Reflections from Karli

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.

Not a Maze… A Labyrinth

As you may have seen on Facebook, one of our major projects this week has been creating a labyrinth here at Tower Hill as a legacy project. Some of the pictures below may have appeared in previous posts, but we want you to see how the group came together, all working on this special project step by step… and then lighting and walking it, step by step.

Labyrinths… Tell Me More.

As mentioned earlier, one of the tasks that the team is working on this week is a “legacy project” — something that people can enjoy at Tower Hill for years to come. This legacy project is a labyrinth! What is a labyrinth you say?

Preliminary Work on the Labyrinth Being Installed by the Youth Community Team This Week

From http://www.lessons4living.com/labyrinth.htm:

“Your life is a sacred journey. And it is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now… And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.” 
Caroline Adams

We are all on the path… exactly where we need to be. The labyrinth is a model of that path.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.

A labyrinth is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience. We can walk it. It is a metaphor for life’s journey. It is a symbol that creates a sacred space and place and takes us out of our ego to “That Which Is Within.”

Labyrinths and mazes have often been confused. When most people hear of a labyrinth they think of a maze. A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a left brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out.

A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.

A labyrinth is a right brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. A more passive, receptive mindset is needed. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

See https://labyrinthsociety.org/ for more information!

We are SO THANKFUL!

A huge thanks to our First Church of Lombard family for all their support over the years that keep our Youth Community going on these amazing trips! This year, we are also especially grateful for everyone who supported our GoFundMe in the face of being unable to fundraise in our usual ways (also, FYI, we are still accepting gifts at tinyurl.com/YCMissionTripDonations!)

We cannot express how much this ongoing church and family support means to us!