Youth Mission Trips
I spent the last week with a group of 36 youth and 12 adult volunteers doing mission work in a little town called Pacific, MO. It was a real blessing to be able to join the group on their trip and to have the opportunity to develop some relationships with the youth and with the adult leaders. Two of my co-workers from the church were on the trip and I think we talked more on the trip than we have in several weeks of working together. I think it was helpful on both sides of the equation to begin to see the other person as just that, a person.
The trip was a huge blessing in several ways. First, it allowed me experience a youth mission trip as an adult leader. Being only 24 and having not been regularly and consistently connected to a church that had a vibrant youth group during my college years, this really was my first opportunity to take on that kind of leadership role for a trip such as this. I think I learned a lot!
Even more than that, though, I was reminded of my first mission trip and the ways that that experience was formative for my spiritual and adolescent development. My first mission trip took place in the summer of 2004, the summer before my 8th grade year, in Bull Hollow, OK. We spent a week doing home repairs in that are through a United Methodist Church affiliated with the Cherokee Nation and working with the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, OK. It was an amazing experience, and it is probably the experience that got me hooked on going to youth group. My best friends were all on the trip, the Bestie, the FellowNerd, FellowNerd’s big brother, the Third Musketeer, and the Cool Guy. There might have been others on the trip. In fact, I am almost certain that there were, but I can’t remember who else was there.
And the Fiercest Female Pastor I’ve ever met led the charge. She was amazing! I think that having the opportunity on that trip to bond with her had a lot to do with my ability to hear and respond to The Call to ministry as it un-folded over the next year. That would have been the summer right after the Big Sis moved out, and I think the Fierce Female Pastor knew I needed extra care during that time.
I remember so many seemingly unimportant details about that trip. I remember the Fierce Female Pastor teaching us how to french braid hair (which I am still terrible at), and how to do it so that the bride looked like it was inside out. I remember listening to a LOT of Avril Lavigne and my first introductions to Blink 182 and Weird Al. I remember eating something called Walking Tacos, which were delicious! I remember playing Cranium for the first time and how FellowNerd’s big brother was on my team and how he still guessed correctly when I confused the songs “Lean on Me” and “Stand by Me.” So many of these details seem so unimportant, but when I think of them, they make my heart sing. It’s indescribable the love and fondness connecting me to these people and moments even across so much time.
I hope that last week will resonate in the hearts of at least a few of the youth that went with us. I hope that it continues to resonate with me, continues to shape and mold my heart, the way that the trip to Bull Hollow began shaping my heart 11 years ago. I pray that the experiences that those youth had deeply impacted them and opened their hearts to the possibility of what God has in store for them.
I think it will be a long time before I stop praying for them.