We just returned from a trip with the youth from our church (well, 5 days ago now, but it takes me awhile to catch up with the every day stuff in order to be able to sit down and blog.....who am I kidding? I'm not caught up?! I'm running around feeling crazy and stretched too thin!) Anyways. I don’t write about our work in youth ministry a ton, but it does make up a very, very large part of our lives. We still feel very drawn to work alongside youth, love on them, hear their stories, guide them to Jesus, and help them to grow in their faith. Some days it is easier than others. But this trip was really enjoyable on multiple levels.
We went with GROUP mission trips. Basically, GROUP puts on these trips all over and churches can sign up to participate one. They handle many of the logistics regarding securing work, feeding us, lodging, putting on programs, providing devotional material, etc. (I must admit there are aspects of the trip that we (Adam and I) were not big fans of, but this trip was great to try and due to Adam being out of the office for several months, it was great in having many of the logistics covered and handled by someone else. We mostly had to get a handful of paperwork completed and get ourselves there). We travelled to the small community of Newark, NY. We served alongside 6 other churches from various denominations. Our youth were all split up amongst these other churches and went out to various work sites to serve. Some served alongside organizations that provide services to the community. Some served in residential locations. Some served in nursing homes. We worked hard. We painted. We weeded. We built. We cleaned. We planted. We talked with.
The nature of the trip was great for getting to help a community with their needs and having the opportunity to serve in tangible ways. It was also great at getting us out of our comfort zones and forcing us to work alongside others that we had just met. Working alongside someone nearly always begins a relationship and allows you to hear one another’s story.
Some of the stories I heard broke my heart. Youth from inner city Philadelphia who appear vibrant and happy – but only to hear that they have wretchedly awful home lives that they will be returning to (emphasis on wretchedly and awful). Or talking with a pleasant young man in my serving group who has grown up in a church, yet it has clearly failed him as he has no working knowledge of what the Gospel is about, he is not aware of what John 3:16 says, and he did not seem concerned or bothered by any of that at all. My attempts at sharing with him felt kindly brushed off and unnecessary to him.
There’s a great big world of people. People that need love. Sometimes the task to love on them and share with them the saving grace of Jesus just seems overwhelming.
But we keep in mind that its one person at a time. And its our job to be faithful in the small things. Our job is to love God and to love people. Sometimes we forget that. Trips like this remind us and force us to extend ourselves for others.
One of my favorite aspects of the trip is that due to most of our group being separated during the day at various different sites, we were brought back together in the evenings and eager to share our varied experiences with one another. A trip like this brings your group closer. We lived in close quarters. We ate together. We shared showers that had limited availability and warm water. We rode a bus for long hours. All of those have the opportunity to instill in you patience, looking out for one another, being flexible and content, and of course, loving each other and having lots of fun. J
Here’s a few snapshots from our trip:
|Team-building games prior to leaving.|
|Visited the restaurant where "Buffalo Wings" originally began.|
|Adam using a gas auger to dig holes. He questioned whether or not it was a good idea for him to try to use this. |
Of course, that didn't stop him.
|Someday I will learn to not let teenagers look at my phone. |
Although, it is fun to post the pictures they take of themselves. ;)
|Pretty sure arm-wrestling happens on all of our youth trips.|
|Out for pizza on our night off.|
|Cut through Canada and checked out the beauty of Niagara Falls.|
|Dutch Blitz made the hours go by a little bit faster on the bus.|
Trust me, we worked. We were just working so hard we didn't stop to take pictures of that much.
So thankful for these great youth that we get to work with!