Serving at Ronald McDonald House
Reflection written by Ashley Schabilion.
As part of “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday, Gloria Dei and Lutheran Campus Ministries served a noon brunch and evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City.
I am originally from Davenport, IA and my family and I live in a really small town near Clinton. At home, I went to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Clinton. It was about a 45 minute drive every Sunday, but I had grown up with that church, and they were a very big part of my life. My mom’s family lives in Clinton also, so going to church at St. Paul Lutheran just made sense. I was baptized and confirmed there, and it feels like home to me. When I came to the University of Iowa, I knew that I needed to find a Lutheran church that would be as similar as possible to my church back home. My sister is 21 and she is a graduate student at the University of Iowa. She also did her undergrad here, so she had already established Gloria Dei as the place to go. She told me that everyone was very welcoming, and that she knew I would love Lutheran Campus Ministries. She was so right. I feel accepted and loved, just as I did at home, and the coolest thing is, I have only been to church in Iowa City twice!
My story is different than most people would expect. I am 18 years old, and I am a freshman at the University of Iowa. If you would have asked me last year at this time where I would be right now, I never would have guessed I would had made it this far so quickly. I have struggled with anorexia since I was 12 years old. I was admitted into the UIHC in May of 2012, and I was underwent treatment for about two months. The program I was in is called Partial Hospitalization. This basically means that it’s like a job; I went there all day from about 8 am until 4 pm Monday-Friday. Since I live an hour away, it would hardly have made sense to go all the way home just to turn around and come back. The Ronald McDonald House was full, so my mom and I stayed in a hotel every week during the 2 and a half months I was in treatment. We went home on the weekends, but it was still a pretty hefty burden on my family financially. I continued to struggle with depression and anorexia throughout the fall and winter, and I was admitted to the hospital again on December 31st, 2012. I began the partial hospitalization process again, and this time we were blessed with a place to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. After all of the treatment I had been through, my family honestly would not have been able to afford a hotel again. We stayed in a suite on the second floor, and I absolutely loved it. I felt at home and at ease. When I was struggling with thoughts or emotions, my mom and I would go down to the basement and play a game of pool or ping pong. That was the perfect thing for me, to help me relax and refocus. I am so grateful for everyone that helps keep RMH functioning the way it does, and all of the friendly people I met there. It was God sent.
Ever since we left the RMH, I have wanted to get involved there as a volunteer. I never knew exactly how until I got Pastor Rob’s email about the opportunity to help serve an evening meal as part of “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday, and I was so excited to go back. Going in on Sunday was honestly surreal. So much has changed since I lived there-I moved away from home, started taking college courses, and I am doing well with my recovery. The weirdest thing was, it kind of felt like I never left. Then when I started talking with the Gloria Dei family, I felt perfectly comfortable. I helped out in every way possible, and I also walked around. I saw my old room, the area where I used to do my online homework (since I was missing school), and I saw the recreation room with the pool table that I loved. (When I came back home, my family bought me a small pool table for our basement!!) Watching the looks on people’s faces when they walked in after a long day at the hospital and saw that some generous people had prepared them a meal was the best part. I could put myself back in their shoes, and just knowing that others do care and want to help in any way possible is very comforting. Even when it is hard to find things to be grateful for in the middle of a health crisis, small blessings like this mean the world. I am so glad I was given this opportunity, and will do it again in a heartbeat.