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Serving like Never Before

Mission trips are only successful and whole if you travel overseas. That's the idea of a mission trip that has been painted in my mind for as long as I can remember. And it's absolutely not true. In fact, mission trips are all about loving on people through serving God- people who are young, old, and everything in between. Moving towards GoWeek, I was incredibly skeptical about serving. I dreaded it beyond words. I prayed I would get the flu. I envied my friends who would travel overseas. In other words, I was not looking forward to it. In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my week of service as I was able to add a little bit of joy into kids’ lives over a three day period.
As I served locally, I had the opportunity to see the eclecticness of Austin, and by that I mean how different communities truly are. Of course, I knew that Austin had distinguished communities and impoverished communities, but I just hadn't had the experience of actually being present in an impoverished Austin community. About eight minutes from my high school is an elementary called Pillow Elementary School, which is apart of AISD. When we arrived at the school, I was nervous and excited; I would even go to say that I completely judged the school like a book and its cover; the outside being jagged and rough to the eye, and the inside being full of love, warmth, and security. But I buried my feelings and walked in the doors. I helped teachers for the first half of the day: labeling books, helping kids with math, videoing little kids for a project, etc. The second half of the day, which happened to be my favorite part, consisted of playing with kids at recess: basketball, football, soccer, spinning, gymnastics, tag, you name it. Simply loving on little kids by playing with them at recess was serving alone. By the end of the week, I could definitely tell that I made some sort of impact on a little kid’s day, which was the most rewarding thing of all.
As chaotic and overwhelming as it may have been playing with twenty something kids at a time, those kids impacted me as much as I impacted them. Unfortunately, I did not feel overly welcome to talk about Jesus, which to me has always been apart of  serving others, so I was at a loss of words to say to little kids as they stared at me with their hopeful, vibrant little eyes. However, as I was pushing a first grader on the swing at recess, the two of us overheard a conversation. A friend serving next to me was also pushing a first grader, a boy, in the swing. Of course when you are little, swinging gives you a sense of magic, like you are flying throughout the air, and could travel to wherever your heart feels destined to go. The little boy desired to go higher, and exclaimed that he wanted to be pushed back to Mexico. All four of us broke out laughing, but then the first grader I was pushing said she wanted to be pushed up to God. This little comment warmed my heart by simply knowing that little kids do indeed have faith, a tremendous faith at that. I say this because when I was little, I was never really raised in a faith-oriented lifestyle. Yes, I had beliefs based off of my parents, but that did not mean that I actually believed them or even practiced them daily. The point is that I found it hopeful and inspiring that a first grader could have so much faith, even the courage to say something like that in a public school around all of her peers. I felt compelled to say something in response, but I did not, and I must say that I think that is one of my biggest regrets. I had the opportunity to lead a little girl, but instead I chose to keep pushing her on the swings and not say anything.
I had the privilege of meeting a little boy who was three and had special needs. He is one of the most adorable little kids I have ever met. Regardless of his situational differences from other three year olds in the school, he was so happy and eager to learn and get to know me. For the three days that I had the opportunity to get to know him, he sadly wore the same outfit every single day, where his clothes were accompanied by holes and stains. On the few cold days, he did not even have a sweatshirt. For lunches, he simply had a bag of popcorn. I'm not an expert in nutrition, but I do know that popcorn is not a sufficient lunch for a growing three year old. I am not one to jump to conclusions, but I could definitely tell that he did not have much. My heart ached form and his family that I had not met, but I still loved on him, and he loved on me.
As simple as it sounds to serve eight minutes away from my high school, and about forty five minutes away from my home, that week had a special impact on my heart. I may not have traveled to Uganda, Belize, Guatemala, or Nicaragua, but I served and loved on little kids. And if there is one thing for sure, it is that I will never forget my three days with such a loving, compassionate, good-natured group of kids.




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