chicago mission trip 2010

December 23, 2011
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The summer before my junior year, my life was forever altered. I had just finished the school year, my play had just ended, and my schedule was now free and clear. I needed something different to replace the new hole in my life. My best friend invited me to attend youth group at her church nearby. I was a little hesitant at first, but I eventually conceded. I immediately fell in love with the group, the youth pastor, and their mission. I began attending every single week, and loved it more each time.
That July, we would be participating on a mission trip to Chicago. To prepare for our journey, we did multiple fund-raising events, from rummage sales to car washing to hosting a banquet for the church’s congregation. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I became more and more excited, yearning to be closer to this awesome group of people, and finding a good place to fit in. I couldn’t wait for all our fun adventures we’d have, the stories we’d create, the memories we’d form.
I was in for the shock of my life. We stayed at a closed college campus, living in two apartment suites, one for guys, one for girls. There was no air conditioning, showers were few and far between, and there was little to no privacy. We would wake at six a.m. every morning, work until dark, have group meetings (debriefings) and finally go to bed around eleven. We did a variety of tasks while on site. I helped run a Vacation Bible School in a homeless shelter, serve food in a couple different soup kitchens, clean up a YMCA, and took a tour of the city. Only it wasn’t a normal tour. We went to the ugly, unkempt parts of town. The ones where people didn’t have a place to live, where gang shootings occurred, and where orphans wandered the streets. It was the most heartbreaking scene I ever could have imagined. This was the exact opposite of the adventurous vacation I had been expecting. It completely turned my way of thinking upside down. We live in such a world that material things are of the upmost importance and situations like homelessness and poverty are cast aside as insignificant.
Unfortunately, in an attempt to distance ourselves from the horror of such brokenness, we convince ourselves that these types of things only happen in third world countries, and that even when they do occur, it’s in the past. We ignore the fact that it’s still going on today, and right in our own neighborhoods.
The adventures we completed, the stories we engraved on our hearts and the memories are eternally locked in our minds. God used that trip to change me, and there’s no going back now. I learned He has a purpose for us all, and I’ve committed my life to fulfilling mine.

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Taphephobia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm
And the angels are celebrating! Thanks for sharing.
ilovejuliansmith replied...
Jan. 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm
thanks for reading it! :)
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