Tyler Irelan and I led some of the church youth on a mission trip to Virginia. The youth that attended the trip are Maurice Darby, Veronika Bergen, Rebecca Brown, Kaylah Rothmiller,
Nzingha Rothmiller, and Angelina Samanns. They travelled south to the small town of Melfa, Virginia. The demographic of the town was mostly immigrant farm workers, this was a culture shock for some of the students but they quickly adapted and many of them used the Spanish they learned in school to communicate with the community. Many times they would help me speak to the community members because I speak no Spanish.
The work portion of the trip consisted of cleaning siding, painting decks and railings, yardwork, visiting a nursing home, and Kids Club. The work at the nursing home started with morning exorcises and then talking to the residents and hanging out. The students would sit down with the residents and talk to them, something most of them don’t get every day. Rebecca Brown had much patience on the trip because she sat with one of the residents who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Becca sat with the women and she would tell the same story over and over, ask Becca who she was again and again, and constantly forget what she was supposed to be doing. On our last day at the nursing home it was water day; this is the day when the residents get to throw water balloons at the students and faculty of the building.
The Kids Club sight was a program run by youth works and it is very similar to vacation bible school. Kids of all ages from around the community would all get bussed to the church. After all of the kids were brought to the church the day started with storytelling. The students in charge of the station would choose two or three songs to sing and then they would choose a bible story to either read or act out. The kids would often sing at the top of their lungs and ask many questions about the bible. Our Woodbury students joined right in with them, they would sing and try to answer any questions the kids had and if they didn’t have an answer they prayed with the student to find an answer.
When we were not on work sights we were still being very active. Each night we would go somewhere new and experience different parts of the community. One of the things that our students found a bit odd was that stores were not open past eight or nine at night. The one night we took them to Walmart and they were all surprised when the announcement over the loud speaker said they were going to be closing in ten minutes, the Walmart closed at ten. The different evening activities were the beach, different ice cream shops, a community cook out, and dinner at a community member’s home.
Our students also did an amazing job socializing with the other churches on the trip. There were three total churches that week; Wenonah Memorial Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian church from Franconia, Virginia and us. When we first arrived we clicked with Wenonah right away since many of the students already knew each other and the Franconia church was quiet and didn’t really want to break away from what they knew. However by the end of the week, no one would have been able to know who belonged to what church. Students from all three churches meshed together into one big group. Our Woodbury students still talk to the Franconia students on a daily bases even though they are about seven hours apart from each other.
The trip was also a great time for Tyler and me to get to talk to other young adults who are fully involved in leading the youth of their church. Sometimes students feel like they are alone in their faith and sometimes people in our age group feel like we are the only people that are involved in teaching a youth group. We also used the time to create more personal bonds with students we don’t see very often from our church and Wenonah. God was truly working through us throughout the entire trip because even though we were sleep deprived we managed to get through the week with a smile on our face and God in our hearts.
Our students and volunteers are truly the hands and feet of God each and every day. Please feel free to ask any of the trip participants about the experience. They will be overjoyed to talk about what they experienced throughout the week and they will talk the ear off of an elephant.
We would also like to thank all of those that prayed for us before, during, and after the trip. Thank you for the messages telling us you’re thinking of us or that you prayed for us at dinner. All of you are amazing and we see God in you! Thank you for allowing us to go on this trip and for supporting the youth of the church!
Interim Youth Director