First, I want to say that the mission trip was an amazing week, in so many ways, and I want all of you who helped make it possible to know how grateful I am for that opportunity. Thank you.
I’ve been thinking for a week about what I would say to you today, trying to find an “aha moment” or something to describe that would wrap up everything I felt that week into a nice little speech that wouldn’t put you to sleep and might even make you laugh once or twice. I couldn’t find that moment. I never had a voice announce in my head, “Congratulations! Your life has been changed!” or anything like that. I didn’t get any great advice that changed the way I looked at life. But despite the lack of one defining moment, the week definitely did change me. I couldn’t find one defining moment that summed it all up, because the week was the moment. It was everything added together that made the full effect.
There was the time that Tabby and I mustered up our courage and encouraged each other to take our swim tests in the cold lake so we could go kayaking together. Once we got out onto the middle of the lake, we just pulled our paddles out of the water and sat for a while, trying to take in all the beauty around us.
There were the times at the work sites, when we worked together to get our projects done and did our best to improve the lives of the people we’d been assigned to help. There was always a lot of work to do, and it was sometimes overwhelming, but everyone put in their energy and enthusiasm and we accomplished some impressive things.
There were the times the whole camp played Ultimate Frisbee. It started with the most athletic guys doing the whole thing, leaving the rest of us out, but with some encouragement from the counselors, they learned that all of us could contribute, and wanted to. We all started to pour out our energy trying to get that Frisbee into the goal, congratulating each other on great passes and encouraging each other to keep trying after making a mistake. That was a great feeling.
On the last full day of camp, Tabby, Elizabeth and I had some extra time and decided to explore a trail we hadn’t been on. We talked and laughed on our way up, and at the end, we found an outdoor chapel with a perfect view of the lake. We sat there for a while, silently. I don’t know what the other two were thinking about, but I was thinking about how this week had brought me together with them, and with the rest of the group from my church, and with youth and adults from all across the state. I looked out at the lake and realized how much I’d miss jumping off the dock in a line with all these people I now call friends. I have a feeling we were all occupied with similar thoughts about the significance of the week. Eventually, the silence passed, and we all got up and went back to camp, laughing and talking about seeing each other at school and maybe returning to Twinlow next summer. We didn’t say a prayer, but to me, that whole hike was a prayer, of thanksgiving, of wonder, and of hope.
There were so many moments, too many to tell in one speech or twenty. I really, really, really, really want to go back next year. If I could go back next week, see everyone again, and keep working to serve the community, I would. One week wasn’t enough to get to know all of those amazing people, and the need for our enthusiastic help in the community will never be met if we don’t step up.