I went to Alabama for a week and it changed my life. I scrubbed grease off of cabinets and painted doors and helped build an owl house and used a nail gun. I got to know 14 new people. We didn’t have wi-fi or Netflix, just card games and conversations. We spent time growing together and growing in our relationships with God. We dug into the Bible and learned more about humility, service, obedience and trust. I came back to Ohio with a perspective that I couldn’t have found anywhere else. On our first morning there, I wrote a prayer:

God, help me to understand humility this week. Help me to “step down” and truly be a servant to others. One thing I’ve learned in life is that we are all selfish. We are human. Humility is hard, but always worth it. Give me the courage to step out of my comfort zone this week and to have (and maintain) a positive attitude. I want to be humbled by this experience in a way that transforms my heart and soul to think of myself less and to think of others more in all that I do. I know that in itself is a selfish request, but humility is a challenge that I truly want to work toward every day. This week, help me grow closer to these people and to ask them their stories, and continue to give me the courage to be vulnerable with them. I ask that you also help me grow closer to you — I want to see you and know you. Help me be a light for others and to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Soften my heart this week.

For eight hours each day, we worked on repairing parts of Miss Georgia Jordan’s home, where she has lived since 1962. That opened my eyes and my heart to a reality that I have never known. These neighborhoods were damaged and broken. But Georgia was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. She was so much happier with so much less than what I have.

When we weren’t working on her house, we were able to delve into some Bible verses. It wasn’t until then that I realized what “service” truly is. On our last night there, I reflected:

I used to think of service as a chore. A burden. A hassle. Going out of my way for people was never something I prioritized. But this trip changed that for me. I saw that service isn’t just volunteering — it’s a lifestyle. I read the Bible many times in the past, but it wasn’t until this week that I understood its message about serving others. Serving is in your actions, but it’s also in your attitude, intentions and, most importantly, your heart. It finally clicked for me. That God, who was so selfless as to give his only son to us, wanted all of us to simply love each other. And Jesus, who was literally perfect in every way, was so humble as to dedicate his entire existence to serving others.

I’ve read a ton of verses that stress the importance of love and service. But this week, I witnessed them. I’m so thankful to have been able to see God’s love through everyone here. One thing I wanted to get out of this mission trip was to see God — whatever that meant. I had always been skeptical about what “seeing God” meant or what it would look like. I was half expecting it to be one single miraculous moment, where rays of sunlight break through the clouds. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t see God and be disappointed. But as this week comes to a close, I’ve realized that I did see him. I saw him in every single person here, in the way they served one another and in the way they served with Habitat for Humanity. I am thankful to them for all the laughter and memories, for being a light for me, for letting me be vulnerable with them and for sharing their stories with me. They taught me the true meaning of service and what it means to be a servant.

Which leads me to the verse that resonated with me the most: Matthew 20:26-28.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

To be great, you must be a servant. We rise by lifting others. Happiness doesn’t come from doing whatever you want, but from putting others before yourself. Treat people well and love them well. It finally dawned on me that this is what Christianity is.

It’s humility. It’s hard, but always, always worth it.