Love Out Loud
By Danielle, age 17, New York
I had always been one to help out whenever and wherever a helping hand was needed, so I was pretty much up for it when my pastor asked my sister and I if we'd be interested in going on a missions trip about an hour and a half away in Newark, New York*. I had no idea that it would end up being one of the best weeks in my entire life.
*Newark, New York (not to be confused with Newark, New Jersey) is a small town located upstate between Syracuse and Rochester.
The drive to Newark felt like forever as I was anticipating the week ahead. When we arrived we found ourselves in a quiet little town where the closest Wal-Mart was a good 30 minute drive. I did not bring any valuables in case I might damage or lose them, which I regret because I wanted to take pictures. However, I was able to obtain some pictures from my fellow youth group friends who brought a camera. The church we arrived at was particularly big compared to ours, and we were happy to see that the counselors were outside happily waving and holding a welcome sign.
After we got out of the van our group took pictures with the sign and we waved on other groups who arrived after us.
That afternoon we found our rooms, and the girls from our youth group and I set up our sleeping bags. We eventually found out that 17 other people would be sharing the small room with us. We were appalled, as the room barely fit the 8 or us from our group, let alone 17 more. The second group of girls filed in and we asked them where they were from. They said they were from Tarrytown, near New York City. We chit chatted and got to know one another. The room was crowded, but the happy upbeat feeling assured us that a great time in store for us all.
That night we all filed into the church secretary's office to listen to the counselors for orientation. We learned that we would be split up into crews; 5 or 6 of us would commute and work together at each site. Knowing that our youth group would be split up scared us. We didn't feel comfortable with the idea of having to be with strangers we didn't know.
After the orientation we split up. There were five people in my group, including myself; Bill, the crew leader and driver, since he was the oldest; Greg, a skinny red headed boy from Tarrytown, New York; Eric, from Hope, Rhode Island, who seemed to be a bit isolated and didn't want to be there; and Tabby, a girl from Charleston, South Carolina, who also seemed pessimistic and ungrateful. I thought to myself that this wouldn't be such a good week.
On Monday we all gathered together to drive to our site. The five of us piled into Bill's Ford Focus, which could only comfortably hold 3 people. We arrived at our work site to learn that we would be washing buses all week. I found this to be sort of funny because bus washing is so easy. The owner arrived soon after to greet us and take us on a tour of his company. We learned that he also owned a facility for the mentally ill where they were taught skills that could possibly get them jobs. Bill used the buses to transport them from their homes to the facility. He knew everyone's name and his passion was clearly from the bottom of his heart. He loved working with them and was discussing his plans of opening a residential home for the mentally ill. He wants to help those who cannot easily do what we take for granted, and thinks that people should not judge them by their disability, but see them for their abilities.
For the next five days we washed buses, and believe it or not, my crew members and I grew closer every day. We talked about 1,000,001 things, but mainly about our hometowns and faith and families. Tabby, the southern girl, even asked me if they had alligators in New York, which we laughed about. It's amazing how you share things with complete strangers that you normally wouldn't share with even your neighbor.
The last day was such a heartbreaker. No one wanted to leave. Everyone was so nice there. It was so different from my hometown because no one is that friendly to you, especially to strangers. The week as a whole was wonderful. I made friends that I would never have met otherwise, and not only did I help out a community in need, but I also strengthened my relationship with God. Next year we are thinking about going to Virginia for our next trip, and I am just as excited as I was for this trip.