This is my 5th summer taking First Christian youth on a summer mission trip. This year our high school youth are in Kansas City, MO. Each trip has its own significant memories, each trip strengthens connections between our young people, each trip affirms their connectedness to God and the world-family we all journey with.
Yesterday during our relax time following an afternoon of mission work at Harvesters, I asked our youth what is important to them about our summer trips. That is, why do you look forward to being part of this every year? And they said: Togetherness; connecting and reconnecting with the other youth. Being in a different city; getting to experience places and people different from, and yet so like, those we know. The work; knowing that you’re making a difference in someone’s life. Recharging, relaxing, resting. Making memories.
Random and mis-heard comments bring up memories from past trips – and the stories begin. Even if the memory doesn’t start out great (White Castle anyone?), the stories it brings are precious connections to one another and a shared past. Reminiscing about shared times is a significant part of the fun of each trip. For our youth, these memories reaffirm who they are as precious and wonderful people. These memories reaffirm the significance of yesterday, the importance of today, and the promise of tomorrow. And these memories encourage us to re-evaluate our lives in light of the people we meet on this journey together. Rachel says, “I remember that just because I have a bad day, my life’s not that bad. There are other people who have it far worse than I do.” It helps us all (the adult sponsors, too) see our lives in the bigger picture of God’s story.
On the first night of our trip, as we were debriefing our day before evening devotions, the youth reflected on how much they like the service work we do. It doesn’t really feel like work, they said. We’re just out there doing our thing, having fun. “Having fun, even with blisters forming on my hand,” said Ethan. “Out of everything we do,” Kelly reflected, “we always take the good instead of the bad out of it.” What a wonderful affirmation of this time spent together. What a wonderful foundation to a way of life.