Living in South Florida as a teen, I attended a huge church which allowed me a life-changing opportunity to serve others. I packed with excitement just before my first mission trip more than 30 years ago.
I had to pack enough clothing for 10 days as I prepared to serve on that wonderful youth mission trip to Pennsylvania. I also needed at least $5o dollars in spending money to pay for food along the way. I earned the funds also by answering another call to serve an elderly neighbor all summer. Everyday, I went to sit with her after she fell and broke a hip. I cleaned her house and cleaned out six birdcages for $10 a week. Each $10, I saved for my trip to Pennsylvania.
I took these funds out of my drawer and put them in my pocketbook, excited that the time to leave finally arrived. My mom carried me to the church where my youth group loaded up suitcases on a large passenger van. I remember the tears she shed. This trip served as a milestone: my first away from my family for more than a day.
I loaded into the passenger van with 12 other youths. My journey took me to parts of the US that I have only been to once: Pittsburg, New York City, and Boston. We also travelled to Washington. We headed to Chester, Pennsylvania, to help repair dilapidated housing. Our youth leader planned the extra stops to help us see parts of the Northeast and to learn about our nation’s history.
Amy Grant played in on the van stereo, and we sang El Shadai as we travelled down the highway. We prayed and worshipped. In Georgia, we stayed at a vacation cabin that one of our youth’s parents owned. We sacked out on the floor in sleeping bags.
In Washington, we toured the Smithsonian and visited the Capitol. We arrived in Pennsylvania on a Sunday afternoon and checked into our dorm rooms.
I remember receiving my assignment. The organizers assigned the youth to teams made up of youth from all churches.
Serve With Joy
The first morning I woke with the dawn and in my excitement headed to the cafeteria and waited for the rest of the young people to arrive about 90 minutes later. After breakfast, we loaded buses to head to our work sites. The organizers assigned my team to a two-story brown stone that had suffered smoke damage from a fire. The elderly woman who took care of her grandchildren did not have means to repair the damage because at the time of the fire she did not have home owners insurance.
We had to gut the living room and an upstairs room of old sheet rock and then reinstall new. Dust flew everywhere as we knocked down the old walls to make room for the new. We sweated from the heat of mid-Summer as we worked. No air-conditioning provided relief.
The second and third days we started to hang the new sheet rock. It was by no means a perfect job. I had never painted or installed any kind of construction materials in a home before. Our lack of experience showed. By the time we had finished, we left a triangle gap at one end of the room where we had just missed the ceiling. The woman, however, was so grateful for our hard work. She cried when she saw the results of newly painted rooms.
I remember her sweet blessings. “Thank you so much. You do not know how much this means to me and my children,” she exclaimed as she walked around in her renovated home.
The sky turned pink outside as we wrapped up our work on the last night and headed back to campus. I will never forget the experience of serving God by helping others. I felt His love and Spirit in electric waves throughout the week. He filled me til I felt I might burst with joy. Part of drawing closer to Jesus starts with a willingness to serve and be used by Him.
Do you remember a time when you served Him and others? Share your experiences in the comments below.
This post is the first for the annual Slice of Life March challenge which starts today.