Graduates from the classes of 2021 and 2022 reunite to serve in the villages of Northern Thailand. A first time experience for alumni serving in Discovery.
For the first time in our history, an alumni Discovery team reunites to go serve in Thailand
Written by Blake Froistad
Spend a little time in the Valor community and you'll quickly realize the profound impact that our Discovery program has on many lives. I'm not just talking about the impact it has on our own students, teachers and administrators, but the communities they go serve as well. I can personally attest to this as I did a hurricane relief trip to Texas my sophomore year with the baseball team. I also saw many of my friends completely transform after going to serve in various places throughout the globe. Some of those people have never been the same as the living God truly altered their whole being, and transformed their lives for eternity. Somewhere between the team bonding, manual labor, and being immersed in a radically different culture, that also loves Jesus, truly opens the eyes of many. Valor Discovery, which started as a single experience in Kolkata, India, has now grown to over 30 experiences year, and for the first time ever, an alumni team went out to Northern Thailand.
Led by Ted Seiler, Dave Hampton, and alumni parent Travis Hunt, Team Thailand had graduates from 2021 and 2022:
Jack Beattie - 2022
Maddie Croshal - 2021
Avery Gentry - 2022
Ella Gentry - 2021
Braden Hunt - 2021
Alex Lewter - 2021
Ty Stanley - 2021
Jordan Wiley - 2021
God always provides redemption in various ways, and many team members were actually scheduled to go on this experience when they were still students at Valor, but the trip was cancelled due to the pandemic. "When Ted sent out the email wanting to get the team back together for an alumni trip, we responded immediately and were all in." - Jordan Wiley (2021). Being that this was an alumni trip, the expectations and time leading up to departure were a bit different than what they'd experienced before with Discovery, but a heart to go serve and realign faith was still at the center for these alumni. Talking with Jordan about her decision to go serve, "Being in college, you're not in an environment that really encourages growth in your faith. I wasn't where I wanted to be and wanted to grow in my faith and take that desire upon myself and pursue this trip." Maddie Croshal (2021) shared that same desire, "Going on these experiences in high school was so great, but doing it in college is different. I really wanted to get back to a place to rally my faith, and doing that alongside people from Valor was amazing."
While on the ground, the team served various organizations: Free Burma Rangers, Seed of Hope, and City of Glory Church. Their biggest accomplishment was building a water tower alongside the locals. This didn't come without a high cost, "I actually had an allergic reaction to the concrete." Maddie said, but "experiencing the work ethic of the locals and how hard working they are, we all realized we can push ourselves more. They truly want you to work alongside them and with them." Although this trip was very service oriented, there was still plenty of time to be immersed in, and enjoy the local culture. Chatting with Jordan again, "The mountain villages were beautiful. We took this 2 hour drive North of Chiang Mai and it was the prettiest drive I've ever been on, but when you go out and see these people and how joyful they are with what little they have, it's eye opening and the change we experienced is real."
If you're reading this and you've served in Discovery, you know full well the team bonding that happens when you go on these experiences is truly unmatched. That appears to still ring true on the alumni side as well, "It was awesome being able to renew relationships with people I hadn't seen since high school" Jordan said. Jack Beattie (2022), also felt that same bonding, "I found it incredibly valuable to connect with other alumni as we continue to move through life. This trip captures so much of what I believe life is about." But like any powerful Discovery experience, the return back to the states is always an adjustment, and as an alumni that comes with it's own unique set of challenges. A few tips from these alumni might help you navigate this if you plan on pursuing an alumni experience:
"Set goals of how you want to grow in your faith. Going in I had expectations, but not goals. Be open minded, you're not in high school anymore so these trips will look different as adults. Adapt to the change and go in with more of an open mind. I was back at college 4 days after we returned from the trip. I miss the team, but I look back and see the growth that occured." - Maddie Croshal
"As adults, you get what you put in. Try to bond together early, break the ice, and genuinely catch up on life. Come in with expectations, but adapt because it's a different experience on the alumni side." - Jordan Wiley
All in all, this was yet another impactful Discovery experience and being able to send alumni out to serve and stay connected might be the single most important thing we can offer to our alumni. College and beyond can prove to be difficult. An experience like this might've been just what my younger self needed as I wrestled with so much in my faith and college culture from 18-22. If you're interested in going on an alumni Discovery experience, we'd love to capture your interest. A special thank you to Team Thailand for being pioneers and serving all the way across the globe.