting on it now, I’d probably say it was likely a combination of all these things and probably more.

Whatever the reasons, I said yes and headed to Las Cruces – in some ways the great unknown to this Iowa girl. Border Servant Corps was a new program, and no one really knew what it would look like or how things would go. Las Cruces was unknown to me; Jardin de los Niños was unknown to me; the culture, the climate, the desert, the people, my soon-to-be housemates – all unknown to me. I didn’t know what any of this would look or feel like, how any of it would go. And Las Cruces is a long way from Steamboat Rock, Iowa. Unlike college, I didn’t have the option to go home for the weekend.

Stepping into all that unknown turned into a year of new experiences, a year of meeting and getting to know new people, a year of learning, a year with challenges and with celebrations, a year of the desert Southwest – it’s culture, people, traditions. It was also a year of personal growth and in hindsight a year in which priorities and values formed that became foundational in my life as an adult. Values and priorities that have stuck over the last 20 years.

The tenants of the Border Servant Corps that I experienced – service, faith, community, living simply, social justice – were all fed and nurtured in very focused and intentional ways during my year in Las Cruces. At the end of my year, I’d like to say these elements were rooted within me. A lot of life has happened since, and looking back there are times when these tenants have been alive and well and other times when they yearned for some water, along with times of some dormancy and neglect. The role they have played in my life and the attention I have given them has varied, but they still remain. Service, faith, simplicity, community, seeking justice – these are all a part of who I am, who I want to be, how I want to live.

Until I recently began reflecting on my Border Servant Corps experience in anticipation of my visit to Last Cruces to celebrate the 20 year milestone of the Border Servant Corps, I hadn’t connected the dots – how saying yes to Las Cruces deeply impacted and continues to impact my life.

While I might have been seeking a new adventure and avoiding “a real job” when I boarded that bus 20 years ago, I’m convinced that there was more going on than I realized. God had a much bigger purpose for me and the year I lived in the desert. It was a year of volunteering, of giving, but without a doubt I received more than I could have ever imagined and for which I continue to be grateful.