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Changing a Life
I have dreaded this day since last October. This day was the day my mom put my name on the list. I’m standing at Divine Redeemer Lutheran Church, waiting in line for a seat in the fifteen passenger van. All I can think about is next Friday, when I will finally be home again. It’s only Saturday! Wow. This is going to be a long week. The thing I wasn’t thinking about, and I should have been, was the upcoming week.
After the hot and boring six hour drive, we finally stepped foot onto the grounds of the Gospel Hills Camp in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was my first mission trip. On this trip, our mission was to teach, help, play, interact and learn from the inner city kids of Minneapolis. I didn’t have the best attitude towards this trip, and I didn’t understand how we were suppose to “change the lives” of these children, as our pastor kept saying. What I didn’t know was my life was going to be changed—and theirs were too.
And so it started. I didn’t know what to expect. Should I be strict? What do I talk to them about? Will they like me? The buses pulled around the corner and over one-hundred kids piled out. They were use to this and knew what to expect. They were campers at this camp every week, and this was my first day.
I met a six year old girl. Her name was Tamia. I wanted to get to know her better, so we went and sat on the swings. She started talking to me about her family and her life, like she had known me forever. Her stories were not happy they were sad and depressing.
Tamia was holding a stuffed animal in her hand and she said, “I carry this with me everywhere. It reminds me of my mom. I hardly ever see her because she is in jail.” Tamia told me she doesn’t have a regular home, and that her older sister drags her along from place to place. Tamia said, “My mom told me I have eight brothers and sisters, but I only know two of them.”
I didn’t know how to react or respond. What should I say? I was crying on the outside and angry on the inside. These kids deserved better. I wish I could help each and every one of them. After my conversation with Tamia ended, my outlook on camp changed.
As the week went on, my relationships with the kids grew stronger. I learned more and more about them as individuals, which helped me interact and teach them.
When Friday, the last day with the kids came, a feeling of emptiness surrounded me. There was so much I still wanted to know, but time was running out. The goodbyes that were about to be given, were our goodbyes forever.
And then they were gone. Just like that. I had lost a small part of me, which had not been there four days ago. Tears ran down my face, the camp was over.
After this camp, my outlook on life was different. Not only did I teach kids things they had not known, but they taught me. They helped me recognize happiness comes from within. I now try not to take things for granted, knowing that others have so much less.
I changed lives at Gospel Hills that week and I learned a small effort can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Every individual has something to give. It’s just a matter of whether they are willing to give it or not. Now, I don’t overlook a chance to change a life or reach out for an opportunity. The mission trip at Gospel Hills is over, but it is only the beginning of what now lies ahead for me.