Mission Trip 2013!

This year, I went to Keansburg, NJ on a Group Mission Trip with my cousin's church parish. For a whole week, we worked on peoples' houses who needed our help (whether from Hurricane Sandy, or just from lack of being able to do so themselves). A LOT happened during this week, and I was so happy I decided to go.

I took a huge leap of faith and put all my woes and worries into God's hands. I got over my fear of meeting new people, and broke out of my shell. In doing this, I grew as a person and used my hands and feet to do God's work and help people in need for a whole week.

In case you're wondering what exactly I did during this week, I kept a log of the stuff that happened so I could share it and spread the word. Each day went as follows: we got up early in the morning to eat and join our crews then go to our work sites and work all day, then every parish gathers in the gym after dinner for evening programs. However, each day brought something more for me than just this concrete schedule. . .

Monday- "What do you stand for?"
Today we found out that we have a double crew (a total of twelve people). This not only meant I had to meet five new people, but I also had to meet six more strangers whom live all across the country. I'll admit, I was rather terrified at first, especially when I found out I'd be with them all week, working and hanging out and praying to God. But somehow, by the end of this day, I realized that everything was going to be fine. More than fine, actually. These people are AWESOME!
They're all super nice and open, and a lot of us have the same taste in music, which is an automatic conversation starter. Not only did I have a lot in common with these people, but by the end of the day I was beginning to see just how amazing each and every crew member was.

Tuesday- "Why are you afraid?"
This morning we decorated our crew van with paint markers, to make it a bit more personalized! Today, we were able to finally meet our resident, who was an elderly woman. She'd injured her foot and was unable to move around much. She hadn't been out of her house in ten years, and was telling us all about her life and some stories she decided to share. Interestingly, she reminded me of my great grandmother, who was also a talkative old lady with a kind heart and a clever sense of humor. It warmed my heart to meet someone like her, who even though went through so much trouble to maintain her house and her spirit during the storm, ended up still being grateful for everything she has.
Today, our crew also became a lot closer, which I was both surprised and happy about. We took a lot of fun pictures (none of which I have on my camera, unfortunately!), and laughed a lot as well.
After working, we went to a local ice cream shop for Italian ice, and it was so delicious and so much fun.

I thought a lot about this question, because it really hit me the hardest right away. Why am I afraid? Sometimes I don't even know... Sometimes I do know, all to well. Some days I find myself ready to face the world with a big smile on my face, other days I want to crawl up in my bedroom and stay there forever. It's the weirdest feeling, but when we were asked this question today, I felt a bit less clouded by my fear, and a little more open to the world around me. Little did I know, this was only the beginning of my epiphany...

Wednesday- "Why do you doubt?"  (a half day!)
For the first half of the day, we went to our work sites with our crews and worked our butts off as much as possible! We got a lot done, and had a lot of laughs, some of which I can't even remember because there were so many!
For the rest of the day, each of us returned to our youth groups, and I got to hang out with my cousin and some of our new friends at the waterpark. This water park in NJ was wayyy better and more diverse than the ones I usually go to back home... not to mention, the owner of the park opened it up for free because he knew Group Missionaries would be here! :)
At dinner, we went to a local diner, and I had a veggie burger which was pretty freaking scrumptious. My cousin and I sat at the table with two other boys, who were very nice (and highly amusing to talk to). So, you know, I guess you could say I made new friends.
Ironically, a very fun and lighthearted day turned into quite an emotional evening. . .

During the evening program, we were asked to picture Jesus sitting in the chair in the spotlight in front of us, and that the only people in the room are Him and me. I thought about what he'd say to me, and the first thing that came to my head was "Stop worrying so much. You are on the right path." And then as I continued picturing everything, the outline of his body, the kind smile on his face, he hugged me and told me that my great grandmother was safe, and with everyone who had died before (and after) her. I imagined all of them up there together, smiling down on us in that very moment.
It wasn't even in exact words, it was more of a sense of hope and reassurance that flooded through me.
It was so vivid that I burst into tears, and when I began to come back, I was surprised to see everyone around me sobbing as well. There were lots of hugs and reassuring words with people I'd just met, but was already growing close to.
The best way to put it was that my heart ached and sang all at the same time.

Thursday- "Do you want to get well?"
Ironically fitting for the day's focus question, I woke up feeling so sick I couldn't finish my breakfast. However, as the day went on and I continued to work, I felt rejuvenated and downright overjoyed. I laughed SO much with my crew; laughter really is the best medicine!
I got really close to my crew, and I tried focusing a lot on the question "do you want to get well"? After all, my immediate answer was "Yes, of course!" but then I began to ask "am I sick?" Spiritually, mentally, I think I'm fine, but as I dug deeper during the evening program, I realized that I, like everyone else, have a need to get well. In my case, it was my confidence. (This kind of tied into the question "why do you doubt?" for me) When it comes to confidence and self esteem, mine really isn't the highest. So, in a way, God asked me this question and I realized that my definite answer was "Yes please!"

Friday- "What do you see?"
Our double crew got separated today, as we finished our paint jobs on the first house a day early, and got to go help other crews finish for the final day of work. The fun of this day involved going to the beach and swimming in our clothes (for about five minutes before it started to rain), paint fights with bright blue paint, and many more laughs and music on the ride back. It was moments like the ride back to the school that made me pause and look at what had happened over the week. For people who had just met each other, we became pretty close, almost like a second family. And apparently everyone else felt the same way, as there were a lot of hugs and tears from everyone that night.
For once, I had actually broken out of my shell and became, not a different person, but a better version of me. And in becoming closer with all these amazing people, I became closer to God.

What do I see, God? I see You, a shining bright light, through everyone. All the people I've met, everyone I see every day; I can now see Your light shining from inside of them. It may be small, but it's always there, whether they realize it or not. I think now I have a better understanding of how different people are, and how deep their scars can run, and how many stories they have to tell. I've learned so much this week, and I am so utterly thankful.

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