In June I had the pleasure of going on the youth mission trip to Dallas, Texas to work with C2K Ministries. There were 52 youth and 9 adults on the trip, including my older two children. On July 11, those who went on the trip led the worship service at St. Paul’s. Here is what I shared that morning.
This was my first mission trip – ever. Our church didn’t take youth on mission trips and I haven’t felt like I could participate in one at St. Paul’s for a variety of reasons. I have always been envious of the experience other parents have had on the trip. And frankly, amazed at how much they enjoyed the experience. When I had the opportunity this year I quickly signed up…and spent the next 8 months wondering if I that was a good move or not. I had a few concerns
- I was a little scared of teenage girls- I live in a house full of guys with my husband and three boys Mason 16, Carter 14, and Gage 12. I know about boys; the smells, the sense of humor, the temperament, the beating each other up to settle an arguments. And I think God knew what he was doing when he gave me boys. I don’t know girls; but I’ve heard a lot of scary things about them.
- Before I signed up, I asked my boys if they would mind if I went with them. They said, “Yes, as long as you aren’t that Mom.” I didn’t really get a definition of “that Mom” but there were a few times before the trip where I got the look and realized that was what they were talking about. I would have to be on my best behavior.
- I like to be in control. Most everyone who knows me is aware of that; it tends to show. I knew I wouldn’t have much control over anything that week and wasn’t sure I would be ok with that. I think my husband, Dan, was a little concerned about this too. His last words to me as I jumped in the van were, “Just let it go!”
Ultimately, I didn’t change my mind about going and I’m glad! I learned a lot in that short week.
I learned teenage girls are really different from boys. The pitch and volume of a room full of girls is definitely different. The conversations I heard in that room with 24 girls were not like any that take place at my house. But I learned a lot from listening. You Moms of girls have done a wonderful job of raising compassionate, thinking, driven women. They care about each other. They care deeply about the people we were in Dallas to serve. And they care about their faith and their relationship with God. I was impressed. And not so scared anymore.
I learned that being “that Mom” is just one of those things we all do at some point. I decided my best course of action was to do a lot of listening. I saw such leadership in the men and women I worked with. I was in the green group with the juniors. They watched out for each other and for me. They were insightful, introspective when they needed to be and lots of fun to be around. I only pulled out my Mom voice a couple times – primer really is permanent.
The control piece was a little more challenging. When we arrived at the work site the first day, after being certified in lead paint removal, we didn’t have the tools we needed, we didn’t have a plan for bathrooms and our leader wasn’t sure what exactly needed to be done on the site. I’m a checklist person. I envisioned checklists for equipment, a to-do list for the site and a detailed plan for the day. It took me a while to realize not everyone thinks like I do. We got through that first day with two ladders and no paint rags. We were resourceful – we used buckets and chairs as ladders and my nail file for a screwdriver. We got a lot done and vowed to double check our supplies the next day. The routine changed the next day, we took four ladders, but only about a gallon of primer. Tomorrow, we’ll get it right and get this house finished before we leave. I was very focused on completing the tasks.
By day three, I hit a breaking point. I had lost my voice, thrown up while brushing my teeth over a sink full of hair, and hit my head on the bus doors for the second time, I sat down alone, in tears (I hit my head really hard) and thought, “What am I doing here? Maybe this was a mistake; this isn’t working like it was supposed to.” As I was lamenting the fact that it’s a little late now to back out, I wondered what I was missing. What was God hoping I would figure out. I think it was to follow my husband’s advice and Let it go! Ultimately, it’s not about me-or any checklist. It really doesn’t matter if I’m afraid of teenage girls, or if I’m “that Mom” or whether everything is done just so. Not everything we did was efficient and highly productive in the way I am used to judging things. But people connected with each other and those we were there to serve. People accepted each other and welcomed each other. It really was about being in the moment with myself, with God and with others. About giving teens the opportunity to express their love of God through helping others. About allowing them to have a place where they are loved and accepted just as they are. If we got the house painted, great; if not, that’s ok too. And that was a big step for me. It really was about being present in the experience.
I learned so many things on this trip. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to be stretched. These kids are awesome and I’m so glad I got the chance to step in to their world for a week. During one of the evening sharing times Heather talked to the teens about how youth group is a safe place where they can be who they are without worries. Where they are loved and accepted for who they are. “I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” I think we should all belong to youth group. The place where God loves us and there’s nothing we can do to change that.
Thank you for this experience. Thank you to the youth. Thank you to the other adults that went – it was a great group! And thanks to the members of this congregation for supporting our youth and for giving them this opportunity– it truly is life changing – and not just for the kids!