On Sunday, June 28, a youth group from St. James ventured out to Virginia beach for our annual mission trip. During the week, these teens were able to meet some new wonderful people as well as learn about the wonder of helping others in desperate need of assistance. In their off time, the group made sure to keep a blog going so as to inform others of their experiences both on and off the work site. Once they returned, the group transformed these blog posts into a lovely sermon for the parish to hear all about their trip and what they have taken from it.
Rev Audrey Hasselbrook
When the missioners and their chaperones returned to Montclair last Friday, proud parents, grandparents, and other family members greeted us as we pulled into the driveway. I wish Jesus had had the same welcome when he came back to his hometown after his mission of healing and teaching throughout the region of Galilee. Instead, there was great disbelief among them that their neighbor Jesus, Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and unnamed sisters, could possibly be the miracle worker and great teacher that other people wanted to see and touch. To them, he was the carpenter/mason/contractor who worked in building Spheris and other Roman cities, as well as taking care of the more simple needs of the village.
But Jesus does not lose heart - he does not let their disbelief unnerve him or cut short the mission and ministry he was called to by God. Instead, he sends out his disciples, instructing them to take little with them so not to be distracted or weighed down by them in their work. For what he sends them out to do in God’s name will change not only the people that they meet and serve, but also the disciples themselves. Any time we are out of our so-called “comfort zone” we especially have an opportunity to learn a little more about the people around us as well as ourselves and our relationship to God.
Our missioners: Rachael, Austin, CJ, Emily, Michael, Gabby, Greg, along with their chaperones Rev Melissa, Martha, Conner, Tricia, and myself learned this truth only too well this past week when we went to work in Virginia on a home that belong to Ms Myra.
The home we went to remediate was a simple cinder block home that had fallen into serious disrepair. Not only was the home uninhabitable in its present condition, the neighbors were pressuring the town to have the house condemned. The neighborhood had taken a turn upward and this home no longer fit – it was pulling the value of the more modern and much larger homes down. But a home is much more than a house – a home has soul. The church is in the business of saving souls…
As we got to know Ms. Myra better we learned more about her life and I can tell you it has not been easy for her, that’s why it was so amazing how open she was to us. She was kind, helpful (even helping us with the work on her house,) and at one point all of us were just sitting in her yard listening to her stories. I was so astounded at the grace and kindness of this woman.
We worked on the worksite for four days and in that time we built part of a deck, cleaned up a yard, and painted the outside of the house, even doing some landscaping, cutting down or cleaning up some of the bushes on the lawn of the house. And as we learned more about the house we noticed more and more why we were there. That the stove, the only source of heat, was taken from the house because it was dangerous. Also the e plumbing was severely broken, meaning water had to be bought at the store or the owners would have to wait for it to rain before they could use the bathroom.
On the first day Conner got injured doing work trying to pull up a stump. After a while the pain got worse and he went to the hospital to get it checked out. We later found out a piece of metal from an old hammer got stuck in his leg and he had to leave to go back to NJ. We all missed him the rest of the trip and hoped he would be ok. All in all this mission trip has had a lot of different elements to it, with many things happening, good and bad. But I’ve had a good time and realized a lot about myself as well as others.
These past couple of days has been pretty eventful. The house is coming along well. When I first arrived, I asked myself why didn’t Miss Myra just sell this house since it is in bad condition. She told us how some of her family members passed away inside the house and that their souls are keeping her here. I never would have thought that I would hear someone say something like that. She also told us that she too wants to die here which helped me realize that this wasn’t just some ordinary home. I realized that this was something more to her and that she wasn’t going to let anyone or anything take it away from her. I’m enjoying this trip and I look forward to the next coming days.
As the week went on when we asked Miss Myra about her life, my view of her has changed. We learned that her father was in the Navy, yet she can neither read nor write. This surprised us a bit since you would think that the Navy would supply an education for her. This was clarified a little when she told us how she used to ride the short bus to school, with the handicapped children. She said that at first she hated it and wondered why she couldn’t ride the bus with her sister. Ms. Myra is not handicapped, she just has ADHD so she really didn’t feel that she belonged with the handicapped kids. However, she told us that eventually she grew to love the children that she rode the bus with and they loved her. All she wanted was to feel that she belonged.
Throughout this mission trip we have all grown closer as a group and I consider all of them family now. Something that really united us was my cow game. Everyone hated it at first but I know that they all secretly love it, though they’ll deny it if you ask them. The game goes like this. You search for cows outside your window and when you see them you shout, “My cows!” You can then marry, kill, or cash in your cows. Well it turns out that nowhere between Montclair and Virginia Beach is there even one cow to be found. It sounds silly but the fact that the game failed made it even funnier to us.
Another thing that showed me how united we are as a group was when Conner got injured. We all mourned our loss together and I realized how different it will be when he goes off to college next year. I think that it was almost like a reminder that we couldn’t rely on Conner to draw us together as a group anymore. After we realized that I think we became even stronger as a group because we couldn’t bear to loose another member of our little family.
I think it is obvious. The poverty that Ms. Myra lives in is heart breaking.
At first I thought my experience of our homeowner would be like the homeless in NYC. When I was younger and tried to give them a dollar they always seemed angry. Ms Myra was so different. I tried to shake her hand hello, but she just hugged me tight. That was really nice.
One of my jobs was weed pulling, which was a hot and nasty job. But what a difference that made. I also painted a lot! The house looks so much better, different, it looks cared for! And I got experience for the first time of using a hedge trimmer.
"Pop, don’t expect any of this from me at home!"
The beach was awful too much sand and cold water.
The trip wasn’t all about work, but also fun.
I am learning how to play Texas holdem… At first I had beginners luck and won a few hands. Beginners luck doesn’t last.
The first day here I asked one of our leaders Zack, why he comes back every year, I expected to hear the response “I love helping others”. What he really said was that he comes back every year to see the impact our generation has. The older generations view us as electronic obsessed kids who don’t go out and help others nearly as much as we “should”, and he loves when we prove them wrong. In many of the sermons at chapel the speakers talked about how just one person can make a difference. You don’t need 2 people or 10 or even 100, just one person can lift the spirits of another, make a difference in someone’s life and give someone hope. I believe that making a difference in one person’s life, whether you see it or not, is amazing and an experience you can never forget. Seeing the kindness in Ms. Myra’s heart when she smiles at us and hugs us is something I will never forget.
It was clear we needed a new leader and Michael and I have sort of emerged as Co- Alphas. For instance, Emily tried to take over the game we were playing but I stood my ground and said no!
And, although everyone is pretty responsible for himself or herself on occasion it was the Alphas’ job to keep the high energy in check.
We have given up a lot to come on this trip, friends, sleep, sports, comfort, work, Net Flix, but it has taught us all a lot about others and ourselves. I have learned a lot on this trip: that no matter how hard my life may seem, I am lucky and grateful for all I have: my home, my family and my friends
We have all learned to be more relaxed with each other and more open about our feelings. I am proud of my sister because she has learned how to use power tools and do construction. That’s not something she would ever try at home.
Trying things we might ordinarily do in our daily lives is part of the point of the mission trip.
In a phone conversation, when asked what I want the group to do on my behalf was this: Please tell Miss Myra who we are and why we are there. Tell her all about St James and that we wanted to be here to help her. That’s what St James is all about. Please make sure she knows who we are.
**Photos taken by Martha Boughner and Rev. Melissa Hall