Have you ever volunteered for something and then asked yourself: what did I get myself into?
Yes, that was me, when I decided to organize a mission trip for our church and, eventually, it evolved into organizing the mission trip for the Central Rocky Mountain Region youth.
What did I get myself into? – I am not qualified for this.
You see, I have never been on a mission trip myself, not ever. So why did I think I was qualified for this and how in the world do I organize this? I did what I do best, I researched the subject, who offers up mission trips and how do their values align with those of the Disciples of Christ. After months of research and endless email conversations with potential organizations, I selected Adventures in Missions, because how their faith values aligned with ours and the vast offerings of mission trips available. Further, I was blessed by Jason from Village Christian Church reaching out to me and partnering with me on this endeavor. Jason, you were a godsend in the middle of the madness of this!
Getting 15 people together isn’t hard, right?!
Any know the saying: “God laughs when you’re making plans”? Yeah, that was us. We had a lot of early buy in from the youth we directly work with, however, no matter how hard you plan and try to be prepared, it is never going to be perfect.
Hearing God’s Calling in Alaska
We had 12 youth and 5 adults/chaperones on this trip. We had everyone on a different faith spectrum; from nonbeliever to firm believer. We had kids from Valley Christian in Idaho, FCC in Casper and FCC in Cheyenne, and Unaccompanied Students Initiative, and some who aren’t connected strongly to a church. We had so many different personalities, but it was a beautiful thing to see as they grew in their own ways and just blossomed.
We worked in a local homeless shelter which included sorting donations, preparing meals and prepping/painting a soon to be medical bay. There is something special about seeing a youth just light up while being of service to others, especially with something as “plain” as masking a room for painting. The youth started bonding in new ways and were not shy about talking with the residents.
We worked with the local food bank as we sorted through food donations, prepared dog food for delivery and prepared USDA food boxes to be shipped across their region to families in need. We packaged about 332,153 lbs. of food and fed 432 families. Who knew youth would enjoy themselves and connect with community members while sorting through food donations?
We worked with the local retirement home and its residents. The youth gave the ladies a spa day, listened to the stories of the residents, did the gardening for the community, walked with the residents and got schooled during Elvis trivia. These youth ages 14 to 18, bonded with people their grandparents age and truly made a connection. Every time we were there, they searched out their favorite person and connected with them.
We did prayer walks at local tourist attractions and parks. It can be hard for us adults to just walk up to a stranger and share our faith with them; I think sometimes we forget that for some kids this is one of the hardest things to do.
We did our prayer walks in scavenger hunt style. On a sheet of paper we wrote down some identifying markers; like what they wore, what color their clothes were, if they had pets, where they were located, etc., and then approached any person fitting one or more of those markers. We introduced ourselves, told them we are on a mission trip and asked them if there was anything they could use prayer for. It was amazing to see the mostly positive reaction of the people we approached and how the youth took the initiative to talk to complete strangers.
The youth adopted a homeless veteran sleeping in an outside alcove of our host church for any and all meal times. One youth put it upon herself to make dessert for every dinner we had at the church. We were put into groups and had chores to do, and, for the most part, the youth did the chores without even having to be asked.
I have realized that mission trips are about connection – connection to God, each other and the community you visit. We all have our own ways and paths for each, but I hope that for every one of us on this mission trip at least one if not all of these connections have grown. We have spent this time in service to others, while working individually on our faith and our faith journey.