Youth Summer Trip Reflections

2019 Mission Trip Reflection – Tarboro, NC
by Ronan Martinek-Jenne

My experience at our mission trip to Tarboro this summer was remarkable.  Being my first mission trip at College Park, I really didn’t know what to expect.  With that being said, I quickly overcame my uncertainty and really gained a lot from it.

Some of the most fun moments of the trip came when we got to mess around with a bunch of interactive games which included shaving cream to the face, alka seltzer lazer tag and lots and lots of spoons! You can only imagine the scenes.  On top of the games, I was able to form closer bonds with not only other youth but also some of the nicest adult leaders I have ever met.  Everyone around made me feel comfortable and like I could just be who I am.

And that was just the beginning of it.  We had amazing worship with one of the coolest things I have ever done.  It’s called Florilegium.  Every night we took one line that really stood out to us from the scripture reading and at the end of the week we compiled these lines into one long, continuous verse of our own.  The way they flowed together and reflected our thinking was amazing.  It really allowed me to think in a way that I don’t get to do too often.

Yet, the thing that stood out the most to me was the amazing experience I had when working with my work group to help an older woman with the repair and restoration of her home.  I used skills that I had never used before in my life.  We spackled ceilings, layed subflooring, put in vinyl flooring, sanded walls, and even ripped out cabinets.  You may think that is tedious or boring but we made so much fun out of it.  But the best part was knowing we were doing a wonderful deed for someone that needed it.  We really felt like we helped with an immediate need in her life.

And to top it off, after a week of hard work and lots of fun, we even got to spend our final day at the beach!  It was the perfect way to relax and enjoy each others’ company before heading home.

I’m so grateful for this experience and really believe that it deepened my faith and brought me closer to not only my friends but also God. 

2018 Mission Trip Reflection – NYC, NY
by Sarah Ramsey

I have always loved New York. From the first time I went when I was around 9, for some reason I automatically connected with the city. It is no secret that I plan to live there, at least for a liwhile, in the future. Lots of people think I want to live in New York i because I want to be an actress, or see broadway shows every day. As cool as that sounds, there is much more to it than that. For me, I think it is the diversity of New York that is the most attractive. I find it refreshing to walk down 45th street and see an NYU student speed hustling to class, while closely behind her a man wearing a Yamaka is clutching a cup of coffee and hailing a taxi. Across the street is a group of breakdancing street performers surrounded by a group of curious viewers.  I don’t think there is another place quite like this, where you see people of different colors and cultures everywhere you walk. A quote that I really believe that sums this up is,  “One cant paint New York as it is seen, but rather as it is felt.” Everyone who enters is accepted into the city. You can be all that you are and New York doesn’t just take you, but it truly opens its arms to you and invites you to be the most true version of yourself, completely free of judgement. 

When I figured out a New York mission trip was in the works, of course I was immediately thrilled. I thought that being in my favorite city with some of my favorite people would be an incredible experience filled to the brim with fun and days full of running around the city. But, I knew, unlike the other times I have been to New York, this wasn’t just a trip to stroll around Central Park and see a Broadway show at night. This would be an eye opening experience as to what it would actually be like to live in New York, and to get a feel for how being part of the community would be. Sadly, that doesn’t consist of going to Broadway every day. I remember being so excited months prior to this trip.  Little did I know how much this trip would contribute to my personal growth and and establish an even greater love and appreciation for the city. 

I can 100 percent say this trip was exactly that. We took a 12 hour train ride to New York, which I had never done before. I gotta say, anticipating being with 30 other middle-high school kids in a train for 12 hours made me a little uneasy, to say the least, but it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. We arrived in New York, and were welcomed by a walk through the pouring rain to get to Metro baptist, the place that would be our home for the week. 

On the first day of camp, we woke up bright and early and headed down to the space where CLUE camp was held. A few kids sprinkled in around 8:30, the majority coming at 9. I was unsure of how we would build relationships with the kids so quickly, considering we only had 4 days. However, after a few rounds of hoola hooping, I quickly realized how eager the kids were to get to know us and how surprisingly effortless it was to connect with them. 

Me and Elli grew particularly close with this group of girls at the camp, who loved jumping rope. They were pretty competitive and feisty. Every time they would jump, they’d ask me to count so that the next time, they would know the number that they would attempt to beat. Within this friendly game, a lot of love was exchanged. This became clear on the last day with the girls, when saying goodbye was proven to be much more difficult than I imagined. One goodbye hug became two goodbye hugs, and when all the kids left, the silence in the room was pretty overwhelming. All I could think about was how grateful I was to have had the opportunity to leave my little corner of the world and allow myself to be significantly changed by them,  possibly without them knowing. 

On our last night in the city, we had an especially beautiful worship service. I feel like some of these discussions on mission trips at night, are what truly help to mold and shape my faith to be stronger. The whole week we discussed one of my favorite quotes by Mary Oliver which ends with “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Throughout the week, we completed different activities such as prayer flags that helped us to envision how we could live out our best life, and we discussed people who embodied living out a life full of meaning and purpose. However, in this discussion on the last night, we simply thought about how we plan to live this holy and delicate life we have been given. We shared things that are on our bucket list, and why we personally want to do those things. Some of the things people mentioned were seeing the northern lights, going to Europe, getting a tattoo, and driving across the country. All of the world is so vast, and I think in our lifetime we want to have as many remarkable experiences as possible. 

Something so powerful to think about is that we will most likely not see any of the kids from CLUE camp again, but the impact they left on me, and I assume most everyone, was something that words cant explain. The crazy part is, I don’t even think they realized how much they were changing our views on the world and how we intend to make our life meaningful. They were so easy to connect with, even in just 4 days, and I found it near impossible not to smile when they were around me. I think its safe to say that every kid at CLUE camp has so much of God’s love planted in them to share with the world, and I think that our group was incredibly lucky that they shared some of that with us. The theme “The future is you and me” wasn’t left on the steps of metro baptist church. While it was our job to educate the kids on how they can be an advocate for spreading love in their community, they truly showed us the power that we have to make an impact on those around us back in our own community. I returned home with an even deeper love for the big apple, thanks to a week full of being immersed in this community, some lighthearted hoola hooping, and the smiles of the 60 kids that we saw each morning.

2018 Mission Trip Reflection – NYC, NY
by Bobby Phillips

When we first arrived at Penn Station, I was very excited. It was my second trip to New York, but I still hadn’t seen everything. 

The first night, we had pizza and got to know the church building. The next morning, I joined some friends on a trip to Times Square. Later, we attended a church service and took in a Broadway play. That was a highlight for me because I had never before attended a show on Broadway, and I found it very entertaining. After that, we headed to Central Park and got caught in some rain.

The next day was Monday, and the first day of camp! We were introduced to the kids and learned how everything would run during the week. I was assigned to Game Station, so I got to interact with the campers on various activities. 

One of my favorite parts of the week was our trips to the park and playing with the kids there. Each day, we would have a lesson. Themes included “working together” and “being yourself.” One day we watched a movie and brought in pizza, and I think the campers really enjoyed that.

We chose a “Camper of the Day” at the end of each day, and there was always high anticipation among the kids to see if they would be “the one.” We had fun activities lined up each day, and they especially seemed to enjoy the Statue of Liberty.

We enjoyed free times at night. There was a pizza place near the church where were staying that was really yummy, and you could get a slice for just $1.00!

One awesome thing about this trip was knowing you were in New York City and being in the vibe of it. 

I learned a lot. I learned about the importance of following a schedule and a sense of responsibility, especially when you are in charge of a group of kids. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings, particularly in a big city, and to keep up with your belongings.

But most importantly, I thank God for giving the opportunity to travel and to do mission work with my friends and youth group who mean so much to me. It is a trip I will always remember and look back on fondly. From running 10 miles near the Statue of Liberty with Daniel Maas to just playing with the kids, it was one awesome experience.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

2016 Mission Trip Reflection – Laredo, TX
by Kevin Short, Youth Sponsor

Wow!  What a great trip we had this past summer with a remarkable group of kids.  In fact, I believe that this trip was one of the best that I have been a part of.  And, in talking with others on the trip, I don’t think I was alone.  Sure, it was sometimes a little exhausting herding about 30 teenage kids around in the 100+°F temperatures to help build a house or a church or just some furniture.  But, what a great learning, growing, bonding and, (unfortunately) smelly experience we all had.  Side note – It is amazing to me how quickly a room can start to smell (and smell so bad!) when you jam nearly a dozen middle school boys into it after they have all come in at the end of a hot day and take their shoes off.  All I can say is “Thank you Fabreeze”.

Regardless of the smells, we really did have an amazing time in Laredo. We taught vacation bible school, played lots of games with the kids that showed up, served food and worked on a number of different construction projects.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was rewarding and, for the most part, fun. And while I do typically think of these trips as mission trips, it wasn’t completely about what we were doing for others.  It was also about what we were able to take away from the experience and give to our own youth in the Church.  As an adult (mostly) I can honestly say that it is an experience I’ll never forget.  I did learn so much.  So, I can only imagine the experience from the perspective of one of our youths and what they were able to take away.

As we headed home, I sat on the plane and reflected on the experience and one of the first thoughts that came to mind was how awesome it is that we were all able to make a trip like this.  The logistics alone for putting a trip like this together are overwhelming.  We actually made it through the entire trip with no major hiccups (although there were plenty of small ones).  All of this was a testament to our great staff and the backing of our church body, financially or otherwise.

Admittedly, in the planning stages of this trip, I was a little concerned as to why we decided to bring our entire Church Leadership staff on this trip.  Again, this was just going to add cost to the church budget as others were going to need to be paid to fill in for the Staff while they were gone.  But, I quickly realized what a benefit it was having each and every one of them on the trip.  From the different perspectives that they offered on the subjects that we discussed each night to the wonderful music that we were able to have each day to just the additional leadership needed to corral so many energy-filled kids – it was easy to see how much better this trip was with each of them present even if it meant they couldn’t be back in Greensboro.  Sometimes you just don’t always get it until you truly experience it.

I would typically classify myself as a little bit of a financial conservative.  And, this has definitely bled over into my time spent on the Church’s financial committee with regards to how money is potentially allocated.  I know I’ve had more than one instance where I’ve thought – Do we really need to spend that much money on this category or that category or with regards to the Youth trips.  Obviously I was never advocating that there should not be a summer youth trip.  It’s just that when times are tight financially, you tend to rethink how monies get allocated.  Now flashback to the plane ride home and I’m thinking “given how far we traveled, with so many kids and leaders for a week, this trip must have really cost a chunk of money (both for the church and the individuals that went).”  But on the other hand, what a great way for us, as a church, to spend our money to do something great for another community and the aid in the spiritual growth of the future of our Church.  What a wise investment this had been.  There are definitely an endless number of ways that we can use the Church’s money to do wonderful things.  But, sometimes it takes a firsthand experience to truly realize how worthy some of these investments are to us.

Don’t think that I’m advocating for spending our entire budget on the youth or the youth trips.  I’m just saying that while the trip might have been a bit expensive, I think what was gained was priceless to all that were on the trip and some that we may have met along the way.  So, I am thanking you as a Parent of a Youth, a Youth Sponsor and even as a frequent member of the Financial committee for your help, your prayers while we were gone and your financial backing.  To me it is really a joy to see part of the money that we give put to use in some non-traditional ways and with such a wonderful outcome.  Again. none of it would be possible without the support of College Park.  So, in a sense it was like we were all there in Laredo together reaching out to, working with and learning from our new friends and long distant neighbors.  Luckily for you, you didn’t have to sleep in a room with way too many sweaty middle school boys’ feet to be a part of it.