Swiss Chocolates and a Swiss Intern

January 8, 2016

 

Benjamin Probst came from a rather small village in Switzerland. Ben said that their

chocolate was the best (probably true), favored the phrase “of course!” instead of the 

more polite term “yes” if asked a question, and thought that vegetables in a meal 

were quite useless. 

 

After graduating from a university in Switzerland in civil engineering, Ben wanted to 

adventure a bit. He had always wanted to visit Hawai’i so he began trying to contact 

Jay Jarman (a friend of a friend), asking if he could volunteer to help Common Grace 

in exchange for a place to stay. For ten weeks. At first he messaged Jay on Facebook, 

hoping to get a response within two weeks. Of course, Jay, never checking his 

Facebook page, didn’t respond. Ben messaged Jay again, in hopes that contact could 

be made. Nothing. This was particularly worrisome because Ben had already bought 

his 10-week plane ticket to Hawai’i and had no place to stay. As a last resort, he 

wrote an old-fashioned snail mail addressed to Common Grace (Attention: Jay 

Jarman) and at long last finally got a response: yes, Jay could happily house Ben. 

At the staff meetings before Ben’s arrival, Jay had voiced some concerns—and 

rightly so, because Jay knew absolutely nothing about him, except maybe he that he 

was from Switzerland. We prayed that Ben didn’t take to drinking; we prayed that 

he had never been in jail. 

 

When we first met him, we didn’t know what to expect when we looked (way) up 

and saw a skinny, six-foot 23 year-old wearing a cocky grin. But it turns out that we 

didn’t have to worry because he didn’t drink (that much) and had never been to jail 

(not once). He made friends with a Common Grace kid, Alika, with people at all the 

churches he visited on the island and with us, here at Common Grace; learned how 

to surf (kind of not really); got a golden tan; wore aloha shirts everyday (mostly 

plastered with waves, hibiscuses or sailboats); saw a shark while fishing (now 

crossed off his bucket list); took a spontaneous flight to Maui (by himself again); 

learned to drive in O’ahu traffic and ate a lot of shrimp. The cheeky Ben we got to 

know blessed us and we wish him all the best! Here is a little journal of his 

experiences with us (you should know that he learned English two months ago):

 

My experience to be a mentor

 

During the time I stayed in Hawaii I was a mentor of a boy at Palolo elementary school. My new 

friend is a 4th grade and his name is Alika. I learned a lot in this time when I spend time with him. The 

most important thing I learned in this time was that to spend time, to listen and to take him 

seriously. Have your focus on the child and don’t try to teach them. Spend your time with a child one 

to one and you will win their hearts.

I learned from him too. Alika is very generous. He own almost nothing and yet when I gave him 

chocolate as a Christmas present his first thought was with which person can I share that? He gave 

his teacher some, his friends and I’m not sure whether he eats one. Another example is another gift 

he became from another friend. This friend let him buy a poster whatever he wants and after it was 

payed he gave me this poster and said: that’s for you uncle Ben, I and all our friends here can sign it 

and then you can take that at home to Switzerland. Wow! How generous it is for a boy who has not 

very much!