"My" kids putting up siding on the house in "Little Cambodia," Alvin, TX
I was dreading the mission trip. Really. Totally dreading it. I knew it would be a huge amount of work and worry and possibly trouble - but one of my three titles at First UMC Somerville is Director of Christian Education and I am expected to do things like this, even though I have attained the ripe old age of 66 and am a gimp.
Fortunately, I also had Luc, another adult - one of the dads - with me. In addition, we only had six kids, two of whom were his, So fewer kids often equals less drama (but not always).
However, once I got on the trip, I went with it like I always do. And why not? The trip isn't about me, it's about our youth and it's about helping someone else. And I came home feeling happy and blessed.
Our oldest youth were a rising sophomore, a rising senior, and two recently graduated seniors. Our youngest ones were a rising 8th grader and a rising 9th grader. (When I use the term "rising" it means they're "going into" that grade come September.)
Over the course of the week, I saw some beautiful stuff happening. Luc took over using the circular saw because... well... kids and circular saws don't mix. But soon he had our youngest boys helping by holding the boards down so Luc could cut them. He did an excellent job of mentoring all the young people on site and patiently taught them how to do the work and stay safe.
After the first day, our older youth gradually began working as a team and making decisions about what we were going to do and when. Clearly, they were looking out for one another's safety, even as they pushed one another to climb the ladder and use the nail gun to secure the siding. Luc was awesome in encouraging whoever was on the ladder not to be fearful. He told them that two people were holding the bottom of the ladder, so it would not tip backward. And it didn't.
It took us a full day to figure out how to do what we were supposed to do. But once that happened, we covered a lot of ground and got siding up rather quickly. The only thing that hung us up was sawing an "L" in the siding to go around a window frame. We finally got some help from one of the contractors and became adept at that, too.
Over the course of the week, I saw team work and initiative develop, as well as new skills. But I also saw friendship blossom. We shared a tough job in an uncomfortable environment. It was HOT. I mean it! The temperature tracked in the 90s (F), but the heat index ran between 101 & 105 (F). So we bonded. And that meant a lot of laughter and love in the middle of the hard work. I think the photo below says it all.
However, as I said at the top of this blog, a mission trip isn't just about skills, leadership, team work, and friendship.
It's about helping people. More on that tomorrow.