Sometimes we question how much of an impact mission trips for high school youth really make. Do they help deepen a sense of missionary discipleship in those who participate? Or are they a one-time "feel good" experience which doesn't extend beyond the week? God sends me the answer to this question in really incredible ways, and I'd like to share one example with you.
In September I received an email from a young woman who was expecting a baby any day. But that was not why she wrote to me. Emily went on two of our Young Neighbors in Action mission trips when she was in high school. And here is what she shared:
I ran into a colleague today who participated in YNIA this year and was thinking of sending an email.... then I saw an email invite to YNIA 2019 and the theme is Salt and Light... and I knew I should at least reach out!by Author
I participated in YNIA Chicago when I was in high school, in 2005 and 2006. Salt and Light was the theme the second year, and I still have a little glass bottle of salt that we were given as part of that trip. To this day, credit much of the path I took to the transformative experience I had on those two service trips. I still remember the children of one family that was in the after school program we volunteered with... one boy in particular, a 5 year old named Cedric. He and his sisters, and the experience in general, awoke in me two things: 1) An awareness of alternative realities in terms of living situations and social context, and 2) A desire to do "more." At that time, I had no idea what that would be, but it shaped the way I made decisions about my future.
In college, I became very active in service trips, learning about communities around the country and the challenges they face, driving my commitment to work for social change. After college, I spent 2 years in Peru as a volunteer, which led me to ministry in the church as a driver for that social change so desperately needed. I ended up back in Chicago at CTU, got my masters in Intercultural Ministry, and now work at Kolbe House, the Archdiocesan jail ministry.
I think it is important from time to time to circle back, when possible, to recognize those people and experiences that have made us who we are. Young Neighbors is one of those experiences for me, and I want to say thank you! If there is ever anything I can do to support you and the ministry of this program, I would be happy to do so.
I can't really add to what Emily shared so eloquently. Suffice it to say mission trips can and do make a difference! I'd love to hear your experience of mission and how it changed you.
Young Neighbors in Action is a week-long Catholic experience of service, community, and prayer for high school youth. Click below to request information about getting started this summer with Young Neighbors in Action!