This year, we asked a graduated senior, Karli Wilson, to write up her thoughts about this trip and this group. Her write-up was better than we could have imagined! Check it out below!
After coming home from each of the five mission trips that I have been blessed to go on, I have been asked repeatedly by family, friends, and church members what exactly we did while gone for a week. This question has always been hard for me, because I am left with the choice of answering it in two ways: the simple, straightforward answer, or the more complicated but much more meaningful answer. Because of the number of times I have been asked this question as well as the amount of time I usually have had to answer it, for the most part I will instinctively answer with the first option. Quick and easy: “We went to ______ and served _______, and on our last day, we went to _______.” Filling in the blanks with various tasks and projects that our work groups went to. But when given enough time, and asked in the way I wish more people would, I talk about the impact and importance that the trips had on me.
To explain the trip in the more automatic and surface-level format: it was really special to be able to help out a place that holds such a big place in so many of our lives. Mostly due to Covid, Tower Hill has not had the budget to pay the usual amount of staff to keep the camp up and running, which is where our Youth Community came in. We did smaller tasks such as weeding the fields and picking up trash along the walk to the beach, but we also did larger projects such as repairing a road sign, staining benches, and painting interiors and exteriors of various buildings. Our largest and probably everyone’s favorite was the labyrinth that we made, which has given the camp a place for reflection, meditation, prayer, etc. You can find pictures and an explanation of it on our blog to get a better idea of what it is (http://ycmissiontrips.home.blog). All workgroups had a hand in making it come together. On our last full day, we were lucky enough to have the warmest weather of the week to go to the beach where people dug a giant hole, swam in the water, climbed the dunes, and got sand just about everywhere!
To explain a little more in depth about what we do in Youth Community, I am going to broaden the topic to not just this singular trip. Youth Community I would say is one of the biggest influences in my life, and on who I have become. Although the group of kids and leaders shifts and changes every year, somehow the dynamic that we hold stays true. Everyone feels welcome. Everyone feels heard. Everyone feels included. Everyone has a place. And by the end of the five years, everyone has hopefully felt the impact that I have. Mission trips take the meaning of Youth Community and compacts it all into one short week of serving, laughing, crying, hugging, teasing, and reflecting. I entered this group as a quiet girl who was unsure of herself, following in her sister’s footsteps of choices and experiences. I left this community as a confident woman who found her voice and knows who she is. I know that Youth Community has had the largest role in this change. Leaving Youth Community for a year because of Covid and being a full time college student, I began to feel the absence of such a strong support system. But after coming back for just this one trip, I felt everyone embrace who I am, lift me up, lean on me, and allow me to lean on them. I now know that reaching out while not physically with each other is not only possible, but essential and acceptable. I may have physically left Youth Community, but the changes that I have gone through, and the influence that it has had on me will never leave. I am truly grateful for the time I have spent with the leaders and kids, people we have served, and places we have changed for the better.