And so the adventure begins... Senior high 2017: Chicago

For the past two years, the Matthews United Methodist Church Youth Group’s Senior High Mission Trip has been the highlight of my summer.

If you've never heard of the trip before, let me introduce you to this experience that brings me so much joy. “Senior High” is a week-long trip where about sixty tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders and about a dozen adult leaders in the MUMC Youth Group embark on an inner-city mission trip within the United States.

But there’s a catch: we only get one shower during the trip, and only pack a sheet, towel, rain jacket, one t-shirt, and one pair of shorts for the whole sweaty, hot week. As a seventh grader, this limited packing list daunted me. But now with two trips under my belt, I love the empathy and authenticity that leaving behind these material comforts invites. Along with stepping out of my material comfort zone, the outreach-focused nature of the trip has challenged and fundamentally changed me each year. Putting a name and face to statistics of drug abuse, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and human trafficking has changed the way I interact with the world.

A typical day on Senior High starts at about 6am when we wake up on the floor of a school gym, church sanctuary, or Salvation Army Center. Our morning routine is delightfully simple- no pajamas to change out of and no bed to make. One team of ten youth prepares breakfast, and we all pack bagged peanut butter sandwiches into our backpacks for lunch on the go. From there, we have a quick time of worship and devotions before splitting into our teams and heading off to our projects.

My sophomore year in New Orleans, my group completed a variety of projects working with local organizations like the APEX youth center, the Ozanam Inn homeless shelter, and a Ronald McDonald House. We spent a lot of time on the streets of downtown talking to residents of New Orleans and handing out toiletry kits, food, and water with our conversation.

Last year in Atlanta, my group did a similar ping-pong of work during the mornings including serving Father’s Day lunch at a soup kitchen, packing sandwiches, and outreach on the streets and subways. In the afternoons, we planned Vacation Bible School lessons with crafts, music, skits, games, and snacks. Then, we brought all of our supplies to low-income neighborhoods and apartment complexes to create a pop-up VBS camp for the kids.

Around 7pm, all the groups meet back at the building where we stay for the night. One group makes dinner, and after eating, we gather to hear about each other’s days and sing praise songs. Around midnight, we settle back into our sheets for the night.

This summer, I’ll be going on my final Senior High trip to Chicago. Each trip is so different than the one before, so I’m excited to see what God has in store for us this year. I’m looking forward to helping lead worship playing guitar with the praise team for the first time this year, and I’m also excited to take on this adventure with my sister Ashton, as this is her first Senior High trip.

A lot goes into the success of these experiences. Most importantly, I’d love to have your prayers for the trip, our youth group, and the city of Chicago that we will be working alongside. In addition, I’m trying to raise around $400 to cover the cost of the trip, and I would appreciate it if you’re able and willing to help me with that logistical piece!

I’d be happy to help with anything you need from babysitting to yard work in return, just let me know if there is something I can do! If you would like to donate in the form of a check, you can make it out to Matthews United Methodist Church with “Gerlach Senior High” in the memo field. Since Ashton and I are both collecting funds, we’ll just put it all together towards our collective $800 cost- no need for separate checks!

Thank you so much for your support, and I can’t wait to share how God worked this summer when I return!

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