Some people question why we take our youth on mission trips to some other part of the country rather than serving in our own city. Others question why do we go on mission trips in general. Personally, the answer I always give is it that sometimes we must leave the comfort of our hometowns in order for us to see the blessings we have been given and how we can bless others with our presence and love. This has been my mantra since I was a youth going on my first mission trip back in the mid 80’s.
On a Sunday morning in late June, our group loaded into 2 vans and drove to Boston to live out our baptismal covenant of seeking and serving Christ in all people. Once in Boston, we settled into our “home” for the week and met with our on-site leader that told us about the work we would be doing and some specifics about the area. For the week, we were broken up into 2 groups with each group doing different work each day. In the Boston area, we were able to experience both hands on down and dirty work, like cleaning garages, yards, and people’s homes as well as feel good work like preparing food and feeding both homeless and ill people of the Boston area. As we prepared for each day, we were never quite sure what we would encounter but we were always sure that we would encounter Christ at some point in the day.
One particular day, we were sent to Boston Commons with grocery bags full of Starbucks pastries that had been donated. Our task was to hand the food to anyone that was hungry, it didn’t matter if they were walking to the office or sitting on a park bench. In the process of giving away the food, we were encouraged to talk to people and learn their stories. Another day, we were sent to a clothing bank where members recycle their children’s gently used clothes for the next size up as their child grows. We spent the day sorting and folding clothes, organizing books and toys, as well as talking with families that came in to get new clothes. For a short time, the youth even sat and read stories to some of the children in order that their parents could shop without being distracted.
For our youth and adults, the mission trip was a week that opened our eyes to all the different ways in which average people learn to seek and serve Christ in others. None of the people we worked with set out to change the world, yet each one of them was doing exactly that. Through their work, they were able to show the youth how a dream no matter how small can become a reality that changes people’s lives. Each night, we spent time in reflection as a group and the youth always spoke about the challenges they faced that day as well as the ways in which they saw themselves being the hands and feet of Christ.
Brian Acquaviva, an 11th grader upon reflecting on his first mission trip said, “I entered Boston unsure and nervous, but left with new acquaintances and a new look at city life.”
For me, as I reflect on the week of mission, I see yet another example of why I was called to youth and young adult ministry. As a youth minister, it is imperative that we teach the next generation of Christians, what Jesus meant when in the 25th chapter of Matthew, he says: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” This mission trip to Boston allowed the youth to learn how to live out the Gospel of Christ.